When the Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers, two things were very true. The team, as it stood, showed that they’re better than their pre-pandemic play and that they can be a threat to anyone when playing that well. The team as it stood could also be improved and not need a once-in-a-lifetime situation to get into the post-season, and also secure a long-term stability within the franchise.
Marc Bergevin noted that he had some work to do, and that he wanted to keep the team’s crucial pieces. He went out almost immediately and did just that, starting early in the month of September.
September 2: Acquired Jake Allen from St. Louis
Given the strong play of a rested Carey Price in the playoffs, the biggest thing for Bergevin to do during this off-season was to, once again, try to find a true backup goalie for Price. He bypassed the old school $1 million backup, and went out to find a true 1B quality netminder to squire for Price. He landed on Allen for the small price of a third and seventh-round pick in 2020 NHL Draft.
Allen had a strong showing behind Jordan Binnington this past season, and is exactly the kind of piece the Canadiens have lacked behind Price in recent years. Allen was also extended for two years, giving Montreal a stable option behind Price and allowing Cayden Primeau more development time. It also presents them with a legitimate expansion piece to expose in the upcoming Seattle Draft.
September 12: Acquired Joel Edmundson’s rights from Carolina
Perhaps the most out-of-left-field move was the acquisition of Carolina Hurricanes defender Joel Edmundson for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. It was just his rights but it showed that the Canadiens wanted to improve their defensive showing from the playoffs. While Xavier Ouellet was serviceable, it was clear that the team could upgrade on that position. By acquiring the rights to Edmundson, the Canadiens GM gave himself the ability to do so without needing to pay exorbitant prices on the free-agent market in October.
September 17: Signed Joel Edmundson to a four-year deal
It didn’t take long for Bergevin to get his newest piece under contract as Edmundson signed a four-year contract worth $3.5 million a season just days later. While not a puck mover or huge offensive producer, Edmundson adds a physical element to the defensive group in addition to another large body. In Carolina, something clearly didn’t quite fit with Edmundson in terms of defensive structure but with the St. Louis Blues, who played a more conventional zone defence, he was perfectly fine. Montreal’s want for a player like Edmundson, who will clear the net and get the pucks out of dangerous areas, isn’t new and he could very well be just what the team needs behind Ben Chiarot on the left side.
September 6 and September 23: Extended Lukas Vejdemo and Jake Evans
Anyone who has watched the Laval Rocket under Joël Bouchard for the last two years has seen the growth and maturation in both Vejdemo and Evans. So much so that they’re huge threats to push for an NHL role next year. For Evans, many expect him to be the opening night fourth-line centre, a role he filled in the playoffs. Vejdemo made his NHL debut late in the year, scoring his first goal and showing that he could very easily be a bottom-six option soon.
Bergevin re-signed both in short order, not only bolstering the Rocket and Habs depth but keeping two homegrown talents under contract and continuing their development. It’s not a huge move, but it’s one that the team hasn’t made very often in recent seasons due to a lack of prospect development. It’s a small move, but an important one.
September 25: Signed Jeff Petry to a four-year contract extension
A week or so away from the NHL Draft, Bergevin rolled up his sleeves and started some of his best work as the Habs GM. He re-signed his best trade acquisition to a four-year deal that kicks in after this year for an average AAV of $6.25 million per year. To say this is a great deal is an understatement given the strong performances Petry has had every single season since joining the Canadiens, and his small raise guarantees the Canadiens their defensive core is intact for the near future. His added no-movement clause also protects him in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, securing his future in Montreal and giving the younger prospects a great set of mentors between himself and Shea Weber.
October 6: Buys out the contract of Karl Alzner
This was likely a hard pill for Bergevin to swallow as the signing of Alzner stands as his biggest misstep as Montreal’s GM. Despite being a great leader on and off the ice in Laval and taking his demotion like a true professional, there was not a future for Alzner in Montreal. In a deal that is best for both sides, Alzner had his contract bought out and he was free to sign wherever he desired.
October 6: Trades Max Domi to Columbus for Josh Anderson
BIG (REDACTED) BERGEVIN
It takes a huge amount of courage to ship out a fan favourite for a player coming off a one-goal campaign and major shoulder surgery. But Bergevin did just that. Acquiring the power forward winger in a one-for-one deal, just two years after landing Domi in a trade for Alex Galchenyuk. Given Domi’s less than impressive playoff showing, his internal issues with Claude Julien, and preference to play at centre, it made sense to move him for a piece that fit the club’s plan. And Anderson is that guy. Adding some speed and muscle to the forward core and creating a solid option behind Brendan Gallagher on the depth chart.
October 6-7: NHL Draft
Bergevin lands some great future pieces and plenty of assets for the 2021 NHL Draft. Across the board a great showing given the lack of advanced scouting due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
October 8: Signed Josh Anderson to a seven-year deal
Following his normal game plan of trading for an asset and immediately signing them, Bergevin stuck right to his guns and locked down Anderson for seven years at $5.5 million per season. It’s a big contract, especially for a player recovering from injury, but given Bergevin’s makeover of the Canadiens identity, it was a fair price to pay and as the salary cap slowly recovers it becomes far more palatable. EOTP has written a ton about how Anderson fits into this team, and if he rebounds from last year this deal is a steal no matter how you cut it.
October 12: Signed Tyler Toffoli to a four-year contract
While the Canadiens didn’t officially offer Taylor Hall any sort of contract, Bergevin went out and landed a massive free-agent winger anyway. Toffoli signed a four-year deal at a $4.25 million AAV, providing the Canadiens a proven goal-scoring winger with Stanley Cup experience at a bargain price.
Good for 20 goals a season — at minimum — and at a contract nearly half that of Hall’s in Buffalo, the Canadiens added another offensive weapon to bolster an attack that slowly came alive in the playoffs. It’s a huge get for Bergevin who, after a long tenure, finally brought in a big name free agent to Montreal. And did so on an incredible deal. Looking at a lot of the deals around the league so far in free agency, this one stands as arguably the best of the bunch.
October 13: Contract talks with Brendan Gallagher break down
October 14: Signed Brendan Gallagher to a six-year contract extension
Bergevin stated on the record that he wanted to make Gallagher the highest paid forward on the Canadiens. After a ridiculous 24 hours where all of Western Canada traded for Gallagher, he was extended for six more seasons in Montreal . The Canadiens GM also stuck to his word and made the feisty winger the highest paid forward on the team, with a contract worth $6.25 million.
After being on one of the league’s best-value contracts for six years, Gallagher signed an incredibly team-friendly deal that is likely still underpaying him. Gallagher said he wanted to see what moves Bergevin would make to keep key pieces of the team together and make them a contender. With Edmundson, Anderson, and Allen all added, in addition to Petry being extended, it made perfect sense for the heart and soul of the team to remain in Montreal. In a press conference on October 15 both Bergevin and Gallagher were very open about the mutual respect they share and how much it means for Gallagher to stay in a Canadiens uniform for at least seven more years.
So, there is a rough outline of Bergevin’s work this off-season. He knew that after a strong playoff showing that this team is capable of being more than a 24th place finish. Every single move he’s made since being eliminated by the Flyers has been to turn this team into legit contender for more than just a year or two. He’s kept the core locked up, he’s added pieces that fit into the identity of his team, and he did so without sacrificing any future assets.
It was a massive off-season for Marc Bergevin, and he put forth his best showing as General Manager since he took over the club in 2012.