CHICAGO - Marc Bergevin tackled several key situations recently.
While one draft is now ancient history, a completely different one is on the verge of getting started.
One day after the Expansion Draft, which afforded the Vegas Golden Knights the opportunity to formally assemble a roster, the Canadiens' brass got back to work immediately after the NHL's trade freeze was lifted early Thursday morning.
A few hours after losing Alexei Emelin to the expansion franchise, Bergevin filled the void left by the Russian rearguard's departure when he acquired defenseman David Schlemko from the Nevada-based franchise. Schlemko had been selected by the Golden Knights from San Jose.
"He's a mobile defenseman who moves the puck well. It's a good trade for us when you look at his salary and the impact on our cap. The fifth-round pick was a good price to pay," mentioned Bergevin, on the subject of acquiring the nine-year NHL veteran. "I'm going to continue looking for ways to improve a part of our defense corps, but there are also other aspects that I'm looking at right now."
Video: Bergevin on acquiring David Schlemko
While Bergevin negotiated with Golden Knights GM George McPhee to pick up Schlemko, he didn't do so in the days leading up to the Expansion Draft to protect certain players that weren't being shielded from heading to Las Vegas. In short, Bergevin wasn't surprised to see his counterpart bring Emelin on board.
"Emmy is a physical player. We all know that. He played well with Webby last year. But, that's expansion. There are teams that lost even more talented players, and there are teams that made trades to protect those guys. We were in a situation where all of the teams were hurt. For us, the price was Alexei Emelin. I wasn't surprised to lose him," admitted Bergevin.
Having been in Chicago for a few days now, Bergevin and his team are now focused squarely on the NHL Draft, where the Canadiens currently have six picks to work with, including the 25th overall selection in the first round. On Thursday, he indicated that he'd like to hold on to his opening-round selection, but anything really is possible. Picking up Jonathan Drouin last week was a good indication of that.
Over the last few years, Bergevin and scouting head Trevor Timmins have dealt with their fair share of criticism with respect to draftees. Well aware that some of the players selected since his arrival in Montreal in 2012 didn't necessarily develop as expected, Bergevin once again shared the confidence he has in the work of his vice president of player personnel.
"Every team wants the best draft results possible. Every team makes picks that don't always reach their potential. On the whole, I know that Trevor Timmins is one of the best at his job in the NHL and I'm very happy to have him in the Montreal Canadiens organization," mentioned Bergevin, on Timmins, who will head up the Canadiens' draft efforts for the 15th time this year.
Before wrapping up his media session on Thursday, Bergevin also provided a few updates concerning some other matters he's currently working on.
Less than one week after trading Nathan Beaulieu to the Buffalo Sabres because he felt that there was a good chance that the Golden Knights were going to select him, Bergevin indicated that he was interested in bringing Andrei Markov back. That will depend on the veteran defenseman's salary demands going forward.
Also with respect to free agents, Bergevin confirmed that he wouldn't be offering new contracts to Brian Flynn, Dwight King or Nikita Nesterov. Nesterov is a restricted free agent, but he won't be receiving a qualifying offer from the Canadiens. And, just like he did a few times since the end of the season, Bergevin once again said that he'll do everything in his power to keep Carey Price in Montreal with his contract set to expire following the 2017-18 campaign. Negotiations on a new contract can being on July 1.
With all of that in mind, it's safe to say that busy days are ahead for Bergevin. Looking to improve his team and make certain that they go as far as possible next season, he's ready to meet the challenge head on.
"We can improve at several positions. There aren't a lot of teams in the NHL right now who can say otherwise. We're a part of the majority and we're going to continue working from that angle," concluded Bergevin.