Montreal Canadiens: Best Move Of The Marc Bergevin Era

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens attends the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens attends the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

After several futile attempts at landing the number one center he so badly coveted, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin finally did just that in September of 2018 when he dealt then captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights for a package built around top prospect and future captain Nick Suzuki.

Suzuki, who was just 19 years old when the trade was consummated, had been selected 13th overall by Vegas in the previous year’s draft. The return also included veteran winger Tomas Tatar and a 2019 second round draft choice, which Bergevin later flipped to the Los Angeles Kings to trade down and eventually pick Jayden Struble.

For once, Bergevin’s penchant for getting into public spats with his top players had not cost him and he was able to get full value for Pacioretty, a five time 30 goal scorer for the Canadiens.

At the time, the Habs had long been struggling to find that elusive 1C after Alex Galchenyuk failed to live up to expectations. Years of second tier players such as Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Philip Danault masquerading as top line pivots had Bergevin frantically trying to fill the void.

After famously not even getting a meeting with free agent John Tavares, his desperation culminated at the draft in 2018 where in an obvious reach, the Canadiens chose Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall ahead of the likes of Brady Tkachuk and Quinn Hughes.

Even with Kotkaniemi and Suzuki in tow, the impatient Bergevin continued to unsuccessfully chase any center that came on the market. After being unable to reel in free agent Matt Duchene, he infamously signed Sebastian Aho to a failed offer sheet in 2019.

Upon striking out in landing a big fish again, Bergevin was forced to wait for his young centremen to develop. Though the initial thought was that Kotkaniemi was the first line center of the future and Suzuki could either slot in on the wing or top out as a solid 2C, it was Suzuki that quickly and convincingly ascended into the leading role.

So after a relentless and at times obsessive pursuit, Bergevin had ultimately found his white whale. Attaining Suzuki turned out to be Bergevin’s best work because he was able to extract maximum value from a distressed asset, as the Pacioretty situation had clearly become untenable for both sides.

An honorable mention goes to Bergevin’s deadline deal in 2016 when he sent Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to the Chicago Blackhawks for a young Danault and a 2018 second round pick that the Canadiens later used to select Alexander Romanov. No doubt a shrewd bit of business in which Bergevin completely fleeced his former team.

An argument can be made that the Chicago trade was better for the Habs than the Vegas one in terms of sheer value, but I still put the Pacioretty for Suzuki move at number 1 because Bergevin nabbed an elite talent who plays the premier position in hockey. As good as Danault is, it’s easier to find a Danault than a Suzuki in my opinion.

To his detriment, Bergevin more often than not focused on short term gains rather than long term viability. The Suzuki and Danault deals were rare cases in which he actually invested in future assets. Unfortunately, Bergevin lacked too much in patience and not enough in ego to build the club into a true contender during his tenure in Montreal and that will ultimately be his legacy.

By deftly inking Suzuki to a team friendly long term extension, Bergevin did leave the Canadiens a nice parting gift and while he may not be around to see it pay dividends, Habs fans will hopefully reap the benefits of the Suzuki acquisition for years to come.

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