Marc Bergevin was not in an easy situation approaching the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline. Despite having several movable assets, he was not dealing from a position of strength.
The Montreal Canadiens' death spiral following a franchise-best start to the season forced Bergevin to attempt to move expiring contracts, and receive less than premium value for them.
Dale Weise was perhaps the team's biggest name available for a late-season acquisition. He, along with Tomas Fleischmann, was shipped to a loaded Chicago Blackhawks team a few days before the deadline. For those two pending unrestricted free agents, the Habs' GM acquired centre Phillip Danault and a 2018 second-round pick.
Danault immediately slid into the lineup in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He displayed his prowess in the faceoff dot in his first game, and showcased his defensive and forechecking abilities.
While Weise and Fleischmann provide a bigger offensive upside, it would appear the Habs came away with a good return in this trade. Bergevin offloaded two expiring deals — including Weise, who was due for a significant raise in the off-season — for a promising forward and a draft pick to boot.
The actual deadline day was relatively quiet, with Bergevin making only two moves on the day. To start things off heclaimed Mike Brown. Brown had just been waived by the San Jose Sharks, and was able to quickly join the team.
That waiver claim allowed Bergevin to trade one of his players away without creating a hole in his lineup. Devante Smith-Pelly was that forward, and was exchanged just as the final bell tolled to signal the end of the deadline.
Stefan Matteau of the New Jersey Devils was the return. With Matteau unable to get to California in time for the Habs' game versus the Sharks, the reason for the Brown acquisition became clear, as the Canadiens needed an extra body for the game, and Brown was immediately available for little cost.
The 22-year-old Matteau is a former first-round pick of the Devils, and is known to be a physical forward, with perhaps some untapped offensive upside — much like Smith-Pelly. While the two can be said to be similar players, this move will provide a fresh start for Matteau, who has spent most of the year as a healthy scratch.
While many other teams failed to make any moves prior to the deadline, the Canadiens acquired pieces that can help round out a team looking to rebound next season.
Danault is a perfect example of what Michel Therrien likes in his young players: defensively responsible and willing to battle for every puck. Matteau will bring the hard-hitting edge that the Canadiens prefer in their bottom six, and adds yet another young player to an established veteran core.
These trades will not spark the sort of miracle run to the playoffs that the Senators enjoyed last year. These are assets that will help fill in the depth, and give more competition to those being evaluated for a roster spot next season. While an already-crowded bottom six just squeezed in a few more people, Bergevin has all summer to sort out this situation.
Solutions could include trading away an established veteran like Torrey Mitchell, or David Desharnais, who was rumoured to be in play today.
It was a quiet day for Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, the entire league stayed relatively quiet. But it was one that should be seen as a positive building step for the future of the franchise.