BROSSARD - In February, when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline, Tomas Plekanec was already pondering the idea of a return to Montreal in the summertime.
On Sunday, that idea became reality with the opening of the free-agency market, when the Czech player, who has played 981 of his 998 NHL games in Montreal, accepted a one-year offer from the Canadiens valued at $2.25 million.
"That was my priority," Plekanec declared when he addressed the media later on Sunday. "I wanted to come back, and I'm really happy to be back.
"I had other offers, but I waited to see if Marc [Bergevin] was interested."
Plekanec is set to play his 1000th NHL game with the team that drafted him - if all goes well - on October 6 in Pittsburgh.
"When you get drafted, when you're young, you never think about playing 1,000 games in the NHL, never mind almost all of them with the same team," he added. "I'm really happy about that, but above all, I'm excited to get back to the playoffs with this team."
Video: Tomas Plekanec's message to Habs fans
The Kladno native is confident that the team he left briefly for a four-month stint down the 401 will be able to rebound after a rough season.
"Lots of young prospects are coming up. Even on the team right now, there are several talented young players," affirmed Plekanec, who believes the Habs will be in the fight for a playoff spot next year. "With the experience they got last year, with the year we had, they're already better players for it.
"I believe we can turn things around quickly and that we'll be back in the playoffs."
That said, the team will have to be ready to go from Day 1 of camp if it wants to have a better outcome than it did in 2017-18.
"The first thing we need to change when we get to camp is that it shouldn't be a training camp," outlined the 35-year-old forward. "For us, it has to be like the start of the regular season.
"If we have that mindset from the beginning, we can have a better start to the season and the guys will be more confident than last year."
As for what kind of a role he'll play on the team, Plekanec leaves that totally in the hands of his bench boss.
"We'll see what Claude has in mind, with the lineup we're going to have. I'm ready to do whatever Claude asks of me," concluded Plekanec. "I'm really excited."
Video: Tomas Plekanec on returning to Montreal