Montreal, QUEBEC — Hours after telling reporters at the NHL Entry Draft that he was content with his roster and not intending to be a big player in unrestricted free agency, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin elected to place 32-year-old forward Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau on waivers.
Parenteau, who was traded with a fifth-round pick to Montreal last summer for Daniel Briere, is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $4 million. Should he go unclaimed by noon Monday, it’s expected the Canadiens will buy out his contract. The club will carry a $1.33 million cap hit for Parenteau for each of the next two seasons after he is bought out.
“I did not see this coming,” Parenteau told La Presse’s Richard Labbé. “I found the news out from my agent [Allan Walsh, Octagon Hockey] on Saturday night. I didn’t speak with anyone within the Canadiens organization, and Marc Bergevin never intimated to me that this would be a possibility when we spoke at the end of the season.”
Parenteau’s production has declined steadily in each of the last four seasons. The Quebec native’s 22 points in 56 games with the Canadiens this year represented his lowest output since 2009-10, when he posted three goals and five assists in 22 games with the New York Rangers.
“Surely, I didn’t have the season I was expecting to have,” Parenteau admitted to La Presse. “Because of that, I can understand the Canadiens decision. It’s a business decision.”
It may be business, but it certainly seemed personal when Parenteau was attempting to return from a concussion suffered on January 2nd against the New Jersey Devils.
He came back prematurely for two games (January 14 and 15), but the lingering effects of his injury kept him out of action until March 2. Finally fit to play, he appeared in a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks and was then rendered a healthy scratch by head coach Michel Therrien for a series of games from early to mid-March.
Parenteau was reinserted for the final 15 games of the regular season directly after his agent’s outburst on Twitter. He recorded two goals and five assists over that stretch before an injury in Game 1 of Round 1 against the Ottawa Senators saw him sidelined for Game 2. He was deemed available for Game 3 but was kept out as a scratch until Game 6.
Parenteau then appeared in all six games between the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2, recording the winning goal in Game 5 to extend the series.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Parenteau regarding a potential buyout. “My only hope is to have a chance somewhere else [in the NHL].”
A career 11.8 percent shooter, Parenteau was well below that average at 8.2 percent in 2014-15. A team might see that anomaly and be tempted to claim him, or sign him for a significant discount once he’s been bought out.
Parenteau’s buyout will leave the Canadiens with $7.59 million on the cap to sort out contracts for restricted free agents Alex Galchenyuk, Jarred Tinordi, Brian Flynn, Michael Bournival and Christian Thomas, all of whom have received qualifying offers.
Forwards Drayson Bowman and Eric Tangradi were not extended qualifying offers by the Canadiens and are therefore set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.
While Bergevin might not be interested in the free agent market, speculation over the weekend had him linked to the Chicago Blackhawks, who are considering trading forwards Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Bryan Bickell.
The Canadiens had the 20th ranked offence in the League in 2014-15, and with a depth chart at right wing that now reads Brendan Gallagher, Dale Weise, Devante Smith-Pelley and Flynn, it’s hard to imagine Bergevin will remain idle.