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Canadiens GM refuses to mortgage future to keep up

by Arpon Basu

Davis Drewiske
Defense - MTL
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 4
SOG: 20 | +/-: 3
BROSSARD, Quebec – When Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin looks at the teams around him at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, he sees the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Those teams made significant moves prior to Wednesday's NHL Trade Deadline to load up for a deep Stanley Cup Playoff run, but that did not compel Bergevin to follow suit as the Canadiens simply added depth defenseman Davis Drewiske from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

"We are always trying to improve the Montreal Canadiens," Bergevin said an hour after the deadline passed. "But with a record of 23-7, I think we can all agree we are satisfied."

The Canadiens' record, actually 23-7-5 prior to Wednesday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers, is indeed a source of pride for the team, but it is also a surprise considering the club's last-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season.

When Bergevin was hired after being groomed in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, he said he would learn from the success of his former team and build the Canadiens through the draft. Bergevin could have been tempted to waver from that principle with six picks in the first three rounds of the 2013 NHL Draft to use as trade currency.

But the plan, in spite of the Canadiens' unexpected spot in the standings, remains in place.

"There were some big prices to pay, and there were lots of teams that were not willing to pay it," Bergevin said. "We have six picks in the first 90, and those are extremely important picks in building the Canadiens for now and in the future."

The addition of Drewiske on Tuesday in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick filled a need for the Canadiens created by defenseman Raphael Diaz's concussion, one he appears to be recovering from; Diaz stepped on the ice Wednesday morning for the first time since his injury Feb. 25.

"He's a player we've been watching for a while," Bergevin said of Drewiske. "I think when [Buffalo Sabres defenseman Robyn] Regehr went to [the Los Angeles Kings] he became expendable, so we jumped on him."

In keeping with Bergevin's theme of building with youth, the big news he generated Wednesday was signing Danny Kristo to a two-year entry-level contract. The Hobey Baker Award finalist from the University of North Dakota will report to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.

"He had a very good season in college and he has some offensive talent," Bergevin said. "It's not easy to find talent like that. He has some things he needs to work on a lot before making it to the next level, but he's ready to start."

Asked if Kristo could be seen in Montreal this season, Bergevin replied, "That's going to be up to him."

Though some may believe this being Bergevin's first trade deadline as a general manager made him tentative in pulling the trigger, he said that is not the case. First of all, he made his big move by acquiring Michael Ryder and a third-round pick in 2013 from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Erik Cole six weeks prior to the deadline. But most important, Bergevin said he has been intimately involved in trade deadline planning and execution many times before while with the Blackhawks.

"The only difference now," Bergevin said with a smile, "is that I'm sitting at the head of the table."

The fact that man at the head of the table has a plan in place – and that he's intent on sticking to it – is a big reason the Canadiens were not players at the deadline Wednesday.

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