Marc Bergevin’s five best moves as Montreal Canadiens GM

Newly extended Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin spoke to Shawn McKenzie about growing up a Habs fan and how he manages expectations each year for the rabid fan base.

There was nothing lucky about Marc Bergevin’s meteoric rise to prominence as an NHL general manager.

This is a man who’s earned everything through hard work. That was his legacy as a player, one who traveled through eight cities to keep an NHL career alive for 20 seasons despite marginal production (181 points in 1191 games), and it’s precisely how he found his way to the top as an executive.

Bergevin spent seven years honing his management profile with the Chicago Blackhawks. He worked as an amateur and pro scout for three years before taking over the pro scouting department. And he was named an assistant coach before being named the director of player personnel and eventually landing as an assistant general manager.

When Canadiens owner and CEO Geoff Molson placed the call in 2012, Bergevin was prepared to assume duties as executive vice president and to serve as Montreal’s 17th general manager.

On the surface, none of his five best moves were of the blockbuster variety. Beneath the surface, Bergevin’s deft manipulation of the salary cap and his scouting acuity turned him into a perennial contender for General Manager of the Year and earned him a contract extension through 2022.

5. MTL sends Travis Moen to DAL for Sergei Gonchar / MTL sends Rene Bourque to ANA for Bryan Allen (November, 2014)

The art of a good trade isn’t always about what you’re immediately adding to the equation; it’s often about what you’re subtracting — particularly in the salary cap era.

These two moves, made in the span of nine days, cleared $5.18 million off Montreal’s long-term cap.

The first sent Moen’s $1.85 million cap hit through 2016 to Dallas and brought Gonchar’s expiring $5 million to the Canadiens. Moen had been toiling in Montreal as a healthy scratch.

Gonchar served his role in Montreal admirably for 45 games before a concussion took him out of action. He was instrumental in helping youngster Nathan Beaulieu mature.

Bourque’s $3.3 million through the end of 2016 was thought to be immovable after the winger scored a disappointing 21 goals in 141 games with the Canadiens. Bergevin found a way, taking Allen’s $3.5 million expiring salary in exchange.

Nine days later, Bergevin announced a six-year, $22.5 million contract extension for Brendan Gallagher that would kick in at the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

It was a masterful 18 days of a work by Montreal’s GM.

4. MTL sends Josh Gorges to BUF for a 2016 second-round pick (July, 2014)

It was another case of addition by subtraction, but Bergevin displayed an underrated element of being a great GM: move declining assets when you can still get something for them — even if they’re popular among fans.

Gorges was a heart-and-soul player for Montreal over his seven seasons with the club, but it had become clear during the team’s run to the 2014 Eastern Conference final that all the blocked shots (over 1000 of them as a Canadien) had caught up to him.

The move to Buffalo came as a big surprise after Gorges nixed a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both the Leafs and Sabres were entrenched in rebuilds, all but guaranteeing the 2016 second-round pick would be a high one.

Bergevin cleared Gorges’ $3.9-million dollar annual salary through 2018 from Montreal’s cap.

3. MTL sends prospect Sebastien Collberg and a conditional 2014 second-round pick to NYI for Thomas Vanek and a conditional 2014 conditional fifth-round pick (March, 2014)

No one saw this move coming.

Vanek had rejected a seven-year, $50-million extension from the Islanders in February with his sights set on becoming an unrestricted free agent in July.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow held out for a first-round pick on deadline day, but none of his colleagues were willing to pony up. Bergevin snuck in at the last minute and snatched Vanek for peanuts.

Vanek had 15 points in 18 games before recording 10 points in Montreal’s 17-game playoff run.

Bergevin’s rental didn’t help the Canadiens win a Cup, but it was well worth the cost of acquisition.

2. MTL sends Raphael Diaz to VAN for Dale Weise (February, 2014)

2014 was a busy year for Bergevin.

But none of his moves that year proved as critical, in the long run, as the one that brought Weise to Montreal.

Bergevin sent a depth defender struggling to crack Montreal’s lineup to Vancouver for a depth forward the Canucks were misusing.

Weise has since tallied five playoff goals in a Canadiens uniform — three of them game winners — and set career highs in 2014-15 with 10 goals and 29 points in 79 games before starting this season with nine goals and five assists in 22 games.

Diaz was traded to New York for a fifth-round pick a month after landing in Vancouver.

1. MTL trades a 2015 second-round pick and a conditional 2015 fifth-round pick to EDM for Jeff Petry (March, 2015)

Here’s what No. 1 defenceman P.K. Subban recently said about what Petry’s done for Montreal:

“He’s a stud, and I don’t think he really gets enough credit for how he plays and how good he is. He can be a No. 1 defencemen on our team any night, and he can play against anybody.”

Sounds like a player worth more than what Bergevin paid to acquire him. Of course, the deal became that much sweeter for Montreal when Petry spurned a chance at unrestricted free agency by signing a six-year, $33-million extension to stay with the Canadiens.

Honourable mention: MTL sends Erik Cole to DAL for Michael Ryder and a 2013 third-round pick (February, 2013).

Bergevin cleared Cole’s $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2015 in exchange for Ryder’s expiring $3.5 million contract — and he got a third-rounder in the deal.

Ryder scored 21 points in 27 games with Montreal that year.

Bergevin’s Duds: George Parros UFA signing (July, 2013), Douglas Murray UFA signing (August, 2013)

The Canadiens had just been roughed up in a five-game series with the Ottawa Senators in the 2013 playoffs. Bergevin’s decision to sign Murray and Parros to add a toughness quotient was deviation from the team’s speedy identity, and both turned out to be failed experiments in Montreal.

Murray was minus-12 in 52 games with Montreal.

Parros suffered a horrifying head injury in a fight with Toronto’s Colton Orr in the team’s first game that season. He appeared in just 21 games with Montreal thereafter and retired in December of 2014 after going unsigned as a free agent.

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