MONTREAL - Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin sent a clear message when he declined the opportunity to bid for the services of future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
The 40-year-old Czech signed a one-year, $4.55-million contract with the Dallas Stars, but the folks in the Big D couldn’t have been too happy when Jagr got on a conference call to discuss the signing and said Dallas was no better than No. 3 on his list of places to play.
He said his first choice was to stay in Philadelphia, where he had 19 goals and 35 assists in 73 games. When the Flyers told him they were heading in a different direction, he said he focused on Montreal.
Jagr’s agent, former Canadiens defenceman Petr Svoboda, called Bergevin but Montreal wasn’t interested.
Bergevin made his thinking clear earlier this week when he was asked whether the team has reached out to Jagr or P.A. Parenteau, whose resumé falls far short of Jagr’s.
“We can’t forget that we have some talented prospects in the system right now that we still have to leave the door open for. Guys like Brendan Gallagher and Louis Leblanc could have a chance at playing in Montreal,” Bergevin said Tuesday during a news conference to discuss his offseason moves to date. “I’m happy with our team right now. If I can do anything else to improve us further, I definitely will, but I feel good about what we’re working with at the moment.”
Bergevin’s approach represents a change in the team’s philosophy. While former head coach Jacques Martin was unfairly criticized at times for ignoring the younger players – he provided opportunities for P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais – he did place a premium on experience.
Bergevin appears more open to giving young players an opportunity and he has the right coach to pursue that goal. Michel Therrien deserves a lot of the credit for developing the talent in the Penguins’ organization, first with the AHL team in Wilkes-Barre and later in Pittsburgh.
It would have been interesting to see how Bergevin and Therrien would have handled Gallagher and Leblanc last season.
Gallagher was the surprise of training camp and there were those who felt he deserved at least a 10-game trial at the NHL level, but he was returned to junior.
The plan for Leblanc was a full season in the AHL, but injuries opened a spot for him in Montreal. While there were some question marks about his strength, his play merited a larger role, particularly when it became apparent the Canadiens were going nowhere.
St-Denis gets new deal: Restricted free-agent defenceman Frédéric St-Denis has signed a new one-year contract. It’s a two-way deal, but don’t be surprised if St-Denis challenges Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber for a spot on the roster. The Greenfield Park native, who was given a tryout after playing for the Université du Québec a Trois Rivières, acquitted himself well after being called up last season. He averaged 14:31 over 20 games, had a goal and two assists and was a plus-3.
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