MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens are showing enforcer Georges Laraque the door and the emotional tough guy says it was a classless move given the emotional toll of everything that's going on in Haiti.
General manager Bob Gainey said Thursday that Laraque will receive the remainder of his US$1.5-million salary for this season and will remain on the roster, meaning the Canadiens can only carry a maximum of 22 players the rest of the season.
Gainey met with Laraque prior to the Canadiens' practice Thursday and gave him the news.
"I told him that he would not be continuing as part of our group for the rest of this season, for reasons of lack of productivity and distractions to our group. We felt our goals were more achievable to continue without him as part of the group."
Laraque was in the second year of a three-year, $4.5-million contract that included a no movement clause, which means the Canadiens could not place him on waivers or send him down to the American Hockey League.
That would have allowed Montreal to remove the remaining portion of Laraque's salary from its salary cap figure.
Gainey would not confirm whether or not the Canadiens will buy out the final year of Laraque's contract at the end of the season.
Laraque will speak to the media later Thursday.
Gainey said he gave Laraque an offer Wednesday to give him a leave of absence so he could deal with the situation in Haiti, either by being with his family or by going to the devastated country to help with the recovery. Gainey said Laraque refused the offer, saying everything was fine.
Laraque's time in Montreal has been plagued by injuries, playing just 61 games over the last two seasons and scoring his only goal as a Hab last week in a win over the Dallas Stars.
But Laraque's role was not to score goals, it was to be an enforcer and, as Gainey said, to make "players feel more at ease on the ice." Laraque had four fighting majors this season and 13 in 61 games since signing with the Canadiens, according to hockeyfights.com.
He often spoke of a "code" he had to follow as an enforcer that didn't allow him to simply fight anyone.
"I don't have a copy of Georges' code, I don't know what it is," Gainey said. "I think the code is that you're here for your teammates. It's not your code, it's our code."
At the Canadiens boutique at the Bell Centre, T-shirts and jerseys with Laraque's number 17 had already been put aside for quick sale.
Fans who were milling about the Canadiens home rink during the lunch hour described Laraque as a nice guy who was involved in the community, but largely ineffective on the ice and overpaid to be sitting in the press box.
"He didn't play a style of game that went with the style of game of the coach," said Martin Beaulieu.
Another fan dismissed the notion that the organization showed poor form in cutting Laraque as he deals with the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti.
"Haiti is Haiti and hockey is hockey," said Claudy Joseph. "If they felt like he wasn't doing anything for the team, then it's there decision to make."
But Joseph, a Haitian cab driver, noted that the tough guy was immensely popular among local Haitians. And he did bring something to the fold, both on and off the ice.
"Laraque was always ready to lend a hand when they needed him to," Joseph said.