Grading Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s recent notable moves

NHL insider Eric Engels joins Kyle Bukauskas to discuss GM Marc Bergevin’s need to address his team’s criticism to help take some heat off the players and coaching staff.

Marc Bergevin has been general manager of the Montreal Canadiens since 2012. The team has qualified for the post-season in all but one of those seasons under his watch — the year the team missed was the year when Carey Price was injured and only played 12 games — and has won three division titles during that time. Yet, Bergevin’s stock might be lower than it’s ever been.

Heading into Thursday’s action, the only team with fewer points than Montreal is the lowly Arizona Coyotes. Montreal snapped a seven-game losing streak Tuesday with a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers but remain at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings as they search for solutions to their struggles.

“I told the guys that the answer’s in that room,” Bergevin told reporters Wednesday. “We watch the tapes and we see where the breakdowns are. Sometimes they’re the smallest breakdowns and it’s in our net and then it affects your confidence. It may not be what people want to hear but it’s reality. You could play with a bad foot or a bad hand, but no confidence? It’s obvious.”

The Canadiens host the Los Angeles Kings Thursday looking to build on the momentum gained from their second win of the season.

Bergevin might be on the hot seat and pressure will continue to mount if the defending Atlantic Division champions go on another losing streak.

“You go through tough stretches and people want to pick your pocket,” Bergevin said when asked about the possibility of making a trade. “You know some guys are better than they are playing and what you’re talking about getting in return is not going to help you, so making a move just to make a move isn’t going to make any difference. I’m not going to make a panic move.”

With that in mind, we’ve decided to take a quick look and grade some of the more notable moves the GM has made, specifically the ones that had an impact on the current 2-6-1 roster.

Bergevin has certainly made some iffy moves over the past five years with the perception being the trajectory of this team began heading south in June 2016, so that’s where we’ll begin.

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June 24, 2016: Traded Lars Eller to the Capitals – A

Eller averaged 25.6 points per season in his six years in Montreal. Getting two second-round picks (one in 2017, one in 2018) for that type of player was a steal — on paper at least. They used the first of those picks to select Finnish centre Joni Ikonen.

June 24, 2016: Acquired Andrew Shaw from Blackhawks – C

Shaw was a slight upgrade over Eller in terms of production, while also adding the type of grit that can help take a team far in the post-season. After acquiring Shaw from the Blackhawks, Bergevin rewarded the forward with a six-year contract at $3.9 million per season. Was Shaw worth the pair of 2016 second-rounders he sent the other way? We’ll have until 2022 to make a final conclusion because that’s when his contract expires. Chicago used the two picks to select 2016-17 OHL scoring leader Alex DeBrincat and defenceman Chad Krys.

June 29, 2016: P.K. Subban for Shea Weber blockbuster – D

It’s a trade few saw coming and it could, in all probability, be what Habs fans remember Bergevin for the most. Weber had a solid first season in Montreal, but he’s older and slower than Subban. That’s undeniable. He’s also under contract for four years longer than Subban. The grade is not a reflection on the quality of player and teammate Weber is, yet unless the Canadiens have significant short-term success this is the type of deal that could affect the long-term health of the franchise.

Feb. 27, 2017: Acquired Jordie Benn from Stars – C

Greg Pateryn never managed to earn an every-night spot on the Habs, so packaging him with a fourth-round pick isn’t anything worth holding regret over. Benn, like Weber, however, is not fleet of foot and is really nothing more than a third-pair blueliner.

Feb. 28, 2017: Acquired Brandon Davidson for David Desharnais – C

Desharnais was a fine player during his time with the team, but he struggled in the first half of 2016-17 and the then-pending unrestricted free agent wasn’t going to be re-signed so they flipped him to the Oilers. Davidson has been a respectable depth defenceman for the team.

March 1, 2017: Acquired Andreas Martinsen, Dwight King, Steve Ott – D

Bergevin was busy at the trade deadline as the Canadiens prepared for what they thought would be a lengthy playoff run. Getting gritty depth forwards like Ott and King for a pair of late draft picks is par for the course at the deadline. In acquiring Martinsen, they sent Sven Andrighetto to Colorado. Andrighetto had eight points in 27 games with the Habs that year, but went on to register 16 points in 19 games with the Avs to finish the season, and so far has six in nine games this season. Martinsen quickly became irrelevant in Montreal and didn’t even make the team out of training camp this year.

June 15, 2017: Mikhail Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin – N/A

It’s simply too early to come to any conclusions on a deal involving a prospect and a player with only two full seasons of NHL experience under his belt. Drouin has been perhaps the team’s best forward through his first nine games with the Canadiens, leading the team with seven points.

They did need to add offence and Drouin is unquestionably one of the top young forwards in the game, but Sergachev was easily the top prospect in Montreal’s system and after having already traded Subban it left them with a dearth of talent on the blue line — Victor Mete’s emergence aside. It can’t be fun for Canadiens fans to see Sergachev looking great playing beside Anton Stralman and putting up nine points in his first 10 games there with the Lightning.

June 17, 2017: Sent Nathan Beaulieu to Buffalo – C

This defence corps is a weaker unit without Beaulieu, but we suppose a third-round pick was a fair haul. Bergevin acquired David Schlemko from the Golden Knights five days later to fill a depth role on the roster, but he hasn’t played yet this season.

July 1, 2017: Signed Karl Alzner – B

The Habs needed a top-four defenceman and that’s exactly what Alzner is. The only problem is his style doesn’t fix the team’s biggest problem on the back end: mobility. He does, however, provide consistency. The fifth-overall pick from 2005 recently played his 600th regular-season game and the ironman hasn’t missed a non-playoff game since the 2009-10 campaign.

July 2, 2017: Re-signed Carey Price – A

Locking up a franchise player like Price was essential. He’s one of the handful of players in the league you can build a team around. His 3.55 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in eight appearances this season isn’t what we’re used to seeing from the one-time Hart and Vezina Trophy winner, although his solid performance against the Panthers was a significant confidence boost for the player, team and fan base.

Jul 3, 2017: Not re-signing Alexander Radulov – C

The Russian had 18 goals and added 36 assists in his lone season with the Canadiens, leading all Habs forwards in power-play points, but Bergevin couldn’t come to terms with the forward. It left the team with a significant void down the right wing. On the current depth chart the right wingers are Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher, Shaw and Nikita Scherbak. None of those players can threaten in the offensive zone like Radulov can. Radulov hasn’t done much early in his tenure with Dallas, scoring just once in his first nine games there.

July 3, 2017: Signed Ales Hemsky – D

The one-year, $1-million commitment they made to the forward was a low-risk, low-reward signing and all Hemsky has to show through seven games is 10 penalty minutes and a concussion.

In hindsight, using the money they spent on Hemsky to take a run at someone like Jussi Jokinen or Jaromir Jagr, two veteran left-handed shots that are more than capable of playing on the right wing like Radulov, might’ve been better options.

July 5, 2017: Re-signed Alex Galchenyuk for three years – B

Trade rumours swirled around Galchenyuk so this bridge deal was a bit surprising. The $4.9-million price tag is manageable and keeps his trade value higher than it would have been on an expiring deal. He hasn’t done much so far this season with only two goals to show.

“I hope [Galchenyuk’s goal against the Panthers] is the beginning,” Bergevin told reporters Wednesday. “You see the talent, what he’s capable of doing. Sometimes I see a young player who is looking for answers somewhere else instead of taking it upon himself. When you talk to the kid about it he understands, so he’s aware of it. He needs to find the little things that make him score. Not thinking about scoring but about the process. Sometimes you think you’re working but you may not be working as hard as you can.”

July 25, 2017: Signed Mark Streit – F

Streit was supposed to replace Andrei Markov. The 39-year-old played two games and was waived.

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