The next time Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin makes two key players final contract offers during the off-season and says it’s a case of “first come, first served” he should have a Plan B in place in case they both tell him to take a hike and leave town.
And the next time Bergevin decides to trade a top prospect like Mikhail Sergachev in exchange for a No. 1 centre — the missing piece for so long with the Canadiens — he should make sure that player can actually play centre.
That’s if there is a next time for Bergevin.
Those were my takeaways from Bergevin’s 30-minute, mid-season news conference before Sunday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Bell Centre.
Bergevin met the media at 5:15 p.m. wearing his best power suit — dark blue with a crisp, white shirt and light grey tie. There was no flashy fashion statement from the dapper GM, who was all business and should be very nervous about keeping his job after the Canadiens hit the midway point of the season with a 17-20-4 record, placing them 28th in the overall NHL standings.
That’s the same position the Canadiens were in when they fired GM Pierre Gauthier after the 2011-12 season and hired Bergevin to fix things.
Six seasons later, he obviously hasn’t.
The two players Bergevin gave first-come, first-served contract offers to last summer were Alexander Radulov and Andrei Markov. Radulov has 16-22-38 totals in 43 games with the Dallas Stars — 16 points more than any Canadiens player heading into Sunday’s game — while Markov has 4-20-24 totals in 47 games with the KHL’s Kazan Ak-Bars, a team he didn’t really want to play for. Markov wanted to stay in Montreal and said he wouldn’t play for any NHL team other than the Canadiens, but he felt disrespected by Bergevin during contract negotiations and left for Russia.
As a result of those two key departures — and with no Plan B — the Canadiens started the season $8.5 million below the NHL’s US$75-million salary cap. There are excuses for teams like the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes not spending up to the cap, but not the Canadiens.
“The plan was not to get eight million bucks under the cap,” Bergevin said Sunday. “We had money for certain players and they decided not to take the offer and went somewhere else and that’s out of our control.”