May 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; The Montreal Canadiens react after loosing to the New York Rangers 1-0 in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Busy Offseason Awaits Marc Bergevin & The Montreal Canadiens


The Montreal Canadiens lengthy playoff run is over and the team must now look to the future as the Stanley Cup Final is set to begin between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings.

The 2013-14 season was a very successful one for the storied franchise, as they finished the regular season with 100 points, and then knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins before falling to the Rangers in a six game Eastern Conference Final.

Just two years ago the team finished dead last in the Eastern Conference, so to be the runners up in two short seasons is a big accomplishment. To continue their upward trend, general manager Marc Bergevin is going to have to be very busy this offseason.

May 22, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) skates with the puck against the New York Rangers during the third period in game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The first task is to get superstar defenseman P.K. Subban signed to a long term deal. The 25 year old defending Norris Trophy winner is a restricted free agent, and will demand a significant raise from his last contract which saw him earn $2,875,000 for two seasons. I would expect his next deal to be about triple that in terms of both length and per season cap hit.

The Canadiens also need to get RFA Lars Eller signed to a new deal. The big center had a disappointing regular season but was the most consistent forward for the Habs during their run to the third round of the postseason. He is coming off a deal where he earned $1,325,000 over two seasons and will see a modest raise on his next contract into the 2-2.5 million per year range.

Another tall task on Bergevin’s to do list is to figure out what to do with unrestricted free agent Thomas Vanek. The big winger’s inconsistent play in the postseason, and near disappearing act in the Rangers series may make it easy to walk away from Vanek. However, he remains one of the best offensive players on the market and the Habs have been starved for offense for years. To simply brush aside the idea of re-signing the talented forward who will hit 300 career goals and 300 career assists next season.

I don’t think a deal with Vanek gets done, but I do think Bergevin will try to get an extension signed. He will simply price himself out of town with high demands and larger contract offers.

May 8, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Brian Gionta (21) misses a chance to score a goal against Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) during the third period in game four of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

More difficult decisions for the future of the team involves their current leadership core. Captain Brian Gionta’s 5 year 25 million dollar deal just expired, as did assistant Andrei Markov’s 3 year deal at 5.75 million per season. Both are 35 years old and force Bergevin to decide, do the Habs stick with the team that made it within two wins of the Stanley Cup Final, or replace aging veterans and look to the future?

Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the pair of veterans. I can’t see Bergevin risking giving them a three year contract, but Markov has certainly earned that type of extension. If they remain unsigned on July 1st, you can bet someone would be willing to give Gionta similar length. Contracts for players aged 35 and up are risky as there is no relief from them, even if the player retires. Bergevin has made some great moves, but is not a huge risk taker either, so I expect these negotiations to go right down to the July 1st wire.

Bergevin will also have to get depth forwards Ryan White and Dale Weise’s names on new deals before the pair of RFA’s hit the market. These talks should be a lot easier than the one’s with Markov and Gionta, and I expect both players to sign for less than 1.5 million in the coming weeks.

The easiest decision is probably what to do with his veteran defenseman. It should not be difficult for the Habs to decide Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray can easily be replaced by Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi and therefore don’t deserve an extension.

 

Apr 4, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators center Kyle Turris (7) skates with the puck past Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mike Weaver (43) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Weaver is a curious case, as the veteran defenseman endeared himself to fans with his ability to block shots and kill penalties. The thing is, he can’t do much else, including getting the puck out of his own zone once he has blocked a shot or pass. Also, the Canadiens were an exceptional shot blocking and great penalty killing team before he was acquired at the deadline. Does Bergevin decide he is not a key and let him walk so Tinordi can get more minutes next season? I’m not sure, but I sure hope so.

George Parros has played his last game as a Montreal Canadien. You feel bad for the scrapping UFA winger because he battled extremely difficult injuries from his first game as a Hab, and continued to come back and try to do his job. Unfortunately, his job is in increasing less demand in today’s NHL and he may be facing retirement.

There are a few other needs the Bergevin will try to address this offseason, as he prepares for the NHL Draft and Free Agency. He will attempt to sign a rugged winger that can play on the second line and bring the offense that Gionta can not shoulder anymore. Even is the captain is brought back it will be at a reduced price, and the Habs need to find a way to score more goals at even strength.

The only four defensemen currently signed are defensive defenders Josh Gorges and Alexei Emelin, as well as rookies Tinordi and Beaulieu. Surely Subban will be brought back but it will be interesting to see how the Canadiens blue line group is arranged for next season.

There is four months until the Canadiens take to the ice again, but there is plenty to be done between now and then. Trades, drafted players, free agent signings, retirements and training camp could change the makeup of this team fairly drastically before we see them again. It promises to be an exciting offseason for the Montreal Canadiens, as they attempt to improve on a very successful campaign.

Tags: Andrei Markov Montreal Canadiens P.K. Subban

  • Pridenpoise

    Good article, I tend to agree with most of it, after the Rangers series I was ready to move on from Vanek, however I have since had time to cool off and collect my thoughts, it would be good to have him back, as long as we are not breaking the bank for him.

    • Kenny MacMillan

      Yeah, I was the exact same. i basically blamed him entirely for the loss, but the more I look at the Habs depth chart for next year, the more I see a huge need for a big right winger who can score. Otherwise, who plays second line RW? Would have to be Gionta right now, and that is only if he actually comes back. Huge need for Bergevin to fill but Vanek just said he is going to July 1 meaning he wants to break someone’s bank. Probably not the best fit when you consider what it would take to bring him back

  • Dar Krum

    - Subban must get done. And likely first as his is going to be the biggest deal in terms of cash and term. It should’t be that hard either, as he has earned top tier money.

    - The Habs need another top flight scorer and for that reason need to take a run at Vanek. I do not think that deal gets done either. There is going to be some reluctance to pay the $7.5 million or so that he is going to command when you also know you are going to get stretches of invisibility.

    - Looking at Gionta and Markov, I think Markov gets done while Gionta is allowed to walk. Berg has said he likes depth at D and he cannot afford both these guys.

    - Eller should get a deal done. He is too valuable to let go for nothing.

    - Weise and White will get signed while I am hoping Bouillion and Murray are let go.

    - Being weak on the right side, Weaver is going to be re-signed.

    - Parros will not be back.

    Now, what sort of moves are there to be made? Scott Cullen has listed, over at Offseason Game Plans, “two top nine forwards, one top four defenceman, goaltenders.” for the Winnipeg Jets. I am going back to the Evander Kane idea here, but what if Montreal offered up Bourque/Eller, Emelin, Tokarski, and a pick for him? That addresses their need at goal, top 4 D, a top 9 forward, and gives them a pick. It addresses the loss of Vanek for Montreal.

    With Emelin gone (slow and out of position on the right) there is room to chase an actual right side D-man. Niskanen is a UFA who looks good, brings mobility, and plays the right side. Love to hear some opinions on him.

    This leaves Montreal weak at RW. Not even sure if he is in play, but Chiasson in Dallas is young, got hands, and big. I wonder if we could pick him up?

    Anyhow, those are my thoughts on how the Habs might better themselves this offseason.

    • Kenny MacMillan

      Niskanen and Kane would be huge additions, but I can’t see that package getting Kane even if the pick is a 1st. Besides, Bergevin talks about character on a daily basis and Kane’s is questioned almost as often. He’s a great hockey talent but not the player I can see Beregvin acquiring.
      As for Niskanen he would take a huge payment, and would be a great replacement for Markov if he walks. Otherwise I don’t see the team spending all that money to sign Subban, Markov and Niskanen.
      Chiasson being from Montreal and a young skilled player, and filling that huge need at right wing would be a great fit, but would be really hard to pry away from the Stars. Might even cost someone like Pateryn to get Chiasson.

      • Dar Krum

        I agree with you on Kane. I seem fixated there. Love him but it won’t happen.

        Regarding Niskanen, I see a fit there provided we can make a deal to move Emelin who is making $4.1. It seems that with the overpaying arena that is free agency, that Niskanen will get north of $4 mil. I am cool with retaining Markov AND getting Niskanen, provided that we can move Emelin. (to Dallas for Chiasson?)

  • pookles

    We’re not as close as we think…deal pleks, gio, markov, moen, briere, bourque, bouillon, murray, let vanek go, let parros go. RE-TOOL, not a total rebuild.
    The core is good…and ready to lead.

    Price, subban, emelin, gorges, tinordi, beaulieu, pateryn, weaver, pacc, dd, galchenyuk, gallagher, eller, bourneval, white, prust…promote andrighetto, maybe dumont, continue to develop the prospects(hudon, lekhonen, reway, mccaron, crisp) sign some fa’s as you need with the cash from selling off the vets, go young, let them all play together, draft higher and better and in 3 yrs, were a lot bigger, more skilled and better.

    Anyone who thinks that keeping pleks and gio wins us a cup in 2-3 yrs and you’re dreaming.

    • Kenny MacMillan

      You can’t just get rid of every veteran and hope the young guys will figure things out on their own. I’m guessing Bouillon, Murray, Vanek, Parros, possibly Gionta and hopefully Bourque are gone. That is a lot of veteran players to lose in one offseason, so to then let Markov go and trade Plekanec and Briere would leave this as the youngest team ever