After years of poor roster decisions, foolish trades and bad free agent signings, the Montreal Canadiens finally have a general manager that knows how to put a quality roster together and avoid risky moves.
Marc Bergevin has brought respectability back to the Canadiens, and he hasn't even finished his first season as the team's GM.
He became the fourth general manager of the Canadiens since 2000 when he was hired after the 2011-2012 season, and in his short time with the club, Bergevin has crafted a roster that will achieve success immediately and well into the future.
His first draft last June was very impressive, especially since No. 3 overall pick Alex Galchenyuk looks like a future star after a great start to his rookie year with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 19 games.
Bergevin also refused to give in to star defenseman P.K. Subban's contract demands when he was a RFA to begin the season. When most teams would have given Subban a long-term contract that he doesn't deserve yet, Bergevin was unwilling to back down and ended up re-signing his young blueliner to a team-friendly contract worth $5.75 million over two seasons.
He also signed veteran forwards Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust as free agents last summer to give his bottom-six forward group the depth, truculence and leadership it lacked last season.
These were all great moves, but the transaction that has made Bergevin the favorite to win the GM of the Year Award is the Michael Ryder trade from Tuesday.
Both players scored 35 goals last season, but Cole has struggled to be productive offensively in 2013 with just six points (three goals, three assists) in 19 games.
Ryder is certainly an upgrade over Cole because of his defensive ability and familiarity with the Canadiens (he played in Montreal from 2003-04 through 2007-08). As a member of the Boston Bruins' Stanley Cup winning team in 2010-11, Ryder brings a wealth of playoff experience to a Canadiens roster that has just a couple of guys with championship rings.
Ryder also has one of the best wrist shots in the NHL, and he already has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 19 games this year. In fact, only 10 players have scored more goals than Ryder since the beginning of the 2011-12 season. He will add a right-handed shot to the Canadiens offense and provides additional scoring depth for head coach Michel Therrien.
Not only did Bergevin trade a disappointing forward for a player who has a Stanley Cup ring and an impressive history of success in the Northeast Division, moving Cole's contract also gives Bergevin more salary-cap flexibility this summer and over the next two seasons.
Montreal needs the extra cap space with a long-term extension for Subban likely on the horizon and the cap ceiling dropping to $64.3 million in the offseason.
The Canadiens also have five of their eight defenseman, young forward Lars Eller and captain Brian Gionta to sign after the 2013-14 season. Re-signing the majority of these players would have been difficult with Cole's $4.5 million cap hit not expiring until the summer of 2015.
By completing this trade, Bergevin is now in a much better position to keep the core of his roster intact for many years to come.
The days of bad signings, poor trades and terrible long-term contracts are over in Montreal. Bergevin has erased nearly all of the salary-cap troubles he inherited after accepting the job, and he's building a great roster of young and experienced players, which also includes a No. 1 goaltender in Carey Price.
The Canadiens' future hasn't been as bright as it is now for quite some time, which is why the passionate and loyal hockey fans in Montreal are really excited about the next few years.
When you look at the offseason signings Bergevin made, his quality draft picks, his handling of the Subban contract negotiations and the Michael Ryder trade, it's clear that he's the leader for the GM of the Year award.
In the three-year history of the award, no one from the Eastern Conference has won it. Expect Bergevin to be the first at the 2013 NHL Awards Ceremony later this year.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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