While legal in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, we don’t often see players signed to offer-sheets. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one, those players often have not reached their full potential and the salary given is often more based on potential and ensuring the other team doesn’t match than it is on players’ current worth. In a league with a hard salary cap, particularly in COVID years where the cap isn’t climbing fast, that’s an issue.
Paul Holmgren, while GM in Philadelphia, signed Shea Weber to a huge offer-sheet back in 2012, trying to pry him away from the Nashville Predators. The Preds matched the offer but Holmgren paid the price. He was quoted saying that he had to eventually step down from his position and let Ron Hextall take over the GM role because teams wouldn’t talk to him due to this offer-sheet.
When Marc Bergevin signed Sebastian Aho to an offer-sheet, many people were surprised. Bergevin downplayed it saying that it was legal through the CBA… and he was right. But now that the Carolina Hurricanes applied their revenge, they did so by ensuring that they were getting Jesperi Kotkaniemi… and they got him.
And we see the effect it has had on the franchise. Bergevin had worked hard to fix a decade gaping hole at centre and he had lost one of his best young prospects. Now, the Habs are playing Jake Evans, Adam Brooks or wingers as third line centers as a result. At the time of writing these lines, the Canadiens are, for the first time in their history, 32nd overall in the standings, with an 0-5-0 record.
It has been a tumultuous off-season for the Canadiens since their appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals. As positive as the previous off-season was, this past summer has been a disaster as much on the hockey front as it’s been politically speaking. It just wasn’t supposed to be like that. It seems like the Habs have been in damage control all summer long. As a matter of fact, they still are today.
In his latest media availability, Bergevin said that he would like to remain as the Canadiens’ GM “in a perfect world”… whatever that means. He’s not laughing anymore. He’s not making jokes. That’s NOT Marc Bergevin we’re seeing here. We’re seeing an emotional man, in tears, a guy who has aged beyond the nine years he’s been at the helm of the Habs. He doesn’t look like he’s having fun anymore.
Is it possible that with this latest offer-sheet fiasco, losing the 3rd overall pick for a first and third round compensation, was thee straw that broke the camel’s back for Geoff Molson? It’s hard to tell but Molson was behind Bergevin on the Aho offer-sheet as reports were that the intel came from him about Tom Dundon’s finances. Has he lost faith in his GM to deliver on his promisses? And has Bergevin shot himself in the foot by signing Aho to an offer-sheet? You live by the sword, you risk perishing by the sword.
Effects on the team
But how exactly is the contractual status of the General Manager supposed to have any effect on the performance of the team, some ask? How are players, who are paid to play hockey, could be distracted whether their GM is signed beyond this year or not? I mean, it’s not like he’s in the dressing room or on the ice with them, right?
Right, but… wrong. Marc Bergevin wears his heart on his sleeve. How many examples does one need to see that not only does he care about his players, but his players care about him. He’s part of the team. He makes himself part of the team, and takes responsibility for their struggles. That’s why he took to the media recently, unexpectedly and unannounced.
Think about it. For the players, a new GM brings new ideas, changes, the possibility to lose friends in the dressing room or even having to move yourself, your family. Lots of instability, of unknown… even if you’re paid to play hockey. Now is this THE reason why the Canadiens are struggling so far this season? No, no it’s not. At least, it’s not the main reason. But to downplay it as a non-factor is ignoring the reality of the life of hockey players. They like Bergevin, they don’t know what new management would bring.
Regardless of the outcome, I just pray that Mr. Molson doesn’t make the same mistake Ronald Corey made in 1995, and that Patrick Roy isn’t involved at all with any announcement attached to the Canadiens and the GM or coaching position. But something tells me that the Habs’ organisation will live to regret it if they let Bergevin walk into the sunset…