SAN JOSE – After adding young gun Phillip Danault to the mix late last week, general manager Marc Bergevin kept on working the phones leading up to Monday afternoon’s trade deadline.
While things were relatively quiet on the whole, Bergevin completed two additional transactions before 3 p.m. EST, claiming veteran Mike Brown off waivers from the San Jose Sharks prior to the morning skate, before shipping Devante Smith-Pelly to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for young gun Stefan Matteau minutes after the on-ice session had come to a close.
Sporting No. 13, Brown hit the ice with the rest of Michel Therrien’s troops ahead of Monday night’s tilt against his now-former club. He skated on a line with Michael McCarron and Torrey Mitchell. With 393 NHL games under his belt, the 30-year-old Chicago native brings good experience and some added strength to the Canadiens’ lineup. Brown also has 751 career penalty minutes to his credit since making his NHL debut in 2007-08.
“We know his role. We have a lot of young players on this team right now to finish the year. I’m happy that I was able to go out and get a guy like that with team toughness to help them out,” said Bergevin, referencing Brown’s team-leading seven fights with the Sharks this season before being dealt to Montreal.
Matteau, meanwhile, is a player Bergevin has high hopes for down the road. The 22-year-old forward, who was selected 29th overall by New Jersey back in 2012, has played 44 NHL games over the last four seasons – 20 during the 2015-16 campaign alone. While he’s spent the bulk of his time in the AHL ranks in recent years, Bergevin believes there’s plenty of upside to his game.
“He’s a young player who hasn’t reached his full potential just yet. That’s one of the reasons why he was available. He’ll have the opportunity to get involved in Montreal and it will be up to him to seize his chance,” said Bergevin, who has had his eye on Matteau for quite some time. “He’s a guy with good size and good skating ability. He’s a player we wanted to select [in Chicago] when he was draft eligible. We think we can develop him in Montreal because it didn’t work out in New Jersey.”
Like Matteau, Bergevin believes Danault will also be a piece of the puzzle going forward. In a trade that sent Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to Chicago, Bergevin believes the Canadiens added another up-and-coming youngster to the fold with a bright future ahead of him.
“He’s good everywhere on the ice. He’s good on draws. I don’t expect him to put up an 80 percent faceoff percentage, but I think he’ll continue to improve in that department. He’s still young, but at the same time, he’s someone who is ready to play in the NHL,” said Bergevin. “He was developed in a very good organization and I’m happy to have him in Montreal.”
Now, Bergevin will be paying very close attention to the way things play out the rest of the way, beginning with Monday night’s contest at the SAP Center. Youth has clearly been the focus for the Canadiens as of late, and under Bergevin’s watch it will remain the focus in the years to come.
“I’d say that for the next 20 games, our primary objectives are experience and evaluation. There’s a possibility of calling up guys from St. John’s to evaluate them, too,” said Bergevin. “The ideal scenario is to get a youngster [in trades] because that way you’re adding a piece instead of trying to fill a hole. I’m coming from Chicago where we built the team up through the NHL Draft by getting young players. That’s the best way to do it.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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