The former Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM replaces Pierre Gauthier, who was fired in March after Montreal finished dead last in the Eastern Conference and missed the play-offs for the first time since 2007.
Bergevin, a Montreal native and former defenseman who played 20 seasons in the NHL, joined the Blackhawks front office when his playing career was over and quickly developed a reputation as an astute scout and talent evaluator.
His hiring is the start of a rebuilding process for the Canadiens, who must still decide on the future of interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth.
The English-speaking Cunneyworth, who was named to the job last December by Gauthier, touched off a firestorm in Montreal among the team's many French-speaking fans because he did not speak Quebec's official language.
The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup a record 24 times but not since 1993.