Tomas Plekanec’s time with the Habs has come to an end. Montreal shipped him along with minor league winger Kyle Baun to Toronto on Sunday morning in exchange for Toronto’s second-round pick in 2018, prospect blueliner Rinat Valiev, and winger Kerby Rychel. The Canadiens will be retaining 50% of his $6 million cap hit in the trade.
Plekanec is departing the only NHL organization he has ever known after Montreal selected him 71st overall back in 2001. In his prime, he was a high-end two-way centre but his offence has tailed off in recent years, making him more of a checking forward.
This season, he has six goals and 18 assists in 60 games while averaging more than 16 minutes per game in ice time. He also has improved his faceoff rate to a career-high which especially came in handy on the penalty kill. He will likely reprise that checking role in a Toronto uniform.
Plekanec ranks seventh all-time on Montreal’s games played list with 981 games. For his career, he has 232 goals and 373 assists. The Maple Leafs only have 18 games remaining this season so the 35-year-old will not hit the 1,000 GP mark this season. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reports that the parameters of a new contract were discussed prior to the trade so a reunion next season may not entirely be out of the question.
As for what Montreal got in return, the prospect of note is Valiev. A 2014 third-round pick, the 22-year-old has spent the bulk of his entry-level deal with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies but did play in ten games with the big club in 2015-16. The stay-at-home defender has five goals and ten assists in 40 minor league contests this season and there’s a good chance he’ll be up with the Habs once the deadline passes. He has a cap hit of just over $778,000 this season and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Rychel, meanwhile, has not lived up to his draft billing that saw him go 19th overall to Columbus back in 2013. He has 37 career NHL games under his belt with just two goals and ten helpers. He cleared waivers at the beginning of the season and has been there since then and has picked up ten goals and 20 assists in 55 games with the Marlies. Depending on what else happens between now and the deadline, Rychel could be up with the Habs at some point as they’ll likely want to see if he could be part of the puzzle for next season. His entry-level deal is also up at the end of the year and he carries a cap hit of just over $863,000.
Baun was brought in at the beginning of the season from Chicago in exchange for winger Andreas Martinsen in a swap of players that had recently cleared waivers. He got off to a strong start with Laval but has tailed off considerably in recent months. His inclusion appears to be more for matching the number of outgoing and incoming contracts more than anything else. He will become a Group VI unrestricted free agent in the summer.