Tomas Plekanec’s time in Montreal has come to an end…again. The team announced on Friday that he is being placed on unconditional waivers for the purposes of terminating his contract.
The 36-year-old has spent the overwhelming majority of his career with the Habs; of the 1,001 career regular season games he’s played, 984 have been with Montreal. He returned to the Canadiens this summer as an unrestricted free agent, inking a one-year, $2.25M contract with an additional $1.25M in achievable performance bonuses. As he has played in just three games this season, he hasn’t hit any of those and his contract will come off the books entirely should he clear waivers on Saturday. As he was only signed to a one-year deal, the usual 35+ qualifications don’t apply.
Plekanec was able to play in game number 1,000 with Montreal and scored in that game as well, his only point of the season. As it turns out, this winds up being his only highlight of the 2018-19 campaign.
The timing of this announcement is a little curious. With Paul Byron and Joel Armia both out, there was going to be an opportunity in the short-term for Plekanec to play (with Matthew Peca likely shifting to the wing). The Habs opted to part ways with Jacob de la Rose last month (just days before putting Plekanec on IR with a back issue) so it’s not as if this is something that the Canadiens have been thinking about doing for a while.
Montreal’s press release indicates this is a mutual agreement between the two sides. During the press conference on Friday morning, GM Marc Bergevin indicated that he approached Plekanec about this earlier this week, citing the strong play of young players like Max Domi and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. That would likely keep Plekanec in a fourth line/reserve role as the season progressed depending on the injury situation.
Also during the presser, Plekanec indicated that he wants to retire as a Hab, suggesting that he has no plans to pursue another spot in the NHL even if he happens to be claimed off waivers. He did, however, indicate that he’d like to keep playing a little while longer and will be looking into opportunities back in the Czech Republic.
As for the Habs, with Plekanec set to be gone and the injuries they have up front, depth has quickly become a concern. They’ll bring Nikita Scherbak back up following the conclusion of his conditioning stint but even with that, it wouldn’t be shocking if they looked to add some more depth – perhaps down the middle – in the days to come.