“Does he have a plan”?
A common question posed by Habs fans post trade deadline after GM Marc Bergevin decided not to “sell the farm”. He auctioned off the chickens and cleaned up the stable, but the farm is still in place, albeit on a crumbly foundation.
One can only guess what Bergevin’s modus operandi is, as he certainly wasn’t revealing it at his trade deadline day press conference. He was careful not to say he’s all in for making the playoffs this season, as that is a longshot, with less than five percent chance of such a thing happening if you go by the hard math.
The retention of Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry until at least the end of this season signals that Bergevin has three major courses of action when it comes to his most mentioned trading chips – look at making a major splash at the draft, attempt to extend their contracts this summer so that both parties can avoid unrestricted free agency in July of 2021, or hang onto both of them until next February to see if the club is in playoff contention.
Bergevin not selling off Tatar and Petry to the highest bidders this week signals to me, first and foremost, that he is intent on making a serious bid to make the 2021 playoffs. He will pursue Kovalchuk and/or another forward aggressively in free agency and perhaps trade for a defenceman when they are more likely available at draft.
Bergevin realizes his job will be on the line if he misses the postseason five out of six years. I say he makes a splash as host of the draft – after these 14 picks, he will be overflowing with prospects, so it would not be surprising to see a 2021 first pick or a second and prospects/Mete dangled for a blueliner. Such an offer may not even include Petry or Tatar.
Bettman walks up to the microphone at some point Friday night and says – “I think you’re gonna want to hear this. We have a trade to announce…Montreal trades blah blah blah for Matt Dumba” or whatever….and the crowd erupts.
I don’t think Geoff Molson would oppose such a scenario.
That doesn’t mean that a roster player won’t be offered at the draft if Bergevin indeed tries to steal the show. There might be teams that have interest in getting a Petry, Tatar or even Domi, but weren’t willing to risk copping up a potential lottery pick at the deadline.
You revisit those teams after the season. If they made the playoffs or even won some series or the Cup, more willing to deal a frst round pick than they were in February when eveything was up in the air.
When Tampa Bay surrendered a first for the cheap salary fit of Goodrow, that made it seven teams without 2020 first picks to offer for a Petry or Tatar. Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, Islanders Pittsburgh, Arizona and San Jose.
Were playoff bubble teams going to risk losing a lottery pick for a contract that expires in 16 months? Montreal wasn’t trading either for a conditional first. Ottawa, Detroit and other bottom feeders weren’t offering picks, either, so the number of potential trading partners was minimal.
The heat Bergevin took from both fans and media for not selling useful players with more than a year left on their contracts was intense. Those on the outside don’t always look at all of the angles, though, and plenty of assumptions were made.
No teams were offering top prospects and picks. The biggest return was draft picks for J-G Pageau. Would Bergevin have dealt Petry just for draft picks considering he’s not a UFA? I’m pretty sure he’d have wanted a young defenceman back who can play now.
Isles offered so much for Pageau because they were confident they could sign him when the deal was made. You see the Goodrow trade and you wonder if Tatar couldn’t have fetched even more. It’s an assumption that teams offered that or more, though. Goodrow and Coleman were picked up by the Lightning in large part because their contracts were so cheap. They did not have the cap space to add a Tatar.
Which NHL teams picked up a scoring winger for a top prospect and a first? Zero. So why was there this broad assumption that teams were offering MTL such a package for a winger in Tatar that was picked up for a high price two deadlines ago and bombed? That’s a lot of assuming.
Teams who paid a high price Monday were doing it in almost every circumstance for two-way centers, not wingers that were busts when picked up at the trade deadline before. I would frankly be shocked if any team offered a first and a top prospect for Tatar.
Fans see an early trade made where one teams seems to have been “crazy” to give up a first like TB in the Goodrow deal, and they expect that to be the norm for the rest of the day…that other GM’s are also going to be “crazy”. As a rule, there is only one, or at most two, GM’s who would have been best served to spend the day in the nearest sanctuary.
Let’s say Tampa offered Montreal that first-round pick before grabbing Goodrow. What if Bergevin figured he can get a first pick and more at the draft, or perhaps even next trade deadline… a higher pick than Tampa’s late first?
It is also plausible he talked to Tatar and Petry, and they want to stay. Bergevin may figure both are more valuable than draft picks who have no guiarantee of even becoming regular players.
There might be teams that have interest in getting them, but weren’t willing to risk copping up a lottery pick. You revisit those teams after the season.
The other argument for holding onto Petry and Tatar is that there are strange things happening in Florida and Toronto. The Habs are not yet out of the running for third place in the Atlantic Division.
It is a decided longshot, but if Montreal is within four points of Toronto and Florida when they face the Panthers next week, can they call up the 2020 first round pick they were supposed to have gotten for Tatar to help them win the game? Anyone got a spare time machine?
Florida traded one of their top players at the deadline and have been playing poorly, the Leafs lost to a Zamboni driver and were handcuffed at the deadline and did nothing. Those first-round prospects that would have supposedly been rained upon MTL weren’t gonna score many goals next week if that game versus Florida is very meaningful, were they?
Even if they’re five or six back of Toronto and Florida when they face the Panthers next week, it is still the biggest game of the season. Nice to have your top scorer and highest-minute defenceman for that one. They might be ten out by then and this could be moot, but the playoffs is still not a total pipe dream, so having those two in the lineup was not the worst decision if Montreal stays in the playoff hunt.
The biggest hole still is left defence. Bring one more in, and I like Montreal’s chances to compete strongly for next year’s playoffs. I think Kotkaniemi and Poehling have a wakeup call, the good buddies train hard together in Montreal this summer, and come back next year with something to prove. I see Romanov making the team and contributing, perhaps even this year’s first-round draft pick can crack the roster if it is one of the coveted top-ten prospects.
When the dust had settled, the Canadiens in “deadline week” added a second, third, fourth, fifth, seventh, and a conditional fourth for players that combined cost them a 2020 fourth round pick, and swapping a fourth for fifth (Thompson).
They also have no pending UFA’s, as is usually case with Bergevin, who is not in the habit of losing players for nothing. Asset building isn’t always sexy, but it has been constant, and it has a good chance of paying off once the team’s young prospect foundation is ready to blossom.
I would have loved to see MTL add first picks as much as anyone…I’m a scout after all…but is 14 picks not enough? Four in the top 60? Six in the top 90? Eleven in the top 5 rounds? Timmins and co. can make some major noise without having to add any more picks. It sure beats the years when the club was picking once in the top 100 selections.
Farmer Berg didn’t sell the farm, but he’ll be adding more colts to the brimming stable. Now he just needs to find a new jockey.
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