Montreal Canadiens' Biggest Takeaways from the Start of 2014 Free Agency

Brandon DuBreuil@@brandondubreuilContributor IIIJuly 9, 2014

Montreal Canadiens' Biggest Takeaways from the Start of 2014 Free Agency

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    Marc Bergevin
    Marc BergevinUSA TODAY Sports

    The Montreal Canadiens were quick to the trigger to start the 2014 NHL free agency. Within the first hour, general manager Marc Bergevin had signed both Manny Malhotra and Tom Gilbert. 

    But then the Canadiens-related news went quiet as other teams started spending big. The only other notable move Bergevin made was the signing of Czech forward Jiri Sekac to an entry-level deal. 

    So what did we learn about the Habs over the past week-and-a-half? Read on to find out.

    Here are the Montreal Canadiens' biggest takeaways from the start of the 2014 NHL free agency. 

    All salary information via

The Defense Will Move the Puck

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    Tom Gilbert
    Tom GilbertEliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    The signing of Gilbert was a relatively minor one, but it sent a message nonetheless: The Canadiens want their defensemen to be able to move the puck. 

    Gilbert came relatively cheap at two years, $2.8 million per, but he'll play an important role. He'll likely play the right side on the second pairing, perhaps next to youngster Nathan Beaulieu. He'll also man the point on the second power-play unit. 

    Signing Gilbert means that the Canadiens have four puck-moving defensemen heading into the 2014-15 season. Their top six will likely consist of P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, Gilbert and Beaulieu, and Mike Weaver and Alexei Emelin. 

    If Michel Therrien does choose to deploy those pairings, it means that the top four will all be looking to be involved in the offense, while the Weaver and Emelin pairing would be the shutdown tandem

    The Canadiens' forwards can expect lots of offensive support from the back end in 2014-15. 

Marc Bergevin Is All Business

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    Marc Bergevin
    Marc BergevinHarry How/Getty Images

    The most shocking news out of Montreal so far this summer was the trading of Josh Gorges for a second-round pick. 

    It was obviously a salary dump for the Canadiens, as Gorges was set to make $3.9 million per season through 2017-18. Bergevin then got both Weaver and Gilbert under contract $4.55 million. 

    It was a smart hockey move by the Canadiens general manager, and it proved that he is all business. He's not going to let his feelings get in the way of a move that will help his club. 

    Gorges was a well-liked player in Montreal by both the fans and his teammates. In fact, many, including Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette, figured Gorges would be the next Canadiens captain. 

    The 29-year-old had been with the Habs for seven years and had sacrificed himself on a nightly basis, blocking shots and constantly doing whatever it took to win. But that was simply not enough to stop Bergevin from doing what was best for his team. 

    Allowing feelings and emotions to affect business moves is never a good idea, and Bergevin realizes that. The Canadiens GM has proved that he will do whatever needs to be done to win. 

The Canadiens Are Not Going to Build Through Free Agency

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    The Canadiens let Thomas Vanek walk away
    The Canadiens let Thomas Vanek walk awayBruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Over the past few years, the Montreal Canadiens' management team has shown its fans that it doesn't think building a team through free agency is the way to do things. 

    When Bergevin took over in 2012, his only notable free-agent signing was Brandon Prust (four years, $10 million). In 2013, Daniel Briere was his biggest move (two years, $8 million). This year he signed Gilbert (two years, $5.6 million), Malhotra (one year, $850,000) and Sekac (two years, entry level).

    It's obvious Bergevin isn't going to build, or add to, his teams by signing big-name free agents. And when considering how much other teams are willing to overpay on July 1, it's probably best not to make big moves. 

    Bergevin's strategy is obviously to acquire players via drafting and trading. So far it has worked, and he'll continue doing so. 

Marc Bergevin Is Not Done Yet

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    Marc Bergevin
    Marc BergevinDave Sandford/Getty Images

    While Bergevin has made a few moves already this summer, his work is far from done. In fact, his most important task has yet to be completed: He needs to get Subban under contract. 

    As reported in the Toronto Sun, Subban has filed for salary arbitration. The pros and cons of him doing so can be seen here, per James O'Brien on Pro Hockey Talk.

    The best thing about salary arbitration, as far as Habs fans are concerned, is that teams cannot submit offer sheets to the restricted free agent any longer. He will play for the Canadiens next season. 

    But this also means that he could be awarded a two-year contract, meaning that he would become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2016. Bergevin probably doesn't want that happening. 

    Arbitration takes place at the end of July and early August, meaning that the two sides have a couple weeks left to hammer out a deal. 

    Bergevin also has to get Lars Eller under contract. The young center is a restricted free agent. 

    The Montreal Canadiens have had a solid start to free agency, but they aren't done yet. Getting Subban and Eller under contract has to be next on Bergevin's list. 

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