With the Montreal Canadiens off-season underway, Marc Bergevin has got a lot of work to do. He got started early by signing Jake Evans to an entry-level contract. Bergevin then followed that up by relieving Sylvain Lefebvre of his duties as head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket. This is the start of the changes which were promised to be coming to the organization before the season gets rolling in October.
Montreal Canadiens Off-Season: Tools for Success
When Geoff Molson and Marc Bergevin met with the media on April 9th, Molson opened the press conference by saying:
“It goes without saying that I am – we are – all extremely disappointed with our season. When things go badly, we have a legitimate opportunity to re-evaluate everything we do with the objective of starting next season better and building for a more promising future.” Following up with, “The status quo is not acceptable. We are the NHL’s most storied franchise, and we owe it to our fans to achieve the standards of excellence that they expect.”
They made promises that there were changes on the horizon. The first casualty of this was, of course, Lefebvre, but surely there are more to come. One change that won’t be made, much to the dismay of many Habs fans, is at the general manager position. Molson again stated that he has faith in Bergevin to turn the ship around. When you think about it, why wouldn’t he? In the six season’s Bergevin has been at the helm, the Habs have been very successful. They have three Division titles, four playoff appearances, and one Eastern Conference Final appearance. Not really an easy feat with all the teams having an even playing ground in the salary cap era.
With the off-season started, Bergevin has the tools at his fingertips to completely turn this team around as quickly as next season.
A Ton of Cap Space
According to capfriendly.com, the Habs have about $13.3 million in cap space. This is subject to change with the cap expected to rise for the next season. Having such a large amount of cap space will allow Montreal to chase a big fish in free agency this season. That big fish’s name would be John Tavares. Tavares is exactly what the Habs have been needing since arguably the early 90’s. Surely the Habs will be going hard after him this summer. Signing Tavares is far from a guarantee though. If Bergevin does strikeout, he could use the cap space to try to acquire for a significant player via trade or go after other available centres such as Paul Stastny.
Loads of Draft Picks
One thing Bergevin focused on this season was stockpiling draft picks. He came into the year with three second-round picks and added to that by acquiring a second-round pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Tomas Plekanec trade. He also acquired two separate fourth-round picks from the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers. As well, the Habs reacquired their own fourth-round pick from the Los Angeles Kings. Bergevin now has a total of nine picks in the first four rounds of this year’s draft. Eight of those picks are in the top 100 of the draft. This gives the Habs a few options. They can elect to re-stock the cupboards with some high-quality prospects from this year’s draft or use these picks as trade chips to acquire some significant players for the upcoming season.
Top Pick in the Upcoming Draft
Not only do the Habs have a ton of picks this year, they have secured one of the top seven picks in this year’s draft. With highly touted prospects such as Rasmus Dahlin, Filip Zadina, Andrei Svechnikov, Adam Boqvist, Quinn Hughes, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Brady Tkachuk. The Habs have a good chance at getting a game changer this season. The Habs are in dire need of some goal scoring as well as a left-handed defenseman to play with Shea Weber. One of these players would be a perfect fit for the Canadiens.
Huge Trade Chip
During this year’s trade deadline, the Habs were fielding a lot of calls on Captain Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty is a prolific goal scorer, but with his contract coming to an end at the end of the 2018-19 season, it may be best to move the star winger. With the depth that the Habs have on the wing and the possibility of adding another at the draft, Pacioretty could be expendable. He is also the biggest trade asset the Habs have and would bring in a great return. Teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues are amongst teams looking for a big scoring winger. Pacioretty fits the bill perfectly.
Montreal fans demand success. With so many tools at Bergevin’s disposal, he has set himself up perfectly to have a very successful off-season. Bergevin has made more good moves than bad over his time with the Habs. There’s no reason to believe he won’t do more of the same. If executed correctly, the Habs could end up becoming a Stanley Cup Contender as early as next season. If not, its possible he’s the next one out the door.