After signing bought out forward Danny Briere to a two-year, $8 million contract on Thursday, Bergevin did not sign any free agents when the market opened Friday, instead choosing to acquire enforcer George Parros from the Florida Panthers in a trade for prospect Philippe Lefebvre and the Panthers' seventh-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Bergevin addressed the media Friday for the first time since he signed Briere, and said he was "proud" to be able to add the Gatineau, Quebec native to the Canadiens.
"He's a guy with a lot of character, he was a captain in Buffalo and an assistant captain in Phialdelphia," Bergevin said. "But also, he had more than one option on the table and he wanted to come to Montreal. He made that clear. When I was negotiating with his agent, it was clear it was a decision that [Briere] made and that he didn't want to go elsewhere."
Less than a week earlier, Bergevin spoke openly about his desire to add size and grit to the organization through the 2013 NHL Draft, held Sunday in Newark, N.J. It would be hard to say he satisfied that need by signing Briere, listed at 5-foot-10, 179 pounds. Briere played right wing for the Flyers last season, and he joins a group of right wings in Montreal who are not an imposing bunch with Brian Gionta (5-foot7, 174 pounds) and Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 178).
But the need Bergevin said he was looking to fill was a replacement for departed free agent right wing Michael Ryder, and he said he feels Briere does the job quite nicely.
"We lost Michael Ryder, and I'm not taking anything away from Michael, but I think we added a guy who might be even better," Bergevin said. "I like the guy's character. He's been a captain and I know in Philadelphia they speak highly of him."
Briere, 35, spent the past six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, and his production declined in each of the past two seasons playing for a team that finished in the top 10 in the NHL in goals per game in 2011-12 (second) and 2012-13 (ninth). In addition, Briere is commonly referred to as someone who can help a power play; however, he finished fifth on the Flyers in power play points in 2011-12 and sixth in 2012-13 with six for a team that finished third in the League in power-play efficiency.
"Sure, he's not 27 anymore, I understand that," Bergevin said. "But I believe there's something left in the tank."
Bergevin also was negotiating with another bought out, Quebec-born player, Vincent Lecavalier, before he signed with the Flyers on Wednesday. It was the second time the Canadiens were snubbed by a Quebec player in favor of the Flyers in recent years, the prior time coming in 2007 when a Montreal offer was turned down by none other than Briere.
Bergevin said he was unwilling to match both the term and salary Lecavalier received in his five-year, $22.5 million deal with the Flyers. However, the GM took great pains to insist Briere was not a Plan B and that he was in discussions with Briere at the same time as Lecavalier.
"It wasn't like we lost out on Vinny, so let's go and get Daniel," Bergevin said. "That's not the case at all. I want to go on the record with that."
The addition of Parros on Friday is in keeping with what Bergevin did on the opening day of free agency a year earlier, signing Brandon Prust away from the New York Rangers to add toughness to a team seen by many as too small to compete in the rough and tumble Eastern Conference.
"He brings an element of respect, not only on the ice but with his teammates," Bergevin said of Parros. "We did our due diligence. He's a good person, a high-character guy that is well liked by his teammates and protects his teammates."
Prust is not a heavyweight by definition, but he has never shied away from protecting his teammates by dropping the gloves. Bergevin said he thinks the addition of Parros will give coach Michel Therrien more options to address those situations than he had last season.
"When you look at the teams near us, they all have that aspect," Bergevin said, referring to the Canadiens' division rivals. "So it's something that we need. We all know what Brandon Prust does for our club, he stands up for his teammates. Now he will have some help."
Parros, 33, had nine fighting majors in 39 games with the Panthers last season while averaging 6:36 of ice time per game. He said he has not tired of a job that can become more difficult as a player ages.
"I'm not afraid of that challenge and I'm not afraid to mix it up," Parros said. "I think I can bring a certain level of protection to them and they can feel good having me in their lineup."
With Parros and Briere, Bergevin is hopeful he addressed two needs at once. But he knows the general malaise of a team lacking size in the top six will not be solved via the free-agent market, which explains why the Canadiens went after big forwards in the draft last Sunday.
"It's really hard to get size," Bergevin said. "Teams who have players who are skilled with size, they don't just give them away. That's a fact. If we had one, I'm sure we wouldn't be shopping him around. If you think you can go to the market to get one, you'll probably have to trade half your team, and I'm not willing to do that. So we have to be patient, draft well and bring these guys along."
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