Revisiting Departed Canadiens Players From 2020-21 Team

Given the Montreal Canadiens’ well-documented struggles through the first quarter of the 2021-22 season, there’s no time like the present to reminisce about happier times and check in on the players who, this past summer, helped the Habs reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993, but who have since moved on to new teams during an eventful offseason that saw a lot of roster turnover.  

Phillip Danault

There’s no doubt that head coach Dominique Ducharme would love to still have Phillip Danault on his bench every night, especially when considering how thin Montreal is at centre right now and with Christian Dvorak still trying to find his footing.

Phillip Danault, Los Angeles Kings
After six seasons with the Canadiens, Phillip Danault is now a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
(Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Following a stellar playoff performance shutting down the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Mark Stone, Danault decided to sign a lucrative six-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings. He has put up nine points in 19 games so far, but more than that he is being used in all situations and has proven to be the perfect complement to Anze Kopitar down the middle. The Kings’ captain appears rejuvenated in response to the reduced workload and with 18 points in 19 games, his offensive production is the biggest benefactor.

While Danault indicated during the offseason that he was ready to move on after six years with the Habs, one can’t help but wonder if general manager Marc Bergevin regrets not trying harder to re-sign him back when he first made him an offer last summer. He received a well-deserved ovation during his first game back at the Bell Centre as a member of the Kings.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Jesperi Kotkaniemi wasn’t supposed to be on this list, but the Carolina Hurricanes had other plans. Their $6.1 million offer sheet plucked the former no. 3 overall pick from the Habs and pushed Bergevin to acquire Christian Dvorak from the Arizona Coyotes.

Related: A Look at Canadiens’ 2021-22 Season Through Bergevin’s Perspective

The 21-year-old started on the wing in Carolina and is currently their fourth-line centre. He wasn’t seeing the ice much early on but has seen his ice time increase of late which has resulted in three points over the last four games to give him six on the season. He also scored in his return to Montreal.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens
Jesperi Kotkaniemi signed an offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes in the offseason.
(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Time will tell if the decision to let him go was the right one and while Kotkaniemi would have had a larger role with the Habs this season than the one he has now, being part of a winning team while also playing for Rod Brind’Amour certainly has its benefits.  

Corey Perry

Losing Corey Perry in free agency to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team they just lost to in the Stanley Cup Final, was a tough blow for the Canadiens and their fans who very much embraced him and the intangibles he brought to the table during his short tenure in Montreal. Bergevin did offer Perry a new contract, but he opted to return south of the border for family reasons.

Related: Canadiens Need to Sell to Make Way for Youth

The 36-year-old veteran hasn’t had the same impact in Tampa just yet, but he did score his first goal of the season earlier this week against the Philadelphia Flyers. There’s no doubt though that Perry is more concerned about helping Tampa Bay win a third consecutive championship and adding a second Stanley Cup to his trophy case than his personal statistics.

Corey Perry Tampa Bay Lightning
Corey Perry, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Habs could really use his leadership right now to help them navigate the awful slump they’re in.

Tomas Tatar

Like Danault and Perry, Tomas Tatar also left town in free agency this summer, signing a two-year deal with the quickly improving New Jersey Devils following three productive seasons with the Canadiens playing alongside Danault and Brendan Gallagher on of the most effective lines in the league during that time. Not bad for a player who was the throw-in piece in the Max Pacioretty for Nick Suzuki trade with the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tatar has nine points in 18 games this year surrounded by a lot of young, budding talent in New Jersey. After being a healthy scratch for the majority of the postseason and with some of the organization’s top forward prospects continuing to push for permanent roster spots in Montreal, there wasn’t much room for Tatar going forward. He was essentially replaced by Mike Hoffman who has been one of the Canadiens’ few pleasant surprises despite his injury woes, but that doesn’t mean that Gallagher isn’t missing his former linemate.

Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils
Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Meanwhile, Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill, two of Bergevin’s trade deadline acquisitions last season, have found new homes with the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild, respectively. Gustafsson is in his second stint with Chicago after scoring 60 points for them in 2018-19 and Merrill already has seven points in 20 games with Minnesota. For his part, Eric Staal, Bergevin’s third deadline addition, is eyeing a return to the NHL while he continues to skate daily.

While none of these departed players likely could significantly alter Montreal’s fate, which appears to already be sealed for this season, if they were still with the team, it was fun to reminisce about the roles they had in one of the most memorable and unexpected playoff runs in franchise history.

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