Countdown to the deadline: Habs

Marc Bergevin should really buy a lottery ticket. Apparently, the Montreal Canadiens general manager can predict the future.

Bergevin earlier this season shaved $5 million off his payroll/cap for next season when he traded away Travis Moen and Rene Bourque in separate deals and, at the time, he talked about the uncertainty of next season's salary cap as a big reason for it.

Back then, league officials were saying there was no reason to fear for the salary cap, and in early December, commissioner Gary Bettman projected to owners at the board of governors' meeting a $73 million cap for next season as long as the Canadian dollar didn't plummet too much farther.

Well, the Canadian dollar has continued to plummet, and although Bettman said during All-Star weekend that even with a Canadian dollar at 80 cents U.S., the cap would be just under $72 million if the dollar keeps going in the wrong direction.

All of which not only affects next season's cap, but more important, the cap the following season.

That's a long way of saying that Bergevin was prescient in his moves earlier this season, and I think that long-term concern with the cap will continue to effect his thinking ahead of the March 2 trade deadline. Consider him a careful buyer, who is comfortable even if he does nothing.

Status: (Careful) Buyer

Available: The Habs are contending for the Eastern Conference title, but I don't think you'll see Bergevin willing to part with a first-round pick to get an impact player at the deadline. Bergevin has had a long-term view with this roster since the day he became GM, and that will continue even though his team has a shot at again going far in the playoffs. I think Bergevin would rather make a hockey deal for a player who has term past this season as long as that player wouldn't hurt his cap situation. But as we saw last season in the Thomas Vanek rental acquisition, Bergevin was willing to make a move because the price was right.

Finances: As we stated at the top, this is a big part of what's governing Bergevin's thinking. Not just the salary cap next season, but beyond. He's not going to make a trade that's going to hamstring his cap for the next few seasons; he wants to keep payroll flexibility. And don't forget he still needs to sign Alex Galchenyuk to a new deal.

Scouting the GM: It's clear from talking to other teams around the league that Bergevin has talked to many clubs over the past month, making sure he's doing his homework in terms of who's available. He wants to be ready closer to March 2 in case something materializes that makes sense. But at this point, it's more background work rather than the Habs GM being aggressive, as far as we can tell. With the uncertainty of the Canadian dollar and the salary cap, and the possibility of this effecting teams for the next few seasons, you get the sense that Bergevin believes that keeping the roster young, as much as possible, is the way to go in order to keep ultimate cap/roster flexibility. Is he willing to act before March 2? Yes. But it has to make sense on many fronts.