Two days removed from losing the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games, players and management of the Montreal Canadiens held their annual exit meetings and spoke with the media on Friday before heading home for the summer.
As he gears up for a hectic few weeks of offseason business, general manager Marc Bergevin addressed what’s to come for the team and most importantly, his own future with the club. Here are three takeaways from his end-of-season media availability.
Will Bergevin Sign an Extension?
With one year remaining on his current contract, it’s understandable that questions about Bergevin’s future were raised, but his answers didn’t provide any clarity on the situation and only fuelled the speculation surrounding him.
“I have one more year on my contract, and I will honour that,” Bergevin said when asked if he wanted to continue in his role.
This may just be a negotiating tactic on his part, but it certainly doesn’t help stop the rumors even though it has been reported that negotiations have started between Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson. Still, the 55-year-old GM admitted that this season full of challenges was tough on him, especially mentally. After nine years of doing one of the toughest jobs in sports, the wear and tear are starting to show.
In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman wondered whether Bergevin and Molson will discuss a new front office structure that sees Bergevin being promoted to a higher position. This would ease some of the day-to-day burdens that being the GM carries and keep him with the Canadiens.
Joël Bouchard’s Departure
Friday’s end-of-season media availability wasn’t even the biggest Habs-related news of the day. The Anaheim Ducks announced that Joël Bouchard will be the new head coach of the San Diego Gulls, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. Bouchard spent three years as the bench boss of the Laval Rocket in the AHL and captured the Canadian Division title on the strength of an impressive 23-9-4 record.
Bergevin explained that Bouchard, whose contract expired on July 1, was offered to either continue as head coach of the Rocket or join Dominique Ducharme’s staff as an assistant with the Canadiens. In the end, it was Bouchard who decided to leave the organization.
“He knew that we were interested in him. It wasn’t a case of someone not doing their job. It’s just that Joël decided to go in another direction,” Bergevin said. “We’re never going to hold anyone back. He had a job in Laval or here with the Montreal Canadiens.”
Bouchard’s departure is a significant loss for the Habs and it makes Bergevin’s offseason to-do list even longer as he begins the search for a replacement. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bouchard return the Habs at some point down the road.
Phillip Danault’s Future in Montreal
One of Bergevin’s biggest offseason priorities will be to retain the services of pending unrestricted free agent Phillip Danault.
The 28-year-old enjoyed a stellar postseason and proved his value to the Canadiens as a premier shutdown centre in the NHL. Replacing him would be no easy task if he is lured by a lucrative offer on the open market.
“We love Phil Danault. I think he even mentioned that we offered him a contract in September. He’s still in the plans. The next few weeks will decide Phil’s future, but we’d definitely like to keep him in Montreal,” Bergevin said.
Perhaps a run to the Stanley Cup Final will entice Danault to stay with his hometown team and the understanding that a team needs a lot of good centres to win. Not to mention that he plays alongside one of the Habs’ best wingers in Brendan Gallagher.
No doubt all eyes will once again be on Bergevin during a busy and stressful July as he tries to set his team up for another deep playoff run in 2021-22, all while continuing to strengthen the Canadiens for years to come and contemplating his future with the franchise.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media Community Manager and a co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.