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Dudley couldn't refuse to work again with Bergevin

by Arpon Basu

Rick Dudley was not going to leave his position as director of player personnel of the Toronto Maple Leafs for just any job.

But when his former protege from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks called, Dudley simply couldn't refuse.

Marc Bergevin on Friday announced his first major hire since taking the reins as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, adding Dudley to his staff as an assistant GM.

Dudley said it was difficult to say no to his old friend from his Blackhawks days.

"If it wasn't Marc, I'm not sure anything would have happened," Dudley told reporters in a conference call Friday. "But with Marc doing his thing in Montreal, I thought this could be pretty exciting."

Dudley has spent the last 20 years in management positions, including general manager jobs with Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Florida and Atlanta.

Dudley was in the Chicago front office when Bergevin ended his 20-year playing career and began the transition into management by becoming a scout for the Blackhawks in 2005. Bergevin credits Dudley, former Chicago GM Dale Tallon and current GM Stan Bowman with taking him under their wing and teaching him the craft.

Dudley said he was taken aback by just how astute a hockey mind Bergevin was. In fact, Dudley said that within Bergevin's first season as a scout with Chicago, he became a member of the team's inner circle when it came to discussing trades and other major personnel decisions, along with Bowman and Tallon.

"I realized very quickly that he had an affinity to be an excellent hockey evaluator," Dudley said. "It didn't take very long before he didn't need any help from me, and that was impressive."

Bergevin had been in discussions with Toronto general manager Brian Burke for some time to establish the parameters for Dudley's shift to Montreal, particularly because Dudley was involved heavily with the Maple Leafs' preparation for the 2012 NHL Draft. The Canadiens hold the third pick in the draft this year, two slots ahead of the Maple Leafs.

Bergevin said he reached an agreement with Burke that Dudley will not participate in the Canadiens' draft preparation.

"It's an agreement I plan on respecting," Bergevin said. "I told them there are a lot of things Rick can help us with, but the draft is not one of them."

Bergevin also announced Friday that he has extended the contract of current assistant GM Larry Carriere, a holdover from the previous regime of GM Pierre Gauthier. Carriere and Dudley will work in tandem, but their exact roles have yet to be determined, Bergevin said.

Between Dudley and Carriere -- who were teammates on the American Hockey League-champion Cincinnati Swords in 1972-73 -- Bergevin has surrounded himself with more than 80 years of combined professional hockey experience.

"We're good friends," Dudley said of his relationship with Carriere. "We have been for what seems like 100 years."

Bergevin said Carriere has been a "pillar" for him since he took the Canadiens GM job May 2, helping him to familiarize himself quickly with Canadiens personnel.

"I extended [the contract for] Larry because I realized you can never have enough good hockey people," Bergevin said. "These people will be the backbone of our hockey department."

Dudley explained that aside from the allure of working with Bergevin, he liked the idea of coming to Montreal and helping a Canadiens team that finished 28th in the NHL standings in 2011-12 get back on a winning track.

"To be honest, the favorite job out of the many that I've had was working with Dale in Chicago and watching that grow," he said. "It was a lot of fun for me because you felt like you were part of something special, and my gut tells me this will be something special."

Dudley said rebuilding the Canadiens will not be "quite as daunting a task" as some may think, pointing to the presence of a solid goaltender in Carey Price and some other young, "attractive" pieces to build around.

One of Dudley's first tasks, Bergevin said, will be identifying which of those pieces need to be locked up long-term, as Price and defenseman P.K. Subban will be among the team's restricted free agents if not signed prior to July 1, while a handful of role players, including Travis Moen and Mathieu Darche, will be unrestricted free agents.

"For those who feel it's a waste of time bringing [Dudley] in now if he can't help with the draft, I'm going to lean on him a lot on decisions regarding our players at the professional level," Bergevin said.

Dudley also will be able to help Bergevin make what will be his most important decision -- hiring a new coach.

While rumors of potential candidates continue to swirl, Bergevin maintained his policy of remaining tight-lipped on the hiring process and would not even confirm that the new coach will be his next hire, saying he still is looking for other good hockey people to add to his front office staff.

"Rick has hired many coaches in the NHL and I will use his experience in making the decision," he said. "But it's an important decision and we need to take our time with it."

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