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Canadiens won't trade top prospects for berth in Stanley Cup Playoffs

GM Bergevin not willing to give up future for present

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com Correspondent

MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens have no intention of trading any of their top prospects or assets simply to bolster their chances of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

"I'm not going to give up a first-round pick for a rental," general manager Marc Bergevin said Monday. "It's just not going to happen. So I want to be clear, today, it's not happening.

"If there's something that makes sense short-term and long-term, I will do it. But giving up assets for short-term, it's not going to happen."

 

[RELATED: Canadiens defy low expectations with surprisingly solid first half]

 

Bergevin returned from the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, held in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, where he scouted several of Montreal's top NHL Draft picks, including forward Ryan Poehling, who was selected in the first round (No. 25) of the 2017 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old was named most valuable player of the tournament and won a silver medal for the United States, along with goaltender Cayden Primeau, who was chosen by Montreal in the seventh round (No. 199) in 2017.

Finland forward Jesse Ylonen (No. 35 in 2018) won gold, and Russia defenseman Alexander Romanov (No. 38 in 2018) won bronze. Romanov won the award for the best defenseman, Poehling won for best forward and each was named to the tournament all-star team.

"I'm not going to start mortgaging the future because I know what's coming with the world junior, who they're going to be asking for, and I'm not moving these kids," Bergevin said. "So it's going to be a short conversation, I think."

The Canadiens, who missed the playoffs for the second time in three years last season, selected forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the No. 3 pick in 2018. The 18-year-old has 20 points (four goals, 16 assists) in 42 games as a rookie with Montreal, which entered Monday with 49 points, one behind the Buffalo Sabres for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.

Video: OTT@MTL: Kotkaniemi gets fortunate bounce, ties game

"From Day One, I believed that if we did stay healthy, our goal was to fight for a playoff spot," Bergevin said. "And so far, that's what we've done and I expect the same for the second half.

"Again, I'm always going to be listening to options, but the goal is to build for the future and just to give up assets for a short-term (addition), I'm not going to do it. It would have to be very appealing. Again, if there's a young player available and there's assets that need to go, I get it. But I don't think I'll be in the rental business."

Bergevin did not rule out the possibility of trading a veteran player before the NHL Trade Deadline Feb. 25. The Canadiens traded forward Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Tomas Tatar, forward prospect Nick Suzuki and a second-round pick in this year's draft on Sept. 10, 2018.

"It's a thing that, as we approach the trade deadline, we'll discuss seriously amongst the management group," Bergevin said. "It's a possibility and one I've already considered."

Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber's return from a knee injury is among the things that have contributed to improving Bergevin's mood this season. Weber was limited to 26 games in 2017-18.

"Losing Shea for as long as we did hurt us last year," Bergevin said. "It was all part of a perfect storm. Hats off to the players and the coaches who started at zero this year, and I think we're heading in a good direction.

"The route towards youth is very important for us, and with what I saw in Vancouver, the future of the Canadiens is very bright."

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