The Montreal Canadiens have been inside or on the fringe of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for much of the season. Yet, in the stacked Atlantic Division, GM Marc Bergevin knows that he faces an uphill battle to advance very far this season. The experienced executive has thus decided not to fall into the trap of acquiring short-term rentals ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline this season. Addressing the media today, Bergevin stated:
I don’t think I’ll be in the rental business… I’m going to listen. If it makes sense, I’ll do it. But I’m not going to start mortgaging the future… I know …who they’re going to be asking for and I’m not going moving these kids. So it will be a short conversation I think.
As TSN’s John Lu clarifies, Bergevin is speaking about protecting his recent World Junior Championship standouts. Montreal’s prospects stood out at the 2019 WJC perhaps more than any other NHL team. At the front of that group is obviously reigning tournament MVP Ryan Poehling, the Habs’ 2017 first-round pick out of St. Cloud State University, who notched five goals and points in seven games for the Americans. Alexander Romanov, the team’s second-round pick this past June, was also a top performer at the WJC; the KHL product was named the tournament’s top defenseman with eight points in seven games as well. Cayden Primeau, the starting goaltender for Team USA, and one of the few who beat him in the gold medal game, Finnish forward Jesse Ylonen, also belong to the Canadiens. So too do Team Canada contributors Nick Suzuki and Josh Brook, who both impressed before their team’s early exit.
Bergevin has done a great job of stocking the cupboard for the Canadiens and is right to protect his top young assets. There is always a chance to win for any team that makes the playoffs, but Montreal would first have to qualify, battling for a wild card spot with the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders, at the very least. Currently, the projection model of The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn gives the Canadiens a 50% chance at making the playoffs, but does place them in the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. However, that would still land Montreal with a first-round match-up with the likely President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning and, if by some miracle they advance, then a face-off with the Toronto Maple Leafs-Boston Bruins winner. It’s a tough road for the Habs and one that is unlikely to be successful this year, so the team may as well steer clear of the rental market and hold on to their top prospect talent. As Bergevin states, he’ll listen, but doesn’t expect to be convinced. Without any obvious rental pieces of their own either, this could be a quiet deadline season in Montreal.