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With limited cap room, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin not likely to be active at deadline

MONTREAL — Marc Bergevin isn't expecting to go hunting for major reinforcements ahead of the trade deadline, mainly due to being tight against the salary cap.

MONTREAL — Marc Bergevin isn't expecting to go hunting for major reinforcements ahead of the trade deadline, mainly due to being tight against the salary cap.

During a midseason review, the Montreal Canadiens general manager told a virtual news conference Tuesday he was satisfied with the work of his team thus far.

But he said he didn't expect to be too active ahead of the April 12 trade deadline. 

"We don't have flexibility," he said. "If we give up only picks or prospects (in a trade), there's salary being added and nothing going out, it's not possible."

Bergevin said on Monday, the club had about US$30,000 in wiggle room with the maximum 23 players on the roster for the first time this season. He also is hesitant about sacrificing the club's short and long-term future.

"If the opportunity arises to go get something and I'm convinced, I'll look at it. I'm not saying I won't do anything," Bergevin said.

The mandatory 14-day quarantine for a player arriving from a American.-based team makes the prospect of getting reinforcements less appealing, especially when trading someone off your active roster and losing a player for six or seven games.

So Bergevin will continue to closely manage the payroll and look for savings where he can as was the case Tuesday with veteran forward Paul Byron placed on waivers for a second time this season.

The Canadiens will have to look to deal with injuries internally, as has been the case since the club lost defenceman Ben Chiarot to a hand injury for six-to-eight weeks.

Bergevin said staying healthy will loom large for the Canadiens to succeed and get into the playoffs.

The Canadiens (13-8-7) are in the fourth and final playoff sport in the North Division and just three points behind the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. The Canadiens face Winnipeg on Wednesday.

The Calgary Flames are two points behind the Canadiens in the race for the final playoff spot.

Bergevin said that due to parity across the NHL, he expects a tough fight until the end of the regular season on May 8. 

"It's obvious. We had a good start, then a slow period, he said. With (new coach) Dom (Ducharme), we are recovering," Bergevin said.

The appointment of Ducharme as interim head coach and Alexandre Burrows as assistant coach on Feb. 24 was followed by the replacement of Stephane Waite with Sean Burke as goaltender coach on March 2.

Bergevin had said before the start of the season, he believed his team should be taken seriously. The first half of a roller-coaster season hasn't changed his expectations.

"It's a tough league where every game is a real battle," he said. "I always expect the same thing: that we make the playoffs, then anything is possible."

Bergevin also said he was not afraid of losing his job if the team did not meet expectations.

"I have always said that I am not afraid of a dismissal. If it happens, it happens," he said. "On a daily basis, I try to do what is best for the team."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2021.

Alexis Belanger-Champagne, The Canadian Press