After his team’s playoff exit in the Eastern Conference Final, Montreal Canadiens’ general-manager Marc Bergevin lifted the curtain a tiny bit on the club’s leadership picture.
He allowed that the medium-term plan was to shift the responsibility to the next generation of Habs, at the time it was widely interpreted as a signal the team could well be prepared to move on from captain Brian Gionta, who is expected to become a free agent on Tuesday.
It appears the medium term is now.
Judging from the moves the Habs made ahead of free agency, there could be significant alterations to a team that reached the final four less than a month ago.
On Monday, Bergevin traded 35-year-old winger Daniel Brière, who delivered admirably in the playoffs (and was one of the more influential voices in the dressing room) despite minimal opportunities, for 31-year-old Colorado Avalanche right wing Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and a fifth-round draft pick in 2015.
It might seem odd that the Avs would move a younger (Parenteau is 31) and more productive player (33 points to 25 points).
But Parenteau has been unsettled for some time – he was a healthy scratch this past season – and hasn’t always been shy during his NHL career about hiding his disgruntlement.
Earlier this year there were persistent rumours Montreal pulled the plug on a deal to trade Rene Bourque to Colorado when Parenteau was offered in return.
In a conference call with reporters, Parenteau conceded there was some friction with Colorado coach Patrick Roy, but that “he made me better.”
Growing up in Boucherville, Que., a suburb directly across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, Parenteau was a Habs fan – indeed he sounded an awful lot like Brière did a year ago when he joined the club, saying it’s “a childhood dream come true.”
“My telephone went crazy for a little while,” said Parenteau, who is getting married on July 12 and vowed to move to Montreal immediately thereafter.
Brière, in theory, bolsters the Avs’ contingent of veteran, playoff-tested players.
The fact is Montreal was looking to fill a right-wing slot on its top two lines and managed to pick up a player who has 73 goals and 205 points in 291 NHL games – he is also a superior possession player to Brière – in exchange for an aging player who was the fourth-line centre throughout much of the playoffs..
It also emerged via TSN’s Bob McKenzie that the Habs have been dangling assistant captain Josh Gorges, who reportedly refused to lift his no-trade clause to go to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brière was slated to make $4-million in the second and final year of the free agent pact Bergevin signed him to last summer, Gorges still has four years left on a deal that averages $3.9-million per season.
Gorges has reportedly expanded the list of 15 teams that he would consider being dealt to as part of his limited no-trade clause.
“This is really hard to accept. I have always given my heart to this team,” Gorges told the Journal de Montreal.
Brière, who rarely seemed to be on the same page as coach Michel Therrien – another way of saying it is he never seemed to get a fair shake – had no hesitation in lifting his no-movement clause to join the Avalanche.
Now it remains to be seen whether Gionta is willing to take a discount to remain in Montreal.
If not, the leadership responsibilities will fall to the likes of youngsters Carey Price, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty sooner than they – or anyone – might have expected.