Marc Bergevin has been a busy general manager since taking over at the helm of the Montreal Canadiens in 2012. While some of his decisions have left people bewildered, others have earned him praise and a reputation as a savvy front office boss. Here’s a look at Bergevin’s five best trades over the past eight years.
5 – Acquisition of Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders
Bergevin’s biggest and best trade deadline acquisition so far was picking up pending free agent Thomas Vanek from the New York Islanders for a very reasonable price. He gave up Swedish prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional second-round pick that became Johnathan Macleod, a defenseman who never signed his entry-level contract. The Canadiens also acquired a fifth-round selection in the deal.
Vanek was arguably the most sought after forward leading up to the deadline after he turned down a contract offer from Islanders GM Garth Snow. Bergevin swept in just before the 3 p.m. EST cutoff to pull off one of the biggest trades of the day. A playoff spot was all but guaranteed for the Habs who were second in the Atlantic Division and looking to lock up home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Austrian winger slotted in on Montreal’s top line alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. He appeared in 18 regular-season games, putting up six goals and nine assists. His first three goals with the club came courtesy of a hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche. In the playoffs, Vanek added five goals and 10 points in 17 games to help the Habs reach the Eastern Conference Final.
Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild in the offseason, but his brief stint with the Canadiens was well worth Bergevin’s investment.
4 – Getting Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers
Another one of Bergevin’s strong deadline deals was acquiring another pending free agent, smooth-skating defenseman Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers for a second-round pick and another fourth-rounder to gear up for another playoff run in 2015.
Petry fit in with his new team right away, so much so that he chose to forego free agency that summer and signed a six-year contract worth $33 million to stay in Montreal, undoubtedly less than what he would have received on the open market
“Everything from the day I got there to the playoff run, the environment at the Bell Centre, the players in the locker room, the organization just being first-class — that all played into it and played a big part in ultimately signing the deal,” Petry said.
In 385 games with the Habs, Petry has 179 points, including 52 goals while playing a vital role in the top-four on defense, especially with the injuries suffered by captain Shea Weber over the past few seasons.
3 – Shea Weber for P.K. Subban Blockbuster Deal
Trading P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber will not only go down as one of the biggest, boldest, and most surprising moves of the past decade, but it might also be the deal that defines Bergevin’s career as a general manager.
Related: Subban-Weber Trade Revisited
Subban was hugely popular in Montreal and with good reason, and the decision to trade him divided the fanbase. However, Weber’s leadership qualities and intangibles off the ice, coupled with his game on the ice, have proven invaluable for a Canadiens team going through, what Bergevin calls, a ‘reset’. In four seasons with the Habs, Weber has amassed 127 points and 52 goals despite missing significant time due to knee and foot injuries. He has twice been named an NHL All-Star in that span and, most significantly, was named team captain before the start of last season.
By comparison, Subban has 148 points and 42 goals, played in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final with Nashville, was a Norris Trophy finalist after the 2017-18 season and was traded to the New Jersey Devils last summer. In his first season with the Devils, Subban had 18 points and was a minus-21 in 68 games.
While both players’ longevity and their ability to continue to perform at their highest level are in question, Bergevin has no regrets about pulling off a blockbuster that will be talked about for years.
“Bringing a player of that calibre and culture to the Montreal Canadiens, both short term and long term; the culture stays for a long time. Players sometimes come and go, but to be able to bring a leader of that quality that’s respected not only around his own teammates but also around the league, it means a lot. I think that’s something we really had to do, and we did it. And we’re glad we did it,” Bergevin explained.
2 – Dealing with the Chicago Blackhawks to Add Phillip Danault and Alexander Romanov
On Feb. 26, 2016, Bergevin acquired Phillip Danault, a native of Victoriaville, Quebec, and a 2018 second-round pick in exchange for Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise. With that second-round selection, the Canadiens chose Russian defenseman Alexander Romanov at no. 38 in the draft. Romanov is one of Montreal’s most promising prospects and one of the top prospects in the league.
For his part, Danault has been the Habs’ most consistent and reliable centre over the past four years, centering one of the team’s best lines in the last two seasons alongside Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar. He enjoyed a career season in 2018-19, scoring 12 goals and dishing out 41 assists. His strong two-way game also earned him consideration for the Selke Trophy, given to the NHL’s top defensive forward, (from ‘Hickey on hockey: Habs’ Phillip Danault merits consideration for Selke,’ Montreal Gazette, 04/05/2019). Danault was on his way to eclipsing his scoring totals from the 2018-19 season before this season was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the other side of this trade coin, Fleischmann did not return to the NHL after completing the 2015-16 season with the Blackhawks and Weise is in his second go-around with the Canadiens.
1 – A Big Return for Max Pacioretty
Everyone knew that Max Pacioretty was on the trading block during the 2018 offseason and it was a matter of time before he was dealt after spending the first 10 years of his career with the Canadiens. It was a trade that Bergevin couldn’t mess up, he had to get the maximum return for his captain and star forward, a test he passed with flying colours. Pacioretty was traded to the Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a 2019 second-round selection which the Canadiens turned into two picks thanks to a subsequent trade with the Los Angeles Kings at the draft.
This deal has worked out great for both teams. Pacioretty and Tatar both led their squads in scoring before the pause, the Golden Knights sit atop the Pacific Division, while Suzuki has enjoyed a standout rookie campaign with 41 points in 71 games.
The 20-year-old was the key inclusion for Bergevin, and that’s why it can be considered a home run deal for Montreal, (from ‘Speedy prospect Nick Suzuki is key to Pacioretty trade for Canadiens,’ Montreal Gazette, 09/10/2018). Not only did they acquire a top-six forward to help them now, but they also nabbed a young, talented, and cerebral forward who is contributing and will be a centerpiece of the team’s core for many seasons.
History shows that Bergevin rarely gets the short end of the stick in trades, it’s one of his strengths as a GM, and he’s going to have to keep that track record intact if he wants to bring the Canadiens out of reset mode and start building a championship team.