BOSTON - Rinat Valiev is more than a little happy to have joined the Canadiens.
The young defenseman, who met up with the team on Saturday in Boston, met the Montreal media for the first time since being acquired on February 25 as part of the trade that sent veteran center Tomas Plekanec to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Valiev, 22, had time to play an AHL game for the Laval Rocket - he collected an assist - before being called up by the Habs to make up for the loss of Victor Mete who, it was announced on Monday, would be out six weeks with a fracture to a finger.
"I'm obviously very excited to be here," said the rearguard, who was all smiles after the Canadiens practiced at Agganis Arena, home of the Boston University Terriers, on Monday morning. "We just practiced, and it went really well."
The Russian was not all that surprised to learn he'd be moving on to another team after playing in only 10 games for the Maple Leafs - all of them during the 2015-16 season. Valiev is still looking for his first career NHL point.
"I was expecting to be traded. I was talking about it, so I wasn't so surprised," he recalled, adding that he couldn't really put a finger on the reasons why things didn't work out for him in Hogtown. "It's tough to say, especially when you're trying to make the NHL. There were a lot of talented players. I'm not really thinking about the past right now. I'm focusing on the present and on what's happening here."
With the Canadiens, Valiev is reunited with his good friend Nikita Scherbak, as well as several other familiar faces he remembers playing against in the American Hockey League, like Noah Juulsen.
Hopefully for Valiev, his arrival in Montreal will have marked a turning point in his career.
"It's for sure a big step in my career. These are positive signs and I'm excited to experience it," outlined Valiev, who recorded 15 points (5G, 10A) in 40 games with the Leafs' AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, this season. "I want to bring my best game, just try to move the puck. We want to win some games."
Valiev still doesn't know if he'll be in uniform for Tuesday night's contest against the Devils in New Jersey, but one thing is for sure: he be very excited for the moment he'll get to put that uniform on.