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Evaluating Marc Bergevin's summer work

A summary of Bergevin's moves, and whether or not they're good enough to transform the Canadiens into true contenders

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Canadiens' general manager has been busy this summer, completing a glut of signings, one trade, and he even found time to squeeze in a late mid-July fishing trip. Let's examine his completed work, and take a look towards the roster next season.

Entry-Level Contracts

Date Player Age Position $AAV Years
April 12 Mark MacMillan 23 RW $665K 2
July 9 Noah Juulsen 18 D $925K 3
July 24 Daniel Audette 19 C $665K 3

  • MacMillan earned his ELC following an impressive senior year at North Dakota, which saw him score 16 goals in 25 games.
  • Audette was eligible for another year of junior hockey, but the Habs offered him an early contract nonetheless.
  • Juulsen signed a standard first-round ELC, and even though it may be considered as an early contract, the advantage is that it will slide, eventually saving the Habs precious salary cap space.

Restricted Free Agents

Date Player Age Position $AAV Year(s)
June 1 Gabriel Dumont 24 C $575K 1
June 1 Morgan Ellis 23 D $632K 1
June 13 Nathan Beaulieu 22 D $1M 2
June 30 Brian Flynn 26 C $950K 2
July 1 Greg Pateryn 25 D $800K 2
July 2 Christian Thomas 23 LW $600K 1
July 14 Michael Bournival 23 LW $600K 1
July 15 Jarred Tinordi 23 D $850K 1
July 30 Alex Galchenyuk 21 LW $2.8M 2

  • Bergevin kept his options open by not offering any of his restricted agents more than a two-year deal.
  • The Beaulieu contract should be considered an extreme bargain, since it's very possible that he eventually works his way into the top four this season
  • Pateryn still had another year left on his deal when he signed his new contract
  • Galchenyuk's bridge deal is good value, especially when you compare him to players a few years older with similar production.
  • Dumont, Thomas, Bournival, Tinordi, and Ellis were all given "show me" contracts

Impending and Unrestricted free agents

Date Player Age Position $AAV Year(s)
June 2nd Jeff Petry 27 D $5.5M 6
June 15th Torrey Mitchell 30 C $1.2M 3
July 1st Joel Hanley 24 D $667K 1
July 1st George Holloway 27 RW $575K 1
July 1st Mark Barberio 25 D $600K 1
July 13th Ryan Johnston 23 D $680K 2
July 24th Alexander Semin 31 RW $1.1M 1

  • Hanley and Johnston were handed out contracts by the Canadiens, but are likely designed as defensive depth for the St. John's IceCaps.
  • Mark Barberio is a competent defender, and his signing reminds us that all the defensive depth belongs to Bergevin.
  • By signing Flynn, Mitchell and Petry, Bergevin retained the services of every asset he acquired at the deadline, a rare feat.
  • Petry represents the most important decision Bergevin made this summer. By signing the defender throughout his prime, he shored up his defensive core, and locked down a player that will slowly take over from veteran Andrei Markov as he enters his twilight years. The UFA pool for quality defenders was quite poor this season, and you'd be hard pressed to say that Petry wouldn't have received a higher offer if he hit the open market.
  • The Mitchell contract is the only one listed so far that you could legitimately criticize, and it's not due to the price tag, seeing as $1.2M is probably fair value for him. It's the third year of the deal that's somewhat concerning.
  • Bergevin hit a home run with the Semin deal. He needed to address the lack of quality wingers on the roster, and at $1.1M Semin is the epitome of a low risk high reward signing. It was rumoured that he was interested in acquiring Patrick Sharp and T.J. Oshie, as well as attempting to sign Matt Beleskey and Shawn Matthias, although all of those players would have occupied a considerably higher total of the salary cap, whereas Semin is an absolute bargain.

Trade

  • Brandon Prust was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Zack Kassian and a fifth-round pick.

This is a perfect example of maximizing the value of an expiring asset. Prust will be a UFA next year, and despite providing a solid defensive presence for the Habs over the years, he's seven years older than Kassian, and has a higher cap hit. I'm not sure how Bergevin convinced Jim Benning to throw in a fifth-round pick as well, but at this point I'm starting to suspect that Montreal's GM begins every single negotiation with that demand.

Here's what the depth chart looked like as the Habs entered the 2014-15 season:

last year depth chart

And here's there current depth chart:

depth chart recent

The potential opening roster next season is stronger than last year's lineup, although it remains to be seen whether or not the new additions can help the Habs exit the NHL's scoring basement. The only downgrade in terms of talent was the Smith-Pelly for Sekac exchange.

In: Alex Semin, Jeff Petry, Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, Devante Smith-Pelly, George Holloway, Mark Barberio, Joel Hanley, Ryan Johnston, Zack Kassian, Matt Pfeffer.

new guys

Out: Manny Malhotra, Brandon Prust, Travis Moen, Jiri Sekac, Mike Weaver, Joey MacDonaldP.A. Parenteau (buyout), Rene Bourque, Davis Drewiske, Jack Nevins, Drayson Bowman, Eric Tangradi.

old guys

(charts via Spencer Mann)

The verdict

Altogether it can be said that Bergevin has done solid work this summer, by adding some crucial elements to the team, and doing so on a shoe-string budget. The roster should produce more goals, and if Carey Price provides them with another solid season, they'll be in good shape.

But can this lineup withstand a slight down-tick in performance from Price, or were the upgrades too marginal to compensate for a season that doesn't involve a goalie taking home the majority of the trophies at the awards show?

It's debatable. Kassian provides an offensive upgrade over Prust, Semin provides an upgrade over Parenteau, and Petry is an essential piece of the puzzle, however it's probably premature to state that it's an intimidating roster compared to some of the perennial contenders around the league.

Bergevin's work isn't done yet

The Canadiens have nine defenders that are waiver eligible, and they also have 15 forwards under contract, which brings the grand total to 25 roster players.

Don't be surprised if Bergevin alleviates the logjam on defense by trading away one of the waiver eligible youngsters, and the same scenario could take place within the forward group.

Realistically the Habs have a three or four-year window to establish themselves as Stanley Cup contenders, before Carey Price and Max Pacioretty's contracts expire. Make no mistake, this isn't a 'transition year' by any means. The Habs own one of the best wingers in the league, one of the best defencemen, the best goalie in the world,  and a strong supporting cast.  If anything, next year should be the beginning of concerted effort to become one of the best teams in the league.

As it stands the Habs currently have $2.9M in cap space to work with, which leaves plenty of opportunity for upgrades before the puck drops on October 7.