No Excuses for Inactivity by Bergevin This Offseason
The Canadiens were eliminated by the Flyers in six games in the first round.
That sucks, doesn’t it? Nobody likes heading home early.
But one good thing that came out of these playoffs is that a previously lottery-bound team has proven itself to be a lot closer to a Cup contender than we thought.
Therein lies the reason that GM Marc Bergevin must pull the trigger on a big move this offseason.
You see, Bergevin was previously hesitant to make a big trade or free agent signing, because there was no indication that the Canadiens were one or two significant moves away from being a contender. They were downright mediocre this past regular season. And what’s the point of giving up assets for a player that won’t move the needle? But now, after playoffs where the Canadiens looked pretty good, now is the time to be active on the trade market.
What Needs Should Bergevin Address?
There are three glaring needs that are easy enough for Bergevin to address this offseason: a top-four, left-shot defenseman, a forward (preferably a right-wing) who can pile up goals, and a reliable backup goaltender who can provide Carey Price with some much-needed rest. We can debate for hours which needs are more important, but that’s a waste of time. The point is Bergevin needs to find a fix for these holes, or the Canadiens will never get out of neutral.
The Left-Shot Defenseman
This used to be a crater as far as holes go for the Canadiens, but after the stellar play of Ben Chiarot this year, I don’t know if this weakness is as handicapping as it used to be. Nevertheless, the Canadiens could still use a top-four, left-shot defenseman. There are numerous ways that Bergevin could address this. There is the free agency route, where good defensemen like Torey Krug, T.J. Brodie and Erik Gustafsson are set to hit the market. Bergevin should be scrupulous when looking at free agents this offseason. Next offseason many players on the Canadiens will have their contracts expire, and a big free agent signing this year might handicap Bergevin from retaining important players like Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, and Jeff Petry. Therefore throwing money at a great defenseman like Torey Krug is inadvisable. However, signing a guy like T.J. Brodie, who provides excellent stability, or Erik Gustafsson, who would look great on the power play, would be a good move that shouldn’t cost Bergevin a lot of money.
The most likely scenario is that Bergevin acquires a left-shot defenseman in a trade. That way, some salary can go the other way, and Bergevin can utilize the insane number of draft picks that he has for this year’s draft. The Canadiens have 14 picks. I would be shocked if they pick 14 times come draft day. The Canadiens have three second-round picks. Maybe Bergevin can use one in a package for a defenseman. I’m not one to espouse unfounded speculation, so I won’t mention specific names, but Bergevin would do well to take a defenseman’s contract off of a cap-strapped team, and therefore avoid giving up a lot of assets in return.
Heck, if Bergevin wants a mulligan on the offer-sheet route, he can attempt to steal Mikhail Sergachev from the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning. Sergachev, one might recall, was originally drafted by the Canadiens and traded a year later to the Lightning for Jonathan Drouin. From what I’ve heard coming out of Tampa, Sergachev has developed into a good top-four defenseman, often playing on the power play and racking up at least 30 points per season. If Bergevin managed to steal back Sergachev that would be wild, but it’s probably not going to happen.
The Scoring Forward
Unlike the top-four, left-shot defenseman, Bergevin may have to look harder to find a scoring forward. Yes, the Canadiens have Cole Caufield waiting in the wings, but he’s committed to another year in college, so he’s not a factor for the upcoming season. The Canadiens need to find a scoring winger who can impact the team now. Like I said before, free agency needs to be looked at carefully. Florida Panthers’ wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov are excellent scorers, but they are expensive and over 30 years old, so Bergevin should steer clear of them. However, a cheaper option is Tyler Toffoli, a player the Canadiens have looked into in the past. Toffoli is a shoot-first player who enjoyed a bounce-back year this season. He is not at Hoffman’s or Dadonov’s level, but he’s definitely worth looking into. One concern about Toffoli is that he’s good for 20 goals and 40 points every year, but he isn’t high-powered.
The trade route seems most likely for Bergevin to take when looking for a high-scoring winger. Rumour has it that Johnny Gaudreau wants out of Calgary. I understand why. He was vilified by their fans for not showing up during the playoffs, even though he played fine. He’s attempting to live up to really high expectations out west, and he seems unhappy with the physical, defense-first system that Calgary plays. Obviously, being 5’9” and offensively gifted, this is understandable. Bergevin would do well to go after Gaudreau; Gaudreau is fast, he is dynamic offensively and would immediately be the best left wing on the roster. Bergevin has the cap space, the picks and the assets to make this trade. If he can get a player like Gaudreau for a reasonable price, that would be a boon for the Canadiens.
The Reliable Backup Goaltender
There are many options for Bergevin to consider for a reliable backup goaltender. The free agency market is littered with cheap backup goaltenders – Anton Khudobin, Cam Talbot, Laurent Broissoit, Thomas Greiss, Brian Elliott, just to name a few – who can play 25-35 games in a season. This should be the easiest hole to fill for Bergevin and there are no excuses for not filling it.
The Canadiens have the cap space, the picks, the assets and the incentive to make a big move. Maintenant, ils doivent faire actuellement un grand mouvement.
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo