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Canadiens make moves to create more offense

by Arpon Basu / NHL.com

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

MONTREAL -- When Marc Bergevin was hired as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens on May 2, 2012, he admitted he didn't know much about their makeup, other than that they were set in goal with Carey Price.

Now, more than three years later, Bergevin has put his stamp on the Canadiens, with more than half of the expected 2015-16 opening-night roster arriving under his watch.

However, it could be argued that what Bergevin said remains true today: The goaltending of Price is the foundation of the Canadiens' success and the value of the pieces around him remains largely unknown.

The Canadiens are considered a defensive-minded team, but they allowed the 10th most shots on goal in the NHL last season.

The pieces for a top power play are in place with defensemen P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov and forward Max Pacioretty, but the Canadiens power play has finished in the bottom half of the League in each of the past two seasons.

The Canadiens have the sixth-most points in the regular season and have played the fourth-most rounds in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past three seasons under Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien, but they are rarely mentioned among the elite teams in the NHL.

Bergevin and Therrien often said last season that the Canadiens were in transition, and Therrien admitted on several occasions that they were lucky to have Price to make that transition period easier to digest with victories.

Price led the NHL in wins (44), goals-against average (1.96) and save percentage (.933) last season and finished second with nine shutouts. He was the first goalie since the Canadiens' Jose Theodore in 2002 to win the Vezina and Hart trophies for the same season.

But in order for the Canadiens to exit that transitional phase of their development, Price will need to be a complement to their strengths rather than a neutralizer of their flaws.

This offseason, Bergevin's main target was improving the lack of offense; the Canadiens finished 20th in goals scored last season.

An underrated step in addressing that was re-signing defenseman Jeff Petry to a six-year, $33 million contract June 2 before he had a chance to test unrestricted free agency. Bergevin acquired Petry, 27, in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on March 2.

After taking some time to get adjusted, Petry thrived in Montreal. No Canadiens defenseman drove play toward the offensive end in the playoffs as well as Petry, and having him in the lineup all season should help address the goal-scoring issues.

Bergevin took a chance on two talented, underachieving forwards in the hopes they find a way to play to their potential.

The Canadiens on July 1 traded popular forward Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks for Zack Kassian and a fifth-round pick at the 2016 NHL Draft. Kassian was the No. 13 pick at the 2009 NHL Draft, has scored 35 goals in 198 games, and has been traded twice. However, the 24-year-old was tied for the Canucks lead in goals per 60 minutes of ice time last season, according to war-on-ice.com, and the Canadiens hope a clearly defined role will lead to more consistent production from the 6-foot-3, 214-pound forward.

Bergevin also signed forward Alexander Semin to a one-year, $1.1 million contract July 24 after the Carolina Hurricanes bought out of the final three years of his five-year, $35 million contract July 1. The 31-year-old is coming off the worst season of his NHL career (six goals, 19 points in 57 games) but as a right-handed shot with a tremendous release and high-end skating ability, he fills an area of need for the Canadiens. He has 238 goals and 513 points in 635 NHL games in 10 seasons, including seven seasons with 20 or more goals.

"We're going to give him an opportunity, and it's the type of player we were missing when you looked at our team," Therrien said. "He's a guy who can score, who can make plays, and who's shown in the past that he can contribute to the success of a team offensively."

The bottom line for the Canadiens in 2015-16 is they need to score more goals. Whether that comes by fixing a dysfunctional power play, from contributions from new acquisitions, or through the continued development of forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, it has to happen in order for the Canadiens to take the next step.

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