BROSSARD - David Desharnais is excited at the prospect of helping the Edmonton Oilers make a playoff push, but he's leaving his long-time hockey home with a very heavy heart.
On Wednesday morning, the 30-year-old veteran centerman met with members of the media at the Bell Sports Complex to reflect upon his seven-plus seasons with the Canadiens after learning that he'd been dealt ahead of the NHL's trade deadline.
A visibly emotional Desharnais said moving on is certainly bittersweet.
"I'm really sad to be leaving Montreal. I've spent seven years of my life here. Putting on the jersey for the first time in the NHL here in Montreal, sharing that with my family and friends, it was extraordinary… I could have spent the next 20 years here," said Desharnais, who was acquired in exchange for defenseman Brandon Davidson on Tuesday evening. "But, I have to look at the professional side of things. I'm going to continue playing hockey and have a chance to continue my career."
Video: David Desharnais on his years in Montreal
The Laurier-Station, QC native amassed 79 goals and 250 points in 435 regular-season games for the CH. Undrafted, Desharnais is particularly proud that he made the most of the opportunity the Canadiens gave him to showcase his skill set at hockey's highest level when his detractors said that it couldn't be done.
"I always think about the fact that I played in the ECHL. Even when you're in the stands here [as a healthy scratch], I think back and I tell myself - "I'm in the NHL." No one really ever believed in me. I'm still in a good spot," said Desharnais, who also chipped in with three goals and 13 points in 38 playoff games over the years. "I'm happy with what I accomplished here and I'm leaving with my head held high."
Now, Desharnais joins an Oilers club primed to make its first playoff appearance since 2005-06 when they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Finals.
"They're a very fast and young team. They haven't been in the playoffs for a while. I'll be trying to bring some stability there at centre and help them in any facet that I can," said Desharnais, who is clearly eager to share a locker room with the likes of Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl. "You never know what team might be interested in you, but I'm glad it's a team who is fighting for a playoff spot."
That being said, Desharnais will undoubtedly miss his former Canadiens teammates, many of whom he got to know well while plying his trade in bleu-blanc-rouge, including Max Pacioretty.
"Max was there for me when things weren't going well," said Desharnais, who received plenty of praise from the Canadiens' captain following the 1-0 overtime win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. "He made all the difference for me in my career."