NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday night’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
The Canadiens were bad last year. Really bad. Most owners would’ve parted ways with everyone in the front office, but team president Geoff Molson decided to stick with his general manager, Marc Bergevin. As you’d imagine, expectations weren’t very high coming into this year. Not only have the Habs exceeded those expectations, they’ve managed to keep themselves in the playoff mix, and a lot of that is because of the work Bergevin put in over the summer.
Trading Alex Galchenyuk for Max Domi, shipping Max Pacioretty to Vegas for a package that included Tomas Tatar (help today), Nick Suzuki (help tomorrow) and a draft pick, and drafting Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall in June have all been wins for Bergevin.
Domi and Kotkaniemi make up two of Montreal’s top three centermen and Tatar is tied for second on the team in goals.
After spending a couple of weeks in British Columbia at the IIHF World Junior Championship, Bergevin met the media back at the Bell Center last week. Not only did he touch on the performance of some of his top prospects at the tournament, he also shed some more light on the current state of his team.
Even though the Habs are pushing for a playoff spot, it’s clear that he won’t be making any trades that involve his young prospects. No giving up draft picks for rentals, either.
“I’m always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future. Just to give up assets for the short-term, I’m not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing,” said Bergevin. “If there are young players available, assets have to go. I get that. But, I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business.
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“Based on what I saw in Vancouver, the future of the Canadiens is very bright. I’m not going to start mortgaging the future. I know what’s coming with the World Juniors, who they’re going to be asking for, and I’m not moving these kids. It’s going to be a short conversation, I think… If we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they have some potential. That came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games.”
What he’s saying is, Suzuki, Ryan Poehling, Josh Brook, Jesse Ylonen, Alexander Romanov, Cayden Primeau, Cale Fleury and a few others aren’t going anywhere if the return is only a short-term gain. But as Bergevin pointed out, if there’s a hockey trade to be made, he won’t shy away from pulling the trigger if it means his team is better for it in the long run.
Bergevin’s slow and steady approach is the right one. Even though his team has a chance to get into the postseason, there are too many big holes on the roster to make them a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. They still need help down the middle and they’re lacking a left-shooting defenseman that can play big minutes on the top pairing with Shea Weber.
Those aren’t pieces that become available too often, so it’s unlikely that Bergevin will be able to fill those holes with an in-season trade or two. So, although getting into the playoffs with a healthy Weber and Carey Price would be a bonus, it shouldn’t affect the way the GM views his team right now.
Patience is key. Canadiens fans should appreciate that their front office realizes that.
John Forslund (play-by-play), AJ Mleczko (analyst) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.