A spot among the Canadiens’ top six forwards is open for the taking. Names of various free agents and potential trade targets are being bandied about as potential fillers. And while general manager Marc Bergevin is keeping his eyes and ears open, he’s keeping the door open, too.
“We’re looking around to see what’s available, always willing to make the team better,” he said on Monday.
“Right now on the market, there’s not much available,” he added. “But you have to think about the term and what you have coming. We’re a team that’s trying to develop our young players to be able to play in Montreal and be successful.”
On the free agent front, winger Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau came up often among those speculating. Bergevin says the Canadiens spoke to his agent “a few times” and were hoping to work something out.
“But you can’t always get what you want,” he said of Parenteau, who inked a four-year, $16 million deal with the Avalanche.
Other chatter has brought up the likes of Jaromir Jagr – who signed with the Dallas Stars on Tuesday – and Alex Semin. The Canadiens looked into both but the interest didn’t last long.
“They’re quality, skilled hockey players but at this time we don’t feel it’s a right fit for us,” Bergevin said. “We have some good young players coming through so we’re going to make sure we look at these guys closely.”
Among those he’ll be keeping an eye on: Brendan Gallagher and Louis Leblanc. Gallagher, who will be making his professional hockey debut in the fall, enjoyed a strong training camp last September. As fellow junior prospects were returned to their teams, the Edmonton, Alta., native remained in Montreal. Many began to wonder if perhaps he might make the jump or at least get a nine-game tryout.
In the end, he returned to the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
Leblanc, meanwhile, turned pro last season, starting the season in Hamilton once he was cleared following off-season shoulder surgery. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 30 and didn’t look out of place as he piled up 42 games of big league experience.
“Our goal is to build from within,” Bergevin explained. “When you hit the market or do trades, it’s hard to acquire people without trading them. I think we have some good young assets that we’re trying to build our team with.
“I want to leave doors open.”
For the prospects and for members of his current roster.
“Rene Bourque scored 27 goals two years ago,” he pointed out. “With 27 goals, you become a top-six. I know he had an off-year last year, but I’m not ready to write him off.”
Bergevin has quickly put his stamp on his team, adding Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon on the opening day of free agency and locking up Travis Moen two days earlier.
“These guys bring character, sandpaper, and personality to our club, which I felt was missing last year,” he said. “From day one I wanted to build this team around character guys that put the team first and that’s what I think we did.”
A formula that he hopes opens a door back to the playoffs.