Friedman: Habs Wanting to Sign Suzuki and Bergevin

In this week’s 32 Thoughts on Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman had a couple of points dedicated to the Montreal Canadiens. Both referred to the possibility of contract extensions.

First, he had this to say about Nick Suzuki:

Early-season prediction: Montreal takes a serious run at extending Nick Suzuki sooner, rather than later. No more offer-sheet games.

Friedman is obviously referring to the offer-sheet the Carolina Hurricanes made to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, offer that the Canadiens decided not to match. While Kotkaniemi was a good prospect and the Habs didn’t want to lose him, Suzuki has already established himself as the team’s number one center. There is no way that the organisation can risk losing him after the departure of Kotkaniemi and Phillip Danault.

It’s a file that has to be front and center on Marc Bergevin’s to-do list this season. Speaking of Bergevin, Friedman had this to say:

As Marc Bergevin continues to negotiate an extension with the Canadiens, his biggest value is that he’s shown he can make a plan and stick with it. That’s not insignificant in hockey’s most intense market. Not everyone can handle it, not everyone is built to deal with it. It’s clear ownership believes in that plan, too. That’s the question I’d be asking if I was running the organization. Can you find someone who has that ability? Being GM of the Canadiens is not for the wishy-washy.

We did touch on the future of Bergevin recently and there is a rumour circulating that an extension would be announced in the next few days.

Bergevin had finished second in voting for the Jim Gregory Award as the top GM in the league this past season as Lou Lamoriello won the award for the second straight season. It marked the third time Bergevin has been a finalist for the Jim Gregory Award since taking over as GM of the Canadiens in 2012, most amongst GMs during that time span. His team has made the playoffs six times in those nine seasons, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

Habs’ Goaltenders Could Find the Season Long

Carey Price’s Return Temporarily Put on Ice

Habs’ Goaltenders Could Find the Season Long

Training camp is not time to jump to early conclusions, but it is time when you start seeing some things too. Particularly when you’re getting towards the end, when many of the fringe players have been cut, you should start seeing some good things, but also some bad tendencies. And with two of the last three pre-season games, lost by the Montreal Canadiens by a combined score of 13-4, defense seems to be an early concern for Dominique Ducharme’s squad.

Having Joel Edmundson sidelined certainly hurts but he was somewhat effectively replaced by Kaiden Guhle, who has been one of the Canadiens’ most steady defensemen in spite of his young age. Alexander Romanov has been rather quiet and as any youth, has made a couple of costly mistakes.

Shea Weber irreplaceable

The loss of the Canadiens’ captain for the season has created a huge hole in the team’s defense, and it goes well beyond leadership. Marc Bergevin has attempted to replace some of Weber’s defensive responsibility and toughness by David Savard but he’s been struggling to get going so far. Further, Weber was counted on for the toughest minutes in a hockey game while Savard was predominantly playing on the second, even third pairing both in Columbus and in Tampa Bay. It would be unrealistic to think that he could fill Weber’s minutes against top opponents.

Bergevin also tried to go the cheap way by signing UFA Chris Wideman but he’s been very underwhelming so far. While he has shown some flashes on the powerplay, he has also coughed up the puck and turned it over regularly and defensively, he is a liability out there. In fact, Brett Kulak would not do worse than Wideman come to think of it.

Need for a Top-4

Kris Letang

There is no doubt that the Canadiens are in need of someone to step up, or for them to trade for a third or fourth line centre. But it is becoming more and more evident that the team’s biggest need is for a Top-4 right-handed defenseman who can log some quality minutes against the opposition’s top line. Someone to truly support Jeff Petry on the right side.

With the news that the Pittsburgh Penguins will be several weeks without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, one has to wonder if they would consider parting with Kristopher Letang? He’s 34 years old (8 months older than Jeff Petry) and is coming off a 45 points season (in 55 games), while logging just under 25 minutes of ice time a game. Of course, money coming in would have to go the other way as Letang comes with a substantial cap hit of $7.35 million. But the team is deep on forwards and could use that as leverage. It might be worth the call.