Marc Bergevin Sprints Out of the Gates

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By Steve Farnham, Associate Editor, AllHabs.net

MONTREAL, QC. — It took little time for Montreal Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin to move on day one of free agency, going out and signing three NHL players.


Contract
Player Years Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Cap Hit
Colby Armstrong 1 $1,000,000 n/a n/a n/a $1,000,000
Francis Bouillon 1 $1,500,000 n/a n/a n/a $1,500,000
Brandon Prust 4 $3,000,000 $2,500,000 $2,500,000 $2,000,000 $2,500,000

The Canadiens also announced the signings of forward Michael Blunden and goaltender Cédrick Desjardins to one-year contracts, but both are expected to play with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League (AHL) next season.

From a cap perspective, the impact of three signings can be seen with two different sets of goggles. On the one hand, some believe that it’s too much money to spend on what equates to a fourth line, especially in the case of Brandon Prust with his four-year, $2,500,000 cap hit. On the other hand, some believe that the moves address immediate team needs in toughness and grit, and that the price is acceptable to pay.

I like the Prust signing (credit to @25stanley for breaking the story) and feel the Canadiens can live with the cap hit. Sure, it’s a little steep for the term but the Canadiens didn’t have many options available to them for this type of role player, and Prust knew this going into negotiations. Without Staubitz to play the roll of enforcer, the Canadiens needed a player that could at a time play hockey, and also be that physical presence that can allow other players like Moen and White to be more free to use their size, while allowing smaller offensive players to move more freely on the ice. This addresses an immediate need.

“I know he wants to add a bit more physicality. You can’t just have a lineup full of skill guys – you need to have a bit of everything. I think the team was missing a player like me in the lineup. There’s Travis Moen there right now who plays a similar type of game as I do. But him and White were a little bit alone there on that front. Adding me to bring more of a physical presence to the team was an important step. It’ll make all of our jobs easier in the future.” – Brandon Prust

In the case of Armstrong and Boullion, I’m much less excited by their signings with Montreal. In Armstrong’s case, he’s been injured for the most part of his career, losing a significant amount of games in five of his eight NHL seasons. He was a disappointment in Toronto, again, injured for the most part, and I fail to see how this type of a player can help the Canadiens, who have had a reputation over the last few years of being fragile.

In Bouillon’s case, I really appreciated his play when he was in Montreal and was disappointed to see him leave at the time, however I don’t believe the Canadiens need his services, and at 37 years of age, feel they could use the roster position on a younger who can be part of rebuild process, although it’s not a rebuild, because we are not allowed to say that.

First, all three salaries put together amount for 7 per cent of the total cap space available ($70,200,000). With $49,847,976 already used up, that leaves the Canadiens with $15,352,024, or 22 per cent of the total cap space available to sign it’s remaining players.

The Montreal Canadiens now have a total of 12 forwards signed for next season, not counting Louis Leblanc who is still on his entry-level contract, and by all appearances will be with the Bulldogs next season.

Lars Eller and Black Geoffrion also still have not signed any contracts, and the former is expected to play with the Canadiens next season barring any significant change in direction with regards to him.

There are also still many questions that remain to be answered as to how Marc Bergevin will handle certain players, such as Scott Gomez and Rene Bourque. Gomez could be bought out, buried in Hamilton, or be with the Canadiens next season, all options are still possible although a trade is very unlikely. In the case of Bourque, a trade might be more likely with rumours currently circulating that Bergevin might be trying to get rid of him. (Believe what you want to believe)

In the case of the defense, the Canadiens currently have six players signed, one of them being Yannick Weber, with one-year remaining on his contract ($850,000). Don’t be surprised if he is traded before the start of next season. It seems Weber has always been an odd man out in Montreal, and it doesn’t appear as if anything will change this season. If the situation arises for Bergevin, he could be a good throw-in on a trade.

Just like Gomez and Bourque, Kaberle is another player whose cap space could be better used, so if ever a team would want in on his services (if that’s even possible), he’s another player that could be moved.

P.K. Subban is still unsigned, and he should go out and fetch a fair amount. Rafael Diaz and Frederic St. Denis, who are both Restricted Free Agents (RFA), just like Subban, should both be signed as well.

Finally, there’s Carey Price, with TSN’s Bob McKenzie currently saying we should expect his upcoming contract to be in the $6,000,000 to $6,500,000 range.

On the surface, if you estimate that Price and Subban should together go fetch something around $10,000,000 to $11,000,000 per year, with only a little over $15,000,000 in cap space remaining, and a couple of other players to sign, it appears that the Canadiens could be very tight on the salary cap when it’s all said and done. If however, Bergevin is able to make some key moves, ridding the team of some key salary cap hits (Sorry to refer to these players as that), it could drastically change the playing field.

Whether you like the moves or not, this was a change from the Pierre Gauthier and Bob Gainey eras, both known to be conservative in their approaches, and not make big splashes on days like today. Now, to wait and see what’s next.

Marc Bergevin will address the media this afternoon.

(Photo: 25Stanley.com)

1 COMMENT

  1. Lots of great points, but I feel that the closing is a little off-base. Gainey and Gauthier both made big free agent splashes.

    Last year Gauthier added Erik Cole on July 1st with a big contract and Cole responded with the best goal scoring totals of his career.

    The year before the Habs attempted to make a run at signing Dan Ellis as a back-up, not much of a splash, but a minor attempt.

    And in 2009 Gainey added Cammalleri, Gionta, Gill and Spacek all in the same day right after acquiring the legendary Michael Busto for a bum named Ryan McDonagh.

    In the years previous Gainey added Hamrlik, Samsonov, Kostopoulos and Smolinski in July via free agency. They might have been somewhat conservative signings, but the Hamrlik and Samsonov contracts certainly seemed like more than ripples when they were doled out.

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