PHILADELPHIA - Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin sees picking 26th in the NHL draft as a sign of success.
For Bergevin, the best pick is the 30th — which traditionally goes to the Stanley Cup winner.
"That's our goal. Every team wants to win," he said Thursday on the eve of the draft. "Picking 26th, yeah it's far back but again you want to make the playoffs and you want to have success. And that's what happened. That's the price you pay."
After falling short in the Eastern Conference final, the Habs find themselves with a first- and third-round pick and then five selections well down the draft ladder (117th, 125th, 147th, 177th and 207th overall).
Their second-rounder went to the Islanders in the Thomas Vanek deal.
Bergevin says he is open to moving higher or lower with his first pick, depending on the offers or scenarios.
"We could use help everywhere," he said candidly. "We're a good team but we need to get better. I'm always open to make our team better."
The Canadiens have already made some decisions. Bergevin says free agents Vanek, defenceman Douglas Murray and tough guy George Parros won't be back.
Defenceman Andrei Markov and coach Michel Therrien have signed new deals.
Talks continue with three other free agents: captain Brian Gionta, and defencemen Mike Weaver and Francis Bouillon
The Montreal GM also says there has been a meeting with star defenceman P.K. Subban's agent about a new contract.
While much has been made of the Habs' lack of size, Bergevin says it's only one variable.
"Size is something every team looks at," he said. "But character for me and compete (level) always comes into play. You can have a big guy who doesn't compete or you have (five-foot-nine) Brendan Gallagher — I'll take Brendan Gallagher all day long."
Trevor Timmins, the Habs' director of amateur scouting, said his staff will be keeping its fingers crossed as the first round unfolds.
"We think positive about the player we want to get," he said.
The good news is he believes there is a lot of parity in players available between the 15th and 40th picks.
However he said it is a down year for francophone talent compared to 2013.
The Habs scouts have done their homework, with Timmins and his staff having met with some 100 prospects.