Plekanec traded to Maple Leafs by Canadiens
Baun sent to Toronto; Rychel, Valiev, draft pick go to Montrealby Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent
TORONTO -- Tomas Plekanec, traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs by the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday, is looking forward to competing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but admitted it will be an adjustment to wear a different jersey.
Plekanec, who has spent his entire NHL career with the Canadiens since they selected him in the third round (No. 71) of the 2001 NHL Draft, and forward Kyle Baun were traded Sunday for forward Kerby Rychel, defenseman Rinat Valiev and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft.
"It was out of my hands," Plekanec said. "It's obviously a little bit special, but these days those things happen, it's a business. I'm very excited to join the Maple Leafs, it's a great organization, a really big fan base. The team is playing really well this year, and I'm really excited and looking forward to the playoffs with this team."
Plekanec, a 35-year-old center, has 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 60 games this season. He said he was not surprised by the trade after being held out of the Canadiens lineup in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
"I expected (the trade), I was scratched from last night's game so usually expect things like that to happen," Plekanec said. "I got a call from [Canadiens general manager] Marc (Bergevin) and later on from [Maple Leafs GM] Lou (Lamoriello), and that was about it."
Montreal (23-29-9, 55 points) trails the Columbus Blue Jackets by 12 points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
"It was definitely different to go out there and not see him in the lineup, it's something no one's used to," Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty said Saturday. "We should all feel responsible for being in this position, and we do."
Plekanec said he received a text message from Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak, his teammate on Team Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, welcoming him to Toronto. Plekanec has 605 points (232 goals, 373 assists) in 981 regular-season games during 14 NHL seasons and 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 87 playoff games.
"It's been 15 years in the organization, even more," Plekanec said. "It's my home now, I have two kids now who basically speak French, they go to French schools. I can't say enough good things about the Montreal Canadiens organization, about the city of Montreal and as a family. We loved it. There's so many memories, right now it's kind of too hectic to go through all of them."
Plekanec will travel to Toronto for a medical evaluation before joining the Maple Leafs, who play the Lightning at Amalie Arena on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; TVAS, SUN, SNO, NHL.TV). He said he probably expects to be in the lineup and that he will likely wear No. 19. The No. 14 he wore with the Canadiens was retired by the Maple Leafs in honor of Dave Keon on Oct. 15, 2016.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien spoke highly of Plekanec on Saturday.
"He's the ultimate pro," Julien said. "He comes to the rink and he's there early, he prepares, he practices hard and he's focused. You know, he's a quiet guy who's got a good personality, he gets along with everybody, is well respected. He really takes pride in the game without the puck and he's one of those guys that we've pushed a little bit to bring some offense, because he definitely cares more about getting scored on than scoring, but he's capable of doing both. So I think when you look back at his stats and you look back at his durability and everything else, he's been a real good asset to this hockey club."
The Maple Leafs (39-20-5, 83 points) are second in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the Lightning.
"It's a very talented team with a bunch of really, really skilled guys" Plekanec said. "I'm looking forward to playing with those guys. I'll talk tomorrow more with the coaching staff about my role with the team and we'll go from there."
Plekanec, who can be an unrestricted free agent July 1, said he would be open to returning to the Canadiens next season.
"Yeah, possibly, definitely," Plekanec said. "We (Bergevin and I) touched on that."
The Maple Leafs' last trade with the Canadiens was when they sent defenseman Greg Pateryn and a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft to Montreal for forward Mikhail Grabovski on July 3, 2008.
Baun, 25, has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) for Laval of the American Hockey League.
Rychel, 23, was chosen by the Blue Jackets with the No. 19 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) for Toronto of the AHL. He was traded to the Maple Leafs by Columbus for defenseman Scott Harrington and a fifth-round pick in 2017 on June 25, 2016.
Valiev, 22, was a third-round pick (No. 68) of the Maple Leafs in 2014.