BROSSARD - General manager Marc Bergevin and head coach Claude Julien stepped up to the microphone on Monday to answer questions on a wide range of topics as the offseason officially began.
Fresh off the Canadiens being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the New York Rangers over the weekend at Madison Square Garden, Bergevin began the joint press conference by expressing his obvious disappointment with respect to the way things played out in the series. In his eyes, it certainly wasn't a lack of effort that cost his group the chance to down their Original Six rivals and keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive.
Video: Full press conference: Claude Julien & Marc Bergevin
"When you get into the playoffs, it's a new year. We took on a team that was just one point away from us. They are a really good team. We didn't lose to a bad team. The margin of error in the playoffs is small," said Bergevin, before going on to praise his troops for their work during the Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup. "The guys gave everything they had. They worked hard. The competitiveness was there. There's no disappointment about that. We're disappointed with the results, but not with the way they competed."
Shortly after expressing their thoughts on falling in Round 1, the pair fielded numerous questions about Alex Galchenyuk's future in Montreal as either a centerman or on the wing. Julien didn't mince words when it came to sharing his viewpoint on where the 23-year-old forward would best serve the Canadiens at this point in time.
"Ideally, we would love to have him play center. Ideally. But, I think he realizes the same thing we realize right now. As a centerman, it's one of the toughest jobs there is because you've got to be all over the ice and you've got to be able to skate. You've got to be responsible. Right now, he's not at that stage. He needs to work to get to that stage," said Julien. "As we speak, we have to put a guy in a position where he's going to help himself and he's going to help the team. Right now, the No. 1 center job, he wasn't ready for it. It would have hurt his development and it would have hurt us as a team."
Video: "We want to take it step-by-step with [Alex]"
Bergevin was in full agreement with the veteran bench boss after watching the former first-round selection ply his trade during his fifth NHL campaign.
"We had a good meeting with Alex this morning. He knows he has things to learn to become the kind of centerman he'd like to be and we'd like him to be. For now, for his short-term future, the best place for him to help the team is at the wing," said Bergevin, who believes the 2016-17 season could prove beneficial for Galchenyuk in the long run. "He's conscious of the deficiencies in his game. He's ready to work. This year really opened his eyes…Hopefully, he took one step back this year to take two forward next year. That's what we hope."
Likewise, Bergevin is also hoping to sign veteran Alexander Radulov to a brand new deal over the summer after seeing the Russian sniper put up 18 goals and 54 points in 76 games during the regular season, before chipping in with a team-leading seven points in six postseason outings against the Blueshirts. Radulov will, of course, be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
"He's definitely a player that we want to bring back to Montreal, but there are limits to what we can do financially, with respect to the salary cap and term. He's 30 years old, not 25 or 26. We like him a lot. He brought a lot of positives to the organization and the guys love him," said Bergevin, who signed Radulov to a one-year contract last summer after a four-year stint in the KHL. "Perfect players don't exist, but there are a lot of things that we really like from him. We're going to do everything we can to bring him back…With every negotiation, there's a price involved. I hope the two sides can agree."
Video: "We're not going to blow up this team"
As for Carey Price, who still has one year remaining on a six-year deal, Bergevin has every intention of trying to lock up the Vezina Trophy winner long-term sooner rather than later.
"Carey is a huge piece of our team. We saw what happened when he wasn't around last year. We'll find a way to get it done, and with the way the cap is going, we'll have to work with it. We're not the only team in that situation," said Bergevin, who indicated that there was a "strong possibility" Price could potentially sign on the dotted line this summer. "I don't want to get ahead of myself, but my intention, and I think Carey's intention as well, is for him to stay in Montreal. We're going to do everything we can to make sure he stays until the end of his career."
Nathan Beaulieu, meanwhile, was also a topic of conversation on Monday after the 24-year-old defenseman was a healthy scratch for Game 6 in Manhattan in favor of Brandon Davidson.
"Nathan has a lot of potential, but at the end of the day, the player has to take responsibility for himself…Why is it that a player plays six good games, but then has trouble in the next 12. Is it a mental thing?" mentioned Bergevin. "Nathan is at a crossroads in his career. Are we throwing in the towel in his case? No, but time is a factor in his case."
Video: "At some point players have to take ownership"
While several key questions remain heading into next season, Bergevin and Julien alike are already eager to see what 2017-18 has in store.
"We're not going to blow up this team because we were very disappointed this year. We didn't finish first in our division with over 100 points by accident," insisted Bergevin. "There are a lot of good things [in place]. We have to be patient."
Julien expressed similar opinions in that regard.
"I saw progress in the short time I've been here, from the team itself, but also with respect to the chemistry of the team. We developed chemistry that looks promising for the future," confided Julien. "Next year, I'm looking forward to having a good training camp with good structure and giving our team a good foundation to have a successful season."