On Monday, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin gave a 20-minute update on how he feels about his team’s 22-15-5 record, on top prospects in the organization that he watched at the World Junior Championship, on Carey Price’s absence from the upcoming All-Star Weekend, and on how he’s approaching the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
Here are his answers.
Carey Price missing All-Star Weekend
Bergevin: I was at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver and I came back late on Sunday night. This morning, I met — it was important for me to meet with Carey and our group of doctors to find out exactly what’s best for him short-term and long-term. Based on what we discussed, it was best for him and the organization that he take the time to rest an injury that’s been nagging him a bit. The time off, certainly with the extra five days (for the bye week), should help him.
On Price having to miss a game before or after All-Star Weekend as a penalty for skipping
Bergevin: It’s not a suspension. I had a conversation with the league this morning and he either has to miss the game before or the game after All-Star Weekend. I know we have a back-to-back coming out of the bye week so it’ll be one of those two games then.
Monday’s decision to waive defenceman David Schlemko
Bergevin: Since he arrived in Montreal, he’s been hurt. In his first training camp (last year), he got hurt in the first practice. A player who misses an entire camp — it’s the hardest period of time for a player to miss. We saw it recently with a young, talented player like [Toronto Maple Leafs forward] William Nylander. It’s taken a long time for him to get it back. I’m not comparing Schlemko to Nylander, but I’m just saying missing all of training camp is difficult.
This season, he had a good training camp and got hurt again. What’s happened since is we have some young players who have performed well like Brett Kulak and Victor Mete, so I wanted to keep them in Montreal. And David is going to have to — if he doesn’t get claimed — go to Laval and find his game. It’s certain I lose a bit of control by putting him on waivers, but I’d like that he remain available to us because it’s good to have depth in the organization.
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Price 100 per cent?
Bergevin: If I was going to give an exact number, I’d say he’s 87.3 per cent. Listen, at this moment probably a quarter of the team isn’t at 100 per cent.
Goaltender is a very demanding position and, in Carey’s case, obviously he’s a big part of our team. At this moment he’s performing well and in good health, but there’s always things that could be better with rest. That’s why we made the decision we made today.
How do you intend to approach the trade deadline as a team competing for the playoffs while trying to keep the focus primarily on the future?
Bergevin: From Day 1, I believed that if we did stay healthy, our goal was to fight for a playoff spot, and so far that’s what we’ve done, and I expect the same for the second half.
Again, I’m always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future, and just to give up assets for a short-term [addition], I’m not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing. Again, if there’s a young player available and there’s assets that need to go [to acquire that player], I get it. But I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business.
Do you have your eye on any available players who you feel can help now and in the future?
Bergevin: Right now it’s way too early to talk about that. Other general managers — nobody has started talking about trades. And that’s usually 10 days before, a week before, so we have a long ways to go for that. Again, I’m going to listen. If I think it makes sense, I’ll do it. But I’m not going to start mortgaging the future because I know what’s coming with the World Junior — who they’re going to be asking for — and I’m not moving these kids. So it’s going to be a short conversation, I think.
Easy to convince Price to stay back from all-star weekend?
Bergevin: For Carey, it’s an honour to be named. Every year he’s been selected, he’s participated. He probably wanted to go, but he understands very well that his team, the Montreal Canadiens, is the most important to him. That’s why he accepted.
Would you move any veterans out ahead of the deadline to ensure a better future for the team?
Bergevin: It’s a thing that, as we approach the trade deadline, we’ll discuss seriously amongst the management group. It’s a possibility, and one I’ve already considered.
Why are you in a good mood this year vs. last year?
Bergevin: Losing Shea for as long as we did hurt us last year. It was all part of a perfect storm. Hats off to the players and the coaches who started at zero this year, and I think we’re heading in a good direction. The route towards youth is very important for us, and with what I saw in Vancouver, the future of the Canadiens is very bright.
Bergevin: Obviously we’re not going to start giving up young assets. But if we drafted these kids, it’s because we believe they had some potential, and that came to the forefront in Vancouver with our prospects that really stepped up their games to a level.
I know last summer when we stepped up and drafted [Alex] Romanov at 38, we got critiqued. But I remember, at the table, I said to [assistant general manager] Trevor [Timmins], ‘If we do like him, let’s just not wait because if a pick before somebody grabs him and he’s gone, we’ll wish [he was there].’
So, when you like a player, you just step up and take them.
On Charles Hudon, who’s sat 16 of the last 18 games after scoring 30 points in 72 games last season
Bergevin: Listen, Charles is going to have his chance to get into the lineup, and when he does, it’s up to him to ensure he doesn’t get bumped out.
Apart from his performance, we don’t have any injuries up front except for [Andrew Shaw]. I’ve spoken to many GMs recently who have a lot of injured players. We’re going to need all our players, and Charles Hudon is a young player who has potential and will stay in Montreal for the time being.
On WJC MVP Ryan Poehling, who’s in his junior season at St. Cloud State, and whether or not he can be enticed to turn pro after this year
Bergevin: He’s a centre. A young centre. It’s a very important position. All teams that have quality centres keep them. You have to draft them, and we were lucky to take him at [25th overall in 2017].
His progression? He had a good WJC in Buffalo last year, and this year he reached another level. So we expect he’s getting closer to being a pro, but we haven’t discussed future plans with him yet. We’re going to let him finish his university season and then talk to him when the time comes.
Owe it to the players to reward their good first half with a deadline acquisition?
Bergevin: I’m not going to give up a first-round pick for a rental. It’s just not going to happen. So I want to be clear, today, it’s not happening.
If there’s something that makes sense short-term and long-term, I will do it. But giving up assets for short-term, it’s not going to happen.
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Mentality of always having a chance if you make the playoffs, and whether that factors into making a move prior to the deadline
Bergevin: I’m not sure what’s going to be available at the time. It’s so far away. I can’t mention names, but there’s names I’m hearing out there the cost is a first-round pick, and that player will not make a difference between winning a Stanley Cup and barely getting in, so that’s not going to happen.
Most pleasant surprise so far
Bergevin: If you want to talk about players, I thought Tomas Tatar really … he was a very good player in Detroit, there was some injury issues last year in Detroit, and then he went to Vegas. They were on a roll, and he never got his chance, never really got going, and he came here and he competes.
He never stops, he’s always on the puck, and we didn’t see that in Vegas. Was it because of his injuries? I don’t know, but I think he’s been pretty good for us.
But the way the team has performed even when they’re down, the way they’re coming back, they never seem to quit. To me that was something that was missing last year, and I’m proud it’s back now. And they seem like they’re having a lot of fun together, too.
Bergevin: It’s always injuries. Injuries are a concern for every team.
I talked to a few GMs the last couple of days and there’s some teams that are really banged up, and you dig down into your depth and you hope for the best.
For a while I know Nashville was struggling but they had a lot of guys out of their lineup, and there’s not much you can do.