Montreal Canadiens: Get Ready For a Busy, Interesting Offseason

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 20: Montreal Canadiens attempt near goaltender Jake Allen. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 20: Montreal Canadiens attempt near goaltender Jake Allen. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have already been busy this offseason and it hasn’t officially started yet. It’s going to an interesting offseason.

The Montreal Canadiens were going to have to be busy in the 2020 offseason. They have a couple of interesting contract negotations to deal with as Max Domi and Victor Mete are restricted free agents and they also hold a plethora of draft picks.

The NHL Draft was supposed to be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal and at one time, the Habs had more than a dozen picks. That number has dropped slightly, and that is because general manager Marc Bergevin has been busy already this offseason.

Don’t expect that to change any time soon.

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We don’t even know who will be in the Stanley Cup Final yet, but Bergevin has answered some questions for the Montreal Canadiens as they gear up for the 2020-21 campaign. He traded away third and seventh round picks in the upcoming draft for a 7th round pick in 2022 and goaltender Jake Allen. Yesterday, he shipped a 2020 fifth round pick for the rights to Joel Edmundson.

You don’t often see trades being made in the middle of the playoffs. Of course, this year is much different than any other in the past. We have teams playing playoff series in record time inside a bubble in either Toronto or Edmonton. We have playoff games going on in September and a Stanley Cup likely to be awarded in early October.

Also happening in early October are the NHL Draft which will take place on October 6 and 7. Free agency follows shortly after, opening on the 9th. That doesn’t give teams much time to exhale and prepare after the Stanley Cup Final so Bergevin is getting some work done early.

The two trades he has made hint to the fact he is trying to get this team ready to compete with the top teams in the league next season. He didn’t bring in any superstars (yet) but he is easing the burden on his best players.

Carey Price has been taxed too heavily in recent years and needs a reliable backup so he isn’t forced to lead the league in minutes played. He often wears down as the season concludes and hasn’t been at his best late in the season for many years. This season, a long hiatus forced by a global pandemic gave Price a lengthy break before the postseason. Then, he played excellent while eliminating the PIttsburgh Penguins in the play-in series and was great against the Philadelphia Flyers, though the Habs lost the series in six games.

That led to Bergevin acquiring a steady, reliable backup in Allen who can play 30 games next season and allow Price to be rested and ready for the postseason when it arrives.

The Edmundson trade could prove to be a similar deal. The Canadiens top three defenders carried a heavy burden in the postseason but they looked great. Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Ben Chiarot were playing well over 25 minutes most nights, but since they were rested after a long layoff, they were able to handle that load with ease.

They were not able to consistently play their best while shouldering heavy minutes every night in the regular season. All three were among the top 30 in ice time this season and it showed as the season wore on.

Edmundson can play a heavy, physical, defensive style and could take some heavy minutes on the penalty kill away from the Habs top three during the regular season. When the postseason arrives, Weber and Chiarot will be a little more rested if they are able to sit out the odd penalty killing situation here and there while Edmundson blocks a half dozen shots for them.

With Allen carrying some of Price’s burden and Edmundson potentially taking on some of Weber’s toughest assignments in the regular season, the Canadiens are looking to be as rested and ready for the playoffs as possible.

What’s next for this busy offseason? Well, the Habs still hold 11 picks in the draft that is coming up in just over three weeks. They still have plenty of cap space to use in free agency that begins in four weeks.

Trying to guess Marc Bergevin’s next move has always been difficult. The only thing we do know is he is setting up to make his team as ready for the 2021 postseason as they possibly can be. How is he going to ensure they get in? We will have to wait and see, but his boatload of draft picks and oodles of cap space are shrinking and will likely continue to do so in the next four weeks.

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Buckle up and stay tuned. It looks like Bergevin could be going all-in for the 2020-21 season. The next few weeks could be fascinating for Habs fans.