When the Montreal Canadiens season ended after their Game 5 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final, it officially started the NHL’s off-season. We knew that the team would have work to do. Their NHL and AHL coaching staff needed new contracts, and General Manager Marc Bergevin was entering the final year of his contract, something that usually isn’t done.
Entering the playoffs, there was the chance that there would be wholesale changes but the success the team had meant that would be unlikely.
Before the team’s locker was cleaned — literally, there were still exit meetings going on — the announcement that Joël Bouchard would be leaving the organization sent shockwaves throughout the organization. They likely already knew that news was coming, and they likely planned it for after the series ended, but that doesn’t mean it made the following weeks any simpler. As we stand now, there are rumours regarding the next coach of the Laval Rocket, but they still don’t have one officially.
Later that day, Bergevin was asked about his future and his contract situation and all he would say was that he would honour the final year of his contract. It was a little question mark to end the day.
Days later, they solidified the extensions for Dominique Ducharme and Luke Richardson which was expected. The only question would have been whether Richardson would have had other opportunities after time in the spotlight during the post-season.
On the players standpoint, we knew there would be injuries coming to light. Most players had noticeable injuries, or were recovering from injuries prior to the playoffs. What wasn’t expected was the news that Shea Weber’s career may be jeopardy. The team hasn’t officially come out and said anything, but when so many members of the media confirm the same story there has to be some truth to it. The fact that the team left him unprotected does lend those stories some additional legitimacy.
Next to come out was the negotiations with pending free agent Phillip Danault. Danault’s post-season would have raised his expectations ahead of free agency, and perhaps added some urgency to Bergevin trying to bring him back. However, a few days before expansion lists were to be revealed, it was reported that the two sides were not expecting a deal, and that Danault would explore free agency. He was subsequently left unprotected.
Also left unprotected was goaltender Carey Price. At first, it was a bombshell that was unexpected. The fact that the team not only would entertain the idea but actually go through with it was surprising enough. The fact that Price made the decision himself to protect Jake Allen because he would be missing the start of the season was just the cherry on top.
Just when you think something is going one way, it either goes the other or there’s a detour that gets you to the same place but the road is full of twists and turns.
We are now 10 days from free agency and we do not even know how much salary cap space the Canadiens will have to play with. We don’t know what will happen with the team’s captain, the team’s starting goaltender, one of the team’s top paid forwards, and their top centre.
For the Canadiens and Marc Bergevin, it’s just another Monday.