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Bergevin Defends Offer Sheet Decision
On Sunday, Carolina hosted media availability for Hurricanes GM Don Waddell and their new acquisition Jesperi Kotkaniemi. On Monday, it was Marc Bergevin‘s turn at the microphone answering questions from the media.
The Canadiens GM did his best to explain how a coveted blue chip asset drafted third overall in 2018 was lost by the organization just three years later. “Would we have loved to have kept him? Of course,” said Bergevin, “but not at $6.1 million.”
When asked if Kotkaniemi was a failed selection, Bergevin rammed home the point again, saying, “To say it’s a flat-out mistake, there’s a team out there that thinks he’s worth 6.1 million bucks, so there’s some potential that we saw that, obviously, Carolina sees.”
It serves Bergevin’s interest to continue to spin the fairytale that Carolina has determined that Kotkaniemi’s worth is 6.1 million dollars for his fourth season in the NHL. Of course, no one believes that is the fair value, presently, for the 21-year-old. But those who understand offer sheets also know that is a false narrative.
Whatever a reasonable salary is for Kotkaniemi this season, perhaps somewhere approaching $3 million, the remainder has to be considered a one-time acquisition cost for Carolina. Without the bump to over $6 million, Carolina wouldn’t have secured their target.
The Hurricanes have now been successful in two offer sheets vs. Marc Bergevin. The offer for Kotkaniemi certainly put Bergevin in a difficult box, but it was one mostly of his own making.
The Canadiens GM had stalled negotiations after making the standard qualifying offer to the restricted free agent. Kotkaniemi confirmed on Sunday that there had been little to no communication from the Canadiens. That allowed the Hurricanes to swoop in with the hostile offer.
With Bergevin making the mistake of opening the door to an opposing team for an offer sheet, to keep Kotkaniemi would have required $2.5-3.0M for the salary plus a recovery cost for protecting their asset from Carolina. That extra cost should be on Bergevin for his carelessness with asset, that just one year ago, he claimed he would be building around along with Nick Suzuki.
But the attitude seemed to have changed this offseason.
The Kotkaniemi camp couldn’t have been buoyed by the GM’s comments after the Canadiens 2021 playoff run. When asked about the second line centre position, Bergevin said that he would only use Kotkaniemi in that role as a last resort. Undermining the confidence of players, especially young ones, has been a hallmark of Bergevin’s tenure.
In his presser on Sunday, when asked about the job the Canadiens did developing him, Kotkaniemi said, “I think it could have been better.”
But on Monday, the Canadiens GM refused to accept any responsibility for failing to properly develop the player. In answering two separate questions Bergevin spoke about young players not buying in, not doing what they have been asked, not displaying enough maturity. He said the responsibility belongs to the player, not management. Bergevin added that it was not management’s fault when a player doesn’t accurately assess their own play.
Bergevin then made a curious comment, saying, “We give the same tools to every player in the organization to reach their full potential. Some do, some don’t, some take longer than others.” Perhaps, given the lack of success transitioning prospects to the NHL, particularly those drafted in the first round, Bergevin and company should be evaluating whether the organization is offering the right tools for success.
And given the wide variety of backgrounds and hockey experiences with prospects coming from all corners of the globe, is a cookie cutter approach right for each of them?
Rush to NHL
But the only time Bergevin was ready to take responsibility was for rushing Kotkaniemi into the NHL. But, the GM said even if he had been sent back to Finland, it probably wouldn’t have made any difference.
“Yeah, it is a lesson. I can say that,” said Bergevin answering a question from Arpon Basu. “To be honest, I’m not perfect. We do make sometimes not the right decision, but it’s always to try to do it for the right reasons. I remember he had a great camp, good first half, I remember he was playing very well and I’m like, ‘Okay, he is ready.’ But now I’m looking back three or four years later and the way it happens.”
Bergevin continued saying, “But also, there’s things that I saw the last two years that I don’t think that would have changed. It could have, to a degree, but there’s other stuff that I know it’s more than just going back to Finland. But to your answer, yes, it’s something that we’ll watch closely moving forward.”
Bergevin on Dvorak
The fallout of the Carolina offer sheet resulted in 21-year-old Jesperi Kotkaniemi, a 34-point player in his first NHL season exiting Montreal to make way for 25-year-old Christian Dvorak, a player with a career high of 38 points.
Marc Bergevin said that acquiring Dvorak from Arizona made it easier to let Kotkaniemi go to Carolina. On Sunday, Bill Armstrong confirmed that other NHL teams had inquired about Dvorak, but the Arizona GM was holding out for a first round pick. The Canadiens were the one team who met his demands trading a first round pick in 2022 and a second round pick in 2024.
Bergevin described Dvorak as “a responsible two-way centre. He’s not going to be the player that is going to wow you, but his detail to the game is very good. He plays an honest game. He’s signed. He’s got a good cap number for us. He’s a natural centre. There’s a lot to like about Christian Dvorak.”
Who Plays Centre?
Marc Bergevin seemed happy with his crew down the middle. The general manager said, “We have centres, and we’re ready to start the season with that.” Bergevin then proceeded to list Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and Cedric Paquette.
Notably missing from his list was Jonathan Drouin and Mathieu Perreault perhaps signaling that they will play where they are both most comfortable, at wing.
On whether there are any other personnel moves coming, Bergevin said more ‘no’ than ‘yes.’ But he playfully added, “I know you like surprises.”
No Captain This Season
As we know, Canadiens captain Shea Weber will not play this season due to numerous injuries, some nagging and some sustained last season. On Monday, Marc Bergevin confirmed that no Canadiens player will wear the “C” for the 2021-22 season.
“No, there won’t be an (acting) captain,” Bergevin said. “We’re losing our captain, it’ll hurt. To replace him is impossible.”
The last time the Canadiens went an entire season without a captain was 2014-15.
On Sunday, Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong laughed when asked if he was the happiest person in the league when the Hurricanes tendered an offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It was clear that Armstrong knew that Marc Bergevin would soon be on the phone ready to meet his price.
Christian Dvorak knew what it meant too. And figured that he soon could be heading to Montreal if the Canadiens didn’t match the offer sheet.
“They love their hockey there in Montreal, we all know that,” Dvorak said. “The fans love the team a bunch so definitely I’m very excited to get up there and hopefully help them win some hockey games.”
Dvorak said that other than Josh Anderson (they played one season together in London), he doesn’t know any of the Canadiens players.
“I think I got more to prove offensively,” said Dvorak when asked about his goal for the season.
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