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What they said: Player exit interviews

The Canadiens recap their 2016-17 season from Brossard

by Montreal Canadiens @canadiensmtl /

BROSSARD - Follow this page for player reactions on Monday, as the team addresses the media for the final time following its first round elimination.

[1:00 p.m.] PAUL BYRON

Video: Paul Byron on a career regular season

Paul Byron enjoyed a career regular season in 2016-17, becoming a 20-plus goal scorer for the first time since making his NHL debut with Buffalo in 2011.

But following an early exit from his first career playoffs, the speedy forward was left wondering what could have been on Monday.

"There's a feeling of disappointment. We had high expectations in this dressing room, but couldn't get the job done."

Nevertheless, the 27-year-old concluded his 2016-17 campaign with 22 regular season goals -- doubling his previous high of 11 -- in addition to potting his first postseason marker, scored in Game 2's win at the Bell Centre.

"It was a very good season [on a personal level]. A lot of opportunities for me, and everything went well. My teammates did a great job, and I'm happy I was able to share that success with them. Next year, I'll need to be even better," added Byron. "I think I still have more to offer to the team. I'm going to continue working hard to improve my offense, my shot, my skating, and my strength."

[12:45 p.m.] JORDIE BENN

Video: Jordie Benn on coming to Montreal

Acquired from the Dallas Stars just before the NHL trade deadline, Jordie Benn flourished while carving his niche as more than 'Jamie's brother' in Montreal.

"I get to be my own person here. Being Jamie Benn's brother, it's a bit of a shadow over there, so it's nice to come here and do my thing," explained the 29-year-old, who also dished on the differences between the hockey markets in Texas and Quebec.

"It was awesome. The city and the buzz around here, like I said, it's hockey heaven. It was an awesome experience, it was great coming here, I couldn't have come to a better city."

[12:25 p.m.] MAX PACIORETTY

Video: Max Pacioretty's end of season review

Few players felt the sting of the disappointing first round loss to the Rangers as strongly as captain Max Pacioretty. With the wounds still fresh after being held scoreless in six postseason games, the veteran sniper will head into the offseason more determined than ever.

"I'm motivated to come back just as I am every year when we don't achieve our ultimate goal. I'll be ready to come back and be ready to be a better player, a better teammate, and a better captain," confirmed Pacioretty. "We saw how special it is to win games in the playoffs in this city. We plan on working as hard as we can to get better from this."


Video: Brendan Gallagher on battling back from injury

A sparkplug for the Canadiens since he made his NHL debut in January 2013, Brendan Gallagher struggled offensively for the first time in his career this year, potting just 10 goals after being sidelined for a second-consecutive season with a broken hand. The 24-year-old assistant captain admits that adjusting to shooting with his rehabbed hand was difficult, but he hopes that finding the back of the net with a wicked wrister from just below the top of the circle in Game 5 against the Rangers was a sign of a rekindled scoring touch -- something he'll look to build on over the offseason.

Video: NYR@MTL, Gm5: Gallagher roofs PPG from the slot

"It was definitely frustrating to go through, having to deal with that in back-to-back seasons. It was a difficult part of my career, you could say, but you have to deal with it and you have to be able to move on. The more and more comfortable I got with my hand with the way it changed, the results started to come and I started to get better," explained Gallagher. "Everyone knows I like to be around the net and I like to do all that stuff. The D usually plays me pretty tight and they usually don't let you go there. If you can score from outside it just gives them something to think about. That was the frustrating part for a while, that I didn't feel like I had that in my game and I had to get so close to the net in order to score. When you can add that and get a little more comfortable with the shot, it felt better. I'll work on it in the summer and get more comfortable, but near the end of the year it felt pretty good."


Video: Alexander Radulov evaluates his return to the NHL

One of the hot topics in the Habs' dressing room during the final media op of the season was the contract status of pending unrestricted free agent Alexander Radulov, who signed a one-year deal on July 1 after spending the previous eight full seasons in the KHL - with a nine-game stint in Nashville in between. The Russian sniper confirmed that Montreal remains at the top of his list in terms of potential long-term suitors, but no formal talks have taken place.

"We understand each other. I'm really thankful to Marc [Bergevin] for giving me this opportunity to be back in the NHL to play in the best league. I like Montreal a lot, but there's nothing more I can tell you. I have to take it step-by-step. Eventually I'll talk to my agent and we'll take it from there. I want to have more than one year, obviously," confirmed Radulov.

"Before you're here you can't imagine how good it is to play here," he added. "It's an honor to play here. Those fans are so good to our team. They've been with us through the whole year and the playoffs were amazing, those three games at home. Even though we lost two of them, the fans were still there for us. It's something special."

 [11:45 a.m.] CAREY PRICE

Video: Carey Price on positives to build on

All-Star netminder Carey Price will finally have a chance to rest after kicking off the campaign by winning a World Cup championship with Team Canada before going on to post Vezina Trophy-caliber numbers throughout the regular season. The 29-year-old has elected not to participate in the World Championships and will instead spend some well-earned quality time with his family, including his almost-one-year-old daughter, Liv. While much of his exit interview with the media centered on his contract status - Price is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2017-18 season - he made sure to spend some time praising his teammates' performances.

"We've got a lot of character on this team, we've got great chemistry here. It was one of the most fun years I've had here, with this group of guys," confirmed Price, who just completed his 10th NHL season. "We've got a lot of guys who played well in the playoffs. A lot of the young players, like Lehky [Artturi Lehkonen], played so well in the playoffs. We have a bright future. You see guys are gaining experience, and every year you gain experience is great."

Price on Alex Galchenyuk : "He's a really good hockey player. He has all the tools. He's also gaining experience. He's still a really young player. He's been here for a while, but he's still a young player, he's got some things to learn, and I have no doubt he'll make the proper strides next season."

Price on Shea Weber : "We all know what Shea brings - that steadiness, that leadership. The style of coaching that Claude [Julien] brings is going to benefit me, too."

Price on Alexander Radulov : "Everybody knows how he plays. He plays hard, and he's a fun guy to hang out with. He's a character, and he made it fun to come to the rink every day."

[11:35 a.m.] NATHAN BEAULIEU

Video: Nathan Beaulieu on his role moving forward

Nathan Beaulieu has experienced his share of ups and downs in his career, having bounced between the AHL and NHL during his first three seasons as a pro. Despite having spent the entire season in Montreal for a second-straight year, Beaulieu still had a few setbacks over the course of the campaign, beginning the year on the team's top pairing alongside Shea Weber and finishing as a healthy scratch in Game 6 of the opening-round series against New York. Not one to be deterred, Beaulieu sees his most recent season as one to learn from and build on.

"I want to focus on the mental aspect a little more this year, how to handle the ups and downs and consistency," explained Beaulieu when asked what he'll be working on over the offseason, adding that he'll also work on his physicality and skill set. "The mental part plays a huge role in a lot of guys' careers. It's good to get on it early on in your career, so it's something I'm going to look at this summer."

 [11:25 a.m.] SHEA WEBER

Video: Shea Weber on his first season in Montreal

Assistant captain Shea Weber met with the media after wrapping his first season as a Hab. The stoic blue-liner discussed the team's truncated playoff run before lightening the mood with a little contract-related humor.

"I think [pending unrestricted free agent Alex Radulov] wants to stay, honestly. I think he likes it here a lot. He's obviously a big part of our team now, and we don't know what the summer's going to hold, but we'll continue to talk over the summer and I'll try my best. I'll see what I can do. If he doesn't come back, it's on me," joked Weber.

[11:20 a.m.] ANDREI MARKOV    

Video: Andrei Markov on wanting to remain a Hab

The elder statesman on the Canadiens at age 38, Andrei Markov has spent his entire 16-year NHL career in Montreal to date. Heading into the offseason as a pending unrestricted free agent, Markov doesn't know for sure where he'll start season No. 17, but he's hoping that when he heads home for the summer, he'll be booking a roundtrip flight.

"My first option is going to be Montreal; I'd like to stay here," confirmed the veteran assistant captain, who amassed 36 points in 62 games this year. "I've always been here, and I'd most probably like to finish my career here. We'll see what happens over the summer. My family likes the city, and I love the city. My priority is to finish here and to play here."

[10:46 a.m.] STEVE OTT

Video: Steve Ott on his experience in Montreal

Steve Ott played just 11 games with the Habs after being traded to Montreal in February, but he still managed to make his presence felt. Bringing his trademark sandpaper style to the ice every night, Ott finished second on the team in hits in the playoffs, with 25 in six games. While his performance sample size was small, the pending unrestricted free agent hoping it was enough to secure a spot in the lineup for next year.

"I really thoroughly enjoyed how passionate the fans are, how much they care about this team and the organization," said Ott, who has also suited up for Dallas, Buffalo, St. Louis, and Detroit in his career. "Just walking around and truly feeling special to be a Montreal Canadien was really neat. Not only to play in front of them at the Bell Centre was awesome, but the way organization is run from the top-down. It's a special, special place - and I've been to a lot of places. The way you're treated here is by far top-notch."


Video: Artturi Lehkonen reflects on his rookie season

With 17 goals and 28 points in 73 games, Artturi Lehkonen cemented his spot in the lineup with his veteran-like poise in 2016-17, despite his rookie status. Having spent the previous two seasons with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League, the 21-year-old forward arrived with more experience in his bag of tricks than most first-time NHLers, but he also received plenty of tips from the vets in the Habs dressing room that helped make his transition to North America a smooth one.

"It was a lot to learn, for sure, but the guys we have on the team took me in from the beginning of the season," shared Lehkonen, who finished second on the team with four playoff points in his inaugural NHL postseason. "They showed me how things are done, and that helped me a lot along the way. The longer the season went, the more I realized how important it was for me to get that guidance at the beginning of the year.

"It's still kind of early to say for the next season, but I know I want to get better," he added. "For sure, I know I can do better. I still have a lot of work to do in the summer to achieve the things that I want to do."

[10:20 a.m.] ALEX GALCHENYUK

Video: Alex Galchenyuk on his focus for next year

Despite heading into the offseason as a pending restricted free agent, Alex Galchenyuk hasn't spent much time worrying about signing on the dotted line. The first player to sit down with head coach Claude Julien for his exit interview before meeting the media, the 23-year-old forward was feeling confident about what lies ahead when he met with the media before heading home for the summer.

"Since Day 1 [Julien] was always positive with me. We've had a lot of great discussions, and even today we spoke well. He's been great," shared Galchenyuk, who registered 17 goals and 44 points in 61 games this season. "Honestly I don't think about contract stuff too much. I focus on what I have to do on the ice, and I'll let my agent handle the contract part and try not to think about it too much. I'll get some rest, refresh, and keep working hard for next year. I love this team, I love this city, I love the fans -- everything about Montreal, I love. It's an exciting place to play."

[10:15 a.m.] PHILLIP DANAULT

Video: Phillip Danault on his progression this season

Phillip Danault had a breakout 2016-17 campaign, amassing 40 points (13G, 27A) in his first full NHL season, spending half the year centering the top line between snipers Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov.

"I wasn't expecting that. I was fighting for a job at the beginning of the year," admitted the 24-year-old forward, who was drafted in the first round, 26th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011. "I started from the bottom. I was playing on the wing on the fourth line. Max and Radu were awesome with me. They're two amazing players who really showed me the way."

While Danault previously had a taste of NHL playoff hockey while a member of the "black aces" practice squad with the Hawks in 2015, the Victoriaville native got to see what the postseason is all about firsthand for the first time this spring.

"It was an unforgettable experience. I'll add that to my toolbox for sure," underlined Danault, who arrived in Montreal via trade in February 2015. "I'll use that experience in my career going forward. It will be useful to me and it was a great experience to have as a player."

[10:10 a.m.] TOMAS PLEKANEC

Video: Tomas Plekanec on the future of the organization

One of the first players out to speak to the media on Monday was Tomas Plekanec, who just completed his 13th NHL campaign. The veteran centerman addressed the highs and lows of the season that saw the Canadiens finish atop the Atlantic division before losing in the first round to the New York Rangers.

"It was frustrating," admitted Plekanec of his own personal productivity, having potted just 10 goals in 2016-17, his lowest offensive output since his rookie campaign. "I'm obviously disappointed. I should have been much better and I should have handled things a little bit better, but I tried to do my best. It doesn't always work the way you want it to.

"As a team, you have seasons where you score a lot of goals and you have seasons where you have trouble putting pucks to the net. We wanted to do more, we expected more, and we should have done better," he continued, before pointing to one of the major bright spots from the team's 47-win season. "A lot of young guys came up this year and played really well. I think the future looks pretty good for this organization."

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