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Canadiens looking to make most of multiple picks

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- The various draft-day scenarios were a lot easier to figure out for Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens a year ago.

A tremendous turnaround season sometimes can have its drawbacks.

Entering the 2013 NHL Draft, to be held June 30 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the Canadiens hold the 25th pick, one year after finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference and getting to select blue-chip center Alex Galchenyuk with the third selection.

"I have no idea [what to expect]," Bergevin, the Canadiens' general manager, said Thursday. "When you're picking 25th there are a lot of things that can happen in front of you. Last year we only had two picks ahead of ours, so we had a good idea of where we were going. This is completely different."

What the Canadiens lack in quality they make up for in quantity.

Montreal has six picks in the first three rounds, more than any team, and three of those are in the second round. The Canadiens will pick at No. 25, 34, 36, 55, 71 and 86, giving them ammunition to improve their first-round spot or to load up on prospects in what is widely considered to be the deepest draft in years.

"Especially the early seconds, Nos. 34 and 36, those are really good picks," Bergevin said. "They're appealing picks."

Bergevin said he is willing to consider trading one or more of those picks to move up in the first round if "the price is not too steep," but he appears just as willing to move down.

"We could have six [picks], we could have four or we could have eight. Everything's possible," he said. "We'll talk to teams about moving up or making some changes, but I think in the last two days before the draft is when teams will start really talking."

Bergevin said he anticipates a lot of movement at this year's draft, not only with regards to picks but players.

He said some teams might need to scramble to get under a reduced NHL salary cap for 2013-14 -- it drops to $64.3 million, the first reduction in the cap era -- while teams that are flush with cap space could be ready to pounce on some pricier players who become available on the draft floor.

The NHL's compliance buyout window will have opened by then, potentially flooding what is considered to be a thin pool of unrestricted free agents. Already, the Philadelphia Flyers announced Thursday that forward Danny Briere will be bought out, and other big names could follow over the next week or so.

However, Bergevin did not sound as though unrestricted free agency will be an avenue he will explore heavily.

"I'm really careful on that day. It can be a dangerous day," Bergevin said of July 5, the opening day of free agency. "It's not only this year, it's the ripple effect of a couple of years. You don't get free agents to come on a one-year deal most of the time. They're multiple-year deals, and then it affects your own players that you need to re-sign. So you have to be careful."

Bergevin knows of what he speaks because one of his players who will need to be re-signed a year from now is defenseman P.K. Subban, whose price tag may have increased dramatically by winning the first Norris Trophy of his career at age 24.

Subban missed the first six games of the 2012-13 season while he negotiated a new contract, with Bergevin refusing to give him a long-term, big-money deal and instead getting Subban to agree to a two-year contract worth $5.75 million.

Bergevin, asked if he would have done anything differently had he known Subban would go on to win the Norris Trophy, looked puzzled before simply answering, "No."

The GM was happy for his young defenseman, and Bergevin made sure he knew it.

"I went to see him in Chicago to congratulate him and his family personally," Bergevin said. "I'm very proud of him."

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