MONTREAL - In the midst of a subpar campaign, general manager Marc Bergevin didn't mince words on Monday evening at the Bell Centre when it came to discussing his game plan going forward.
Simply put, the Canadiens are looking to the future to right the ship, and Bergevin's moves leading up to Monday afternoon's trade deadline confirmed it.
After acquiring youngsters Kerby Rychel, Rinat Valiev and a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday in exchange for Tomas Plekanec, Bergevin picked up a second-round pick in 2018 on Monday from the Winnipeg Jets for Joe Morrow. Then, he wrapped up his work day by picking up a young puck-moving defenseman in Mike Reilly from the Minnesota Wild.
"The potential is there. That's why we made the trades we made," affirmed Bergevin, who met the media ahead of the Canadiens' tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers. "Mike Reilly is coming to Montreal [on Tuesday], and Rychel and Valiev are heading to Laval, but we might have a chance to see them in Montreal to gauge their potential with the team."
With respect to Reilly, Bergevin offered up some initial observations about the Chicago native after watching him in person recently.
"He's a good skater, still young at 24 and he doesn't have a lot of NHL experience, so he's looking for a chance to play. He's not a slam dunk, but he has a chance and that's what we're hoping for him," shared Bergevin. "I think he has good hockey sense and the rest will be up to him. We want to surround him and help him get to that next level."
The Canadiens now have 10 picks at their disposal come June, which is the most total picks they've had in a single draft since 2011, when they had 11.
Bergevin boasts one pick in the first round, four in the second, one in the third, one in the fourth, and three in the fifth, so the potential to stock the cupboards full of future talent is certainly there.
"The draft will be interesting in Dallas this year with all of those picks… With the picks, we're going young with speed and character. We're going to build around that," explained Bergevin, who stressed the fact that several of the Canadiens' picks from previous years are making some serious noise at the NHL level right now. "We have some young players coming through - Juulsen, Hudon, Scherbak, Lehkonen, Mete - so if you look around the league, for most teams their core guys come through the draft."
That being said, it won't be easy replacing the experience that a veteran like Plekanec brings to the table, but Bergevin is eager to see if Phillip Danault can fill that gap up the middle.
"Internally, we think that a young Phillip Danault can help out a lot when it comes to replacing Tomas," mentioned Bergevin. "But, we're going to continue looking at other possibilities in the future."
In the meantime, Bergevin will spend the remainder of the regular season evaluating his current group.
"We didn't meet our expectations as management, as players and for the fans, so moving forward we've got to evaluate everything," said Bergevin. "There are 21 games left, and the goal is to get younger and faster with character. That's what we're going to try to do."
As for starter Carey Price, who is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion, Bergevin isn't ruling out a return to active duty sometime this season. But, there is still no timetable for the six-time All-Star to suit up again and play.