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Stay awhile

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

BROSSARD – Tomas Plekanec isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

On Friday, the Canadiens announced that they’d agreed to a two-year contract extension with the veteran Czech forward that would see him remain in Montreal through at least the 2017-18 campaign.

Given the 32-year-old’s consistently solid play through five games this season – and the incredible start he’s helped the CH string together early on this year – extending his stay in La Belle Province just seemed like the right thing to do for both parties involved.

“We have a special team. Obviously, that’s the biggest reason why I signed. There’s no better place to win a Stanley Cup than in Montreal. I’ve been here my whole career and having that chance to win it with the team we have, there’s a big chance that we can really do some damage the next couple of years,” offered Plekanec, who sits tied for first on the team with four goals, and tied for second with four points and a plus-7 differential. “I’m really happy about it, and I hope that we’ll do just that.”

If the Canadiens do manage to make a significant run in 2015-16, it’s safe to say Plekanec will ultimately be a big reason why. His teammates insist his contributions are invaluable both on the ice and off it, too.

“I’m happy to stand up and talk about him because it’s a special day for him. He deserves all the credit he gets. I think he deserves more than he gets. It’s an exciting day for him, and it’s very well deserved,” praised captain Max Pacioretty, who has shared a locker room with Plekanec since breaking into the NHL ranks during the 2008-09 season. “Everyone in this locker room knows how important he is. Sometimes, he might not get the recognition from the outside, but that’s why he’s so respected in our room. He doesn’t need that recognition. He’s going to show up and be that professional every day.”

Plekanec’s play over the last 10-plus seasons certainly supports that contention. A two-way player in every sense of the term, the two-time Olympian has always managed to strike a balance between being just as effective with the puck on his stick as he is keeping the opposition at bay, particularly when the Canadiens find themselves in short-handed situations.

“He’s a very versatile player. He plays a number of roles. He can play against the other team’s top lines, but he can also get very involved on offense and win draws. You need that type of player in your lineup. He’s very important to our team,” shared head coach Michel Therrien, who has utilized Plekanec on the penalty kill more than any other forward so far this season. “He’s not going to cheat to get rewarded. If he does get rewarded, it’s because he did the right things. That’s just the way he is. I have a lot of trust in his game.”

And, why wouldn’t he? One of only five Canadiens players to suit up for all 82 regular season games last year, Plekanec has proven time and again that he’s among Therrien’s most dependable soldiers, in addition to being a role model for both young guns and fellow veterans alike.

“Tomas grew up in the organization. He always takes care of himself. You always need good veterans, good leaders, to show the young guys what being a professional means. As coaches, we can say things and show them the way, but they also need examples. Plekanec is a good one,” explained Therrien, who has been featuring Plekanec on a line with Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher since the regular season began back on October 7 in Toronto. “He’s a smart player, too. He takes a lot of pride in playing the right way. He’s always in good position. We’ve got a lot of young kids on our team. A guy like Plekanec is a good leader for them.”

Now a veteran in his own right, Pacioretty recalls important lessons learned from playing with Plekanec in recent years, all of which have helped to mold him into a far more versatile player as well.

“He’s been huge. I didn’t kill penalties before. When they put me in that situation, it was with Pleky. He’s one of the best in the league at it,” offered Pacioretty, who has steadily become a regular on the Canadiens’ penalty kill. “I think I jumped into a very good situation where he made it very easy on me right from the start. He’s a guy who I have great chemistry with, maybe even better chemistry with on the penalty kill. I’m still learning from him when it comes to that.”

So, just how key was Friday’s signing of Plekanec with just one year remaining on his current contract? According to Pacioretty, it was vital for the success of the group now and in the immediate future.

“He’s the most important forward on this team. He’s a guy that eats up tough minutes, but at the same time puts up numbers. Anytime he’s in a matchup like that and he wins his matchup, we have a great chance of winning the game,” concluded Pacioretty, who is elated to have his long-time teammate remaining in the fold. “The timing is great, too. We all feel good about our games right now. He’s playing some great hockey to start off the year, and he’s showing that year after year he’s able to play at this level. He’s off to a great start, and hopefully the timing of this can give us a bit of a boost as well.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for

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