Shea Weber won’t be the only Hab on injured reserve to start the season as the team announced on Friday that Paul Byron will be out for the next five months after undergoing successful hip surgery.
Last season was a tough one for the 32-year-old as he wasn’t able to rebound from a tough 2019-20 campaign offensively. Between some early-season struggles and his contracts, Byron found himself on waivers for salary cap purposes, cleared, and was waived twice more before the end of the year.
Despite that, he still managed to play in 46 games during the regular season, notching five goals and 11 assists while playing an important role on the penalty kill. Byron also suited up in all 22 playoff contests, collecting three more goals and three assists, the most memorable goal coming in the playoff opener against Toronto.
It’s interesting that the surgery wasn’t performed right after the playoffs ended but rather several weeks later. That would suggest that the original intention was that the injury would be able to be rehabbed without needing the operation but that didn’t happen.
This situation certainly makes it easier to see why Montreal went out and picked up Cedric Paquette and Mathieu Perreault in free agency on low-cost deals to play a depth role. While there is still a surplus of wingers (both newcomers are better on the wing than up the middle), that is slightly mitigated by this news.
Byron will be eligible to be placed on LTIR but unlike Weber, the fact he’ll return this year makes it a different situation. They can still use some of his money for a replacement but they’ll need to be in compliance before activating him. This means they can’t really spend the full $3.4 million of his cap hit on a replacement. Instead, they can have an extra low-cost forward on the roster serving as his replacement that can be demoted when Byron returns; it’s much easier to clear $1 million to get compliant by sending a player down than having to clear up to $3.4 million by needing to trade a player or two midseason. With how last year went, Byron himself being on waivers later on in the year can’t be ruled out either.
At a minimum, Montreal’s penalty kill has taken another hit. Phillip Danault will certainly be missed on that front and now another regular is gone in Byron. Of the newcomers up front, only Paquette is capable of killing penalties so GM Marc Bergevin may need to try to address this over the next couple of months since he’ll have to wait until close to midseason to get Byron back.