The clock is ticking on the Montreal Canadiens if they hope to begin the 2012-13 season with P.K. Subban in the fold.
While the team continues to negotiate with its restricted free agent defender, general manager Marc Bergevin expressed hope that the team could come to terms with one of its most popular players.
"We met in Toronto on Saturday with his agent Don Meehan," Bergevin told TSN's That's Hockey on Thursday. "We had good discussion but obviously we haven't reached a deal."
Bergevin stressed that he sees Subban as an integral part of the Canadiens' core.
"It's a player that, since I got here in Montreal, that we want to be part of the Montreal Canadiens and we're still going to work on that."
The Canadiens have been unable thus far to find middle-ground with the 23-year-old defender, who is looking to negotiate his first deal with the club after his entry-level contract expired at the end of the 2011-12 season.
One avenue Bergevin would not immediately explore, however, is the prospect of dealing Subban if the two sides are unable to immediately agree on a new deal.
"When you like a player, you try your best to sign him, that's my philosophy," Bergevin said. "To trade an asset because you're forced to… I'm not going to go there. [When] we like players we do our best to get them signed and get them on the ice."
Whether or not the team starts the season with Subban on the ice, Bergevin still sees many areas that can be improved over last season where the team finished last in the Eastern Conference.
"Our home record last year wasn't very good, obviously," Bergevin said. "There's issues you can't control: the rush of injuries, which could happen to any club. We're going to try to stay healthy, which is something that's very hard to predict, but that's one thing and [to] be more consistent in games."
However, Bergevin admitted that it's still early on in his tenure for him to have a master plan of how to return the Canadiens to a spot where they will be among the top competitors in the East.
"This is a team that finished 15th last year and I haven't seen play one game yet, so we are going to be evaluating on a daily basis and then we've got to move forward and make this team better for years to come," he said.
"But, it's a process that we need to do," he added, "and building through the draft, I believe in that."
In terms of building through the draft, Bergevin and his scouting staff have given themselves a healthy head-start. The Canadiens scouting team, with a big hand from newly-appointed assistant general manager Rick Dudley did well at the 2012 NHL Draft adding high-talent players with several key picks.
The Habs got great value with picks outside the first round including Swedish winger Sebastian Collberg and defenceman Dalton Thrower in the second round while nabbing high-ceiling picks in the later rounds such as forwards Tim Bozon, Brady Vail and Charles Hudon.
However, the prize from the 2012 Draft remains third-overall pick Alex Galchenyuk.
Having made an early impression in camp, Galchenyuk may be poised to crack this year's roster as an 18-year-old.
"He's been very good," Bergevin said of Galchenyuk. "We haven't scrimmaged, but in shootouts he's been excellent. He's been skating well, moving the puck, great shot. It's day-by-day, but he's looking very good."
With all this organizational depth, the Canadiens could be poised to add a high-profile body to its NHL roster further down the line, but Bergevin won't be looking to add just anybody. It needs to make sense for the future of the club.
"I'm always willing to make the team better if I feel at the time that something can be done for the long run," he said. "I'm not going to fix the team for a short period of time."
"This is a place where people deserve to have a good team for a long time and there's no secret recipe for that. You've got to be patient and build through the draft and have good players and young players."