Montreal Canadiens: L'Affaire Kotkaniemi-Dvorak - What If The Habs Kept The Picks?

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits
2018 NHL Draft - Portraits / Tom Pennington/GettyImages
1 of 3


The summer of 2021 was a roller coaster of emotions for the Montreal Canadiens, their fans and their general manager, Marc Bergevin. After an improbable and thrilling ride to the Stanley Cup Final that seemed more a dream than reality, a series of crippling twists and turns quickly had the organization yet again facing an uncertain future.

The feel-good vibes of the playoffs immediately wore off with news that the careers of Captain Shea Weber and franchise goaltender Carey Price were suddenly in jeopardy. That was followed by top centre Philip Danault departing for Los Angeles as an unrestricted free agent, leaving another gaping hole down the middle.

The mood around the team deteriorated further at the draft when the Canadiens put themselves in the eye of a firestorm by selecting controversial prospect Logan Mailloux as their first-round pick. Bergevin was noticeably unprepared for the backlash that ensued, forcing owner Geoff Molson and the club’s public relations department to do major damage control.

Just when things didn’t seem like they could get any worse, the Carolina Hurricanes delivered the death blow in late August. Bergevin had naively left himself exposed and without salary cap flexibility with restricted free agent Jesperi Kotkaniemi still unsigned.

Recognizing the Habs vulnerability, the Hurricanes pounced by signing the promising young center and third overall pick in 2018 to a carefully constructed offer sheet. After a week of deliberating, Bergevin elected not to match the offer and opted instead to take compensation in the form of 2022 first and third-round picks.

This would have been the time to cut your losses and walk away from the table. Instead, Bergevin doubled down and traded the first-rounder, along with a 2024 second-round choice, to the Arizona Coyotes for center Christian Dvorak. It’s the classic tale of a bad bet made worse.