BROSSARD - Last season, the St. John's IceCaps were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Syracuse Crunch, who went on to reach the AHL Finals. On Saturday, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin secured the services of two players who helped send his affiliate packing.
That included offensive-minded defenseman Matt Taormina, who registered 60 points, including 15 goals, in 70 games with the Syracuse Crunch in 2016-17, and centerman Byron Froese, who scored 27 goals in 54 games last year. Both accepted two-year contracts with the Habs.
Froese, 26, was given a two-way contract for the first year and a one-way deal for the second. Taormina, meanwhile, received a two-way contract for both seasons.
Both Froese and Taormina, however, aren't just content with securing spots in Laval with the Rocket come fall. They're hoping to play with the big club, which serves as strong motivation to leave everything they have out on the ice.
"My number one goal is to play in the NHL and play for the Montreal Canadiens. That's where everyone wants to be. But, the fact that Laval is so close to Montreal and a new team, it's going to be exciting even if I end up down there. But, I'm going to plan on making it to the NHL and be a full-timer in the Montreal Canadiens lineup," mentioned Froese, shortly after signing with the Canadiens on Saturday.
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"I'm looking forward to having a really good summer here. It's going to be a short one for me, but a good hard working summer. I'm going to show up for camp and fight for a spot. I think you've got to believe in yourself to give yourself a chance. I definitely believe there's a chance of me being there. I feel good about where my game is at after this last season, even though I was back in the minors and had brief stints in the NHL. I feel a lot more confident in my game and my ability to play at that level," added the Manitoban.
At age 30, Taormina is an AHL veteran, having primarily plied his trade there since 2008. He also enjoyed a few stints in the NHL, suiting up for 59 games.
"I still have NHL aspirations and would love to make a splash coming into camp and turn some heads. I'm still around this to get a chance to play at the NHL level. I'll do whatever I can to hopefully get that opportunity," admitted the 5-foot-10 and 188-pound defenseman.
The pair has a good idea of what the Rocket might be capable of after going up against the IceCaps in the postseason.
"They have a lot of talented players that work very hard and they'll be a very good team," said Froese.
Taormina, meanwhile, could be asked to play a mentorship role in his new digs. Colin White served as his "big brother" when they played together in New Jersey.
"I'm one of the older guys on the team. I've been around for a little bit. I know I was kind of in that role with Syracuse. Whatever I can pass along to some of the guys in experience and just help them, I was there once. I've had some good mentors that helped bring me up and taught me a few things. It's very quick. Sometimes, you have to learn really, really quick. If you have that help, it makes it a lot easier. Everything from past experience, I'll try to help pass it along. I have no problem with that," stressed Taormina.