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Canadiens 'better team now' with Shea Weber

Coach Michel Therrien endorses deal that sent P.K. Subban to Predators in swap of defensemen

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

TERREBONNE, Quebec -- For the first time since the Montreal Canadiens acquired Shea Weber in a trade for P.K. Subban on June 29, coach Michel Therrien spoke publicly about the offseason of change.

"It was a tough decision," Therrien said Tuesday. "To be honest, it was a tough decision because we all know what P.K. brings to this team and for this city, but at the end of the day, we all figured that with the experience that Shea Weber's got, the Montreal Canadiens are a better team now."

The Canadiens will have a distinctly different look the next time Therrien is behind the bench. First of all, Subban is gone, traded to the Nashville Predators.

"When you've got an opportunity to get a guy like Shea Weber, you've got to really think about it," Therrien said. "And the price to pay for having an All-Star defenseman, who won gold medals, who's got a really important role for Team Canada, with all the respect this guy's got in the NHL, tough guy to play against, he's at the peak of his career -- you can't forget that this guy was the best defenseman in the NHL on the power play, scoring 14 goals -- those are tough decisions."

Video: Therrien on the addition of Weber

The Canadiens finished last season sixth in the Atlantic Division with 82 points. Goalie Carey Price was limited to 12 games because of injuries and did not play after spraining the MCL in his right knee on Nov. 25, but the 2014-15 Hart and Vezina trophy winner is expected to be back in the lineup, along with newcomers Weber, Andrew Shaw and Alexander Radulov.

"Carey, he's 100 percent," Therrien said. "That's great news for us. We can't forget how much we missed him last year, not only in the goal, but we're talking about leadership. And we're glad that he's 100 percent and he's going to be able to play."

Price and Weber will play for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 next month. They were teammates when Weber won his second straight Olympic gold medal for Canada in Sochi in 2014.

"Our fans know Weber was a good player and now they're going to start to pay more attention to him, and we're looking forward to that tournament to see how our guys are going to play," Therrien said.

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, who will play for Team USA at the World Cup, was among the players who took part in Therrien's golf tournament, joining teammates Weber and Shaw.

Video: Pacioretty on leadership and the new additions

Other Montreal players who will compete in the World Cup include center Tomas Plekanec, who will play for Team Czech Republic, and defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Yemeli, who will play for Team Russia.

Radulov is not on Team Russia's roster despite finishing second in the Kontinental Hockey League with 65 points (23 goals, 42 assists) in 53 games with CSKA Moscow last season.

"As soon as we signed him, I looked at his highlights on YouTube, and I got goose bumps because this guy's one of the most skilled players in the world and I'm really excited to play with him," Pacioretty said.

The 30-year-old Russian forward signed a one-year contract reportedly worth $5.75 million with Montreal on July 1 to return to the NHL for the first time since his second stint with the Nashville Predators, in 2011-12.

"I think he's got a lot to prove," said Weber, who was Radulov's teammate in Nashville. "And I talked to him probably three weeks ago, maybe a month ago now, and he's looking forward to it. He's very excited, and I know he's got a family now, so hopefully he's here for the right reasons. I think he's a guy that can make a difference. He's a game-breaker, and playing with him you know that he's a top-end talent and definitely a good piece for our team."

Therrien said the June 24 trade with the Chicago Blackhawks that acquired Shaw (a forward) for two second-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft addressed two of his concerns heading into the season.

"There's a few areas that we wanted to get better, a little bit more grit, more aggressiveness in the way we play," Therrien said. "I think we're aggressive with our speed and we want to bring some presence. A guy like Shaw, we all know, he's really well-respected in the NHL because he's like [Brendan] Gallagher. He's demanding, he goes hard to the net and he's capable to bring his game in the playoffs to another level. He won two Stanley Cups. We've got tons of respect for him and we like the way he plays, so to bring those two for sure we felt that we're a little bit different hockey team than the one we were last year and we like the direction that we're going."

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