It looks like Canadian fans will never hear from Shea Weber again.
Former general manager Marc Bergevin announced before the start of the season that Weber was unlikely to play all year and that his career was probably over because of injuries. Bergevin added that the Canadiens would not name an interim captain in Weber’s absence.
Weber was hardly ever around the team this season and never spoke with the media when he was. There was some criticism when Weber didn’t show up for the home opener at the Bell Center after helping the Canadiens advance to the Stanley Cup final last season. There was more criticism when Weber didn’t show up last Sunday for the first game at the Bell Center following the death of Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur.
Weber did show up for the final game of the regular season Friday night — when the Canadiens beat the Florida Panthers 10-2 — for a pre-game ceremony honoring longtime equipment manager Pierre Gervais, who is retiring. Weber, the last captain during Gervais’s 35 years with the team, was joined at center ice by Bob Gainey, Gervais’s first captain.
When Weber was introduced to the fans at the Bell Centre, he received a very lukewarm welcome with a small smattering of boos.
When the Canadiens held their post-mortem news conference Saturday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Weber once again chose not to speak with the media.
“Shea’s situation is complex,” new general manager Kent Hughes said, noting there are a number of issues about the remaining four years on Weber’s contract, including with the NHL and with insurance, adding he’s not at liberty to discuss them.
Hughes said he will try to trade Weber and the final four seasons of his contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $7,857 million during the off-season.
“Shea’s been absent from the team,” Hughes said. “Shea’s injured. Since I arrived in January, the understanding was Shea was not playing this season no matter what, that from an injury standpoint he needed time to recover. I think it’s highly unlikely that Shea Weber’s going to be physically capable of playing again. I’m not a doctor, but we’ve had these conversations about whether we would trade his contract with him. If we thought he was able to come back and play, we probably wouldn’t have had those conversations.”
As for Weber showing up at the Bell Center Friday night, Hughes said the plan had been made earlier this season to surprise Gervais by having his first and last captain there for his final game. The GM added that after Lafleur’s death, Weber extended his stay in Montreal through Tuesday so he could attend Lafleur’s funeral.
“I don’t know Shea really well,” Hughes said. “But everybody that I talk to around here and around the league say he’s a heck of a guy, a heck of a leader and he does things in the shadows. To me, he’s probably getting unfairly criticized to some point, but I certainly respect everybody’s right to an opinion.”
Hughes plans to name a new captain before the start of next season.
Drouin looks forward to next season
Jonathan Drouin was limited to 34 games this season, posting 6-14-20 totals before requiring surgery on his right wrist.
Drouin was only able to play two games after Martin St. Louis took over as head coach before requiring season-ending surgery. During the 2019-20 season, Drouin had surgery for a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Drouin missed 22 games this season after suffering the injury to his right wrist during a game in Las Vegas on Jan. 20. He returned to the lineup on March 19, but was only able to play two games before requiring surgery on the wrist.
“It’s my style of game where it’s puck possession,” Drouin said about watching the Canadiens play with St. Louis as coach. “You see where Ds are moving in the O zone, everyone’s moving. There’s rotation, there’s plays. I think guys have expanded their IQ a little bit or how they play the game. Some coaches would never say stuff like that or show stuff like that and Marty shows it. Offensive-side plays, O-zone plays, all that stuff. I think that suits my game. One of the reasons I didn’t want to get surgery was to play a couple of games at least to see where I fit in there. Watching games and watching video and all that stuff, that’s hockey I want to play.”
Drouin was still wearing a cast on his wrist Monday, but said he will be healthy for the start of training camp. The 27-year-old will be heading into the final season of his six-year, US$33-million contract with a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million.
Byron also looking to return
Paul Byron is confident he will be able to play next season after being limited to 27 games this season after hip surgery last summer. He posted 4-3-7 totals in the 27 games he played.
Byron played his first game on Jan. 30 after recovering from the surgery on his left hip. But his hip started to swell again and because of compensating on his right side he ended up suffering minor tears to multiple muscles that attach to the pubic bone. Initially, Byron thought he had suffered a sports hernia. He missed the last five games of the season, but said with rest and rehab he should be pretty much back to 100 per cent in a few more weeks and will be ready for training camp.
“This is a big summer for me to try and build my body back up and be able to deal with that workload and handle that compensation,” the 33-year-old said.
Byron has one season left on his four-year, US$13.6 million contract with a salary-cap hit of $3.4 million.
When asked if there is a positive he can take away from this season, Byron said: “For me, personally, I felt like I got my speed back. I know I’m a great skater. I could probably skate in sixth gear and look pretty good out there. But when you’re used to playing in seventh and eighth, and having that kind of last burst, that extra speed, and losing that was tough. Getting that back and having that felt really good again. Now it’s just a matter of getting to a point you can do it every game, your body can handle it every game.”
Allen could be No. 1 goalie again
Goalie Jake Allen is another player who finished the season on the injured list after suffering a lower-body injury during a game in Toronto on April 9. It was the second groin injury of the season for Allen — one on each leg.
“I feel really good, honestly,” Allen said Saturday, adding the second injury wasn’t anything serious. “It was a weird play, it was a broken play. It was a quick reaction and it was just unfortunate. It’s been a crazy year for me. Knock on wood, I’ve never really been hurt before and then a couple of injuries this year.”
Allen had a 9-20-4 record this season with a 3.30 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. The 31-year-old is heading into the final season of his two-year, US$5.75-million contract with a salary-cap hit of $2.875 million.
For the second straight year, Allen could start next season as the Canadiens’ No. 1 goalie since Carey Price’s status remains uncertain because of a knee injury that limited him to five games this season.
“To be honest, I never expected this year, either,” Allen said when asked about the possibility of being the No. 1 goalie again. “I came in the summer expecting that we were going to be the tandem and I was going to be the backup. The summer was obviously a short one for all of us, but I prepared that way. I didn’t see that happening, either. So, yeah, I guess there is a bit of uncertainty. But, at the same time, I’ll still have the exact same summer as I did last year and do the same regimen — it will be a little longer. All of it is totally out of my control. I want the best for this whole situation, which the best would be Carey Price back in net here for the Montreal Canadiens. That’s what I’m hopeful for and for me everything is completely out of my control.”
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