BROSSARD - In the opening days of free agency, the deals that haven't been made are drawing as much attention as the ones that already done.
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin met the media in Brossard on Sunday a day after the market officially opened for business, having stocked the cupboards with a few new assets a day prior. But if two current UFAs who previously called Montreal home want to return to the fold in 2017-18, they'll need to make some concessions, according to the Habs' boss.
Given the current salary cap situation, Bergevin stressed that he isn't able to keep both Russian stars in the lineup together on their terms.
"It wouldn't be possible to give them both what they're asking for," said Bergevin.
But if his veteran blue-liner and shifty sniper dipped their expectations?
"There would be a possibility [in that case], yes," he confirmed.
If not, it could be a "first come, first served" situation for the unrestricted free agents, who became available to the League's 30 other teams at noon on Canada Day. And with both players having already rejected their earlier offers from the club - both of which were the best possible according to the Habs' GM - neither deal is currently on the table.
"I spoke to both players and made them offers that they decided not to take so they could test the free agent market. That's their choice and that's their right and I respect it," added Bergevin.
In terms of term, Bergevin also referenced the current climate, which saw Karl Alzner earn the lengthiest tenure of the day on July 1 with his five-year deal with the Habs.
"For sure we want to bring Radulov back to Montreal, but not on his terms. GMs are more cautious now. If I told you about my first discussions with Alex's agent in January, you would fall out of your chair. He slowly started to see that what he was looking for wasn't realistic. We're in a better place to see how the market is playing out now and I tried to explain that to his agent, but he didn't want to listen, so today Alex is still an unrestricted free agent," he underlined.
"One year ago when no one else was standing up to offer him a contract, the Canadiens did. We made him an offer that was very, very attractive and he decided to test free agency, but like they say, 'If you want loyalty, buy a dog,'" he joked. "There's no animosity there. I respect the fact that he wanted to test free agency. It's up to him to decide if he wants to be part of a good team in Montreal or if he wants to go somewhere else. It's his choice."
Video: Marc Bergevin's July 2 press conference
And if the 30-year-old sharpshooter, who registered 18 goals and 54 points in 76 games last season chooses to ply his trade elsewhere in 2017-18, Bergevin is confident in his lineup and the rookies he has waiting in the wings to come in and pick up the slack.
"I hope Charles Hudon will be a nice surprise at camp and he can help us replace some of the goals Alex scored for us if he's not back," shared Bergevin. "We'll do it as a team. We're not going to start making guys players they're not. We want those guys back with us, but there are limits to what we can do."
Bergevin also pointed to a recently-acquired Hab who he expects to carry some of the offensive load in his new digs, mentioning 22-year-old forward Jonathan Drouin, who arrived via trade on June 15.
On back end, Bergevin highlighted Jakub Jerabek who he expects will create some internal competition on the blue line, in addition to free agent signing Joe Morrow, who Claude Julien knows well from their time together in Boston.
There are still many pieces to put into place over the offseason, and Bergevin will continue working to complete his puzzle as the summer moves along.