Marc Bergevin and his team are run quite the tight ship.
Unless there's a leak on the other side of the bargaining table, there is rarely any indication that a deal or trade is on the way until it is announced. Thomas Vanek was a last minute addition that no one predicted two years ago, and last year Jeff Petry ended up being arguably the best trade deadline pick up of the year.
Despite Bergevin's willingness to go out and grab a major asset, this season the Canadiens have been shaped by his low-cost acquisitions.
Finding NCAA talent
Both Daniel Carr and Mike Condon were undrafted free agents, who had just completed their final seasons in the NCAA, at Union and Princeton respectively.
Condon immediately dominated the ECHL, earning accolades in his rookie season, and was promptly promoted to the AHL. Once there, he quickly took over the starting job from Joey MacDonald. This season, he has stepped into the starting role for the Canadiens while Carey Price recovers from his long term injury.
Making an immediate impact in the professional ranks, Carr lead all AHL rookies in scoring during his inaugural season, and has cemented his current place in the Habs' lineup, with 4 goals in 13 games.
Even recent offseason signing Mark Barberio has been a revelation, for both the St. John's IceCaps and the Canadiens. With 20 points in 26 games played,Barberio brought major stability to a young defense in the AHL, and clearly earned his spot on the Canadiens' roster.
Plundering the trade market & free agency
Two smaller deals have helped solidify an area of weakness for the Canadiens. Brian Flynn was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres for a fifth-round draft pick, and was a key component in the Habs' playoff victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Next was Torrey Mitchell, who also came over from the Sabres for the minimal cost of a seventh-round pick. Mitchell, much like Flynn, anchored a dynamic fourth line for the Canadiens in the playoffs, and is in the midst of a career year in Montreal.
Add in Paul Byron, who was picked up for free on the waiver wire, and you have a solid fourth line that can pitch in the odd goal. The Canadiens went from being hemmed in their own end with Manny Malhotra and Travis Moen, to having a fourth line that can take difficult matchups, and free up the scoring lines for offensive zone opportunities.
Perhaps Bergevin's shrewdest low-cost deals have come in the form of Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. The Canadiens have enjoyed 19 goals and 18 assists between the two of them this season. Weise was famously traded from Vancouver to Montreal in exchange for Raphael Diaz, and the forward has become a folk hero among Habs faithful. From scoring an overtime winner in his first playoff game with the team, to his heated rivalry with Milan Lucic and the Bruins, Weise has made it clear he's more than just a fourth-line grinder.
Fleischmann was brought into the fold on a tryout basis during the preseason, and was rewarded with a contract, albeit a very reasonable one from the Canadiens' perspective, costing the team just 750,000 dollars this year. Fleischmann has responded with a respectable season alongside David Desharnais and Dale Weise, forming a very serviceable third line alongside David Desharnais and Weise.
The current state in the NHL doesn't allow for many trades, as one GM recently put it, "I can't even make a bad trade right now." While the big name deals and trades can help push a team towards a Stanley Cup, they can't get there without calculated smaller deals that establish depth among the ranks.
Marc Bergevin understands this concept better than most, and has put together a strong supporting cast for his superstars, all the while remaining sly in his calculated moves.