Dale Weise thrilled to return to Canadiens

NHL-Canadiens-Weise-shoots-against-Avalanche

Montreal Canadiens right winger Dale Weise, back, fires a shot against the Colorado Avalanche. (David Zalubowski/AP)

MONTREAL — Dale Weise is going back to the team he enjoyed his best NHL seasons with.

It was on Saturday morning that the Montreal Canadiens traded defenceman David Schlemko and forward Byron Froese to the Philadelphia Flyers for Weise and 28-year-old defenceman Christian Folin.

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Froese, who served as Laval’s captain, didn’t appear in a game for the Canadiens this season, while Weise and Schlemko, who are the key pieces in the deal, were being paid near-identical salaries to play for minor-league affiliates, with both owning contracts set to expire in the summer of 2020.

Both players were hoping for a change of scenery, both represented by agent Allain Roy, and the Flyers and Canadiens proved to be ideal trade partners to make that happen.

“It feels absolutely surreal,” Weise said when contacted by Sportsnet. “It’s just crazy. I don’t even know what to feel right now. The first time I got traded to Montreal it was a dream come true, and ever since I left I just haven’t felt like the same player. My emotion–it just hasn’t felt the same since I left. To come back now, it just feels so surreal. I’m so excited. This is where I’ve always wanted to be; the team, the fans, the ownership, the coaches, just everything, it’s everything I want to be a part of.”

Weise, who cleared waivers on Jan. 16, will report to the AHL’s Laval Rocket for the time being, but expect him to join the Canadiens in short order. They’ve been exploring different depth options on the trade market at forward, and despite three mostly down years with the Flyers, he qualifies as an upgrade to their fourth line.

From 2014-16, after the 30-year-old Winnipeg native was traded to Montreal from the Vancouver Canucks, Weise scored 27 goals and 59 points with the Canadiens. More pertinently, he scored five goals and five assists in 28 playoff games.

With the Canadiens firmly in a position with 27 games remaining in the regular season — they’re currently in third place in the Atlantic Division and eight points up on the Carolina Hurricanes, who are sitting just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture — Weise’s low-cost acquisition fits with their plan. Getting some defensive depth in Folin, who will report to the NHL squad, only helps.

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The Flyers retained close to 19 per cent of Folin’s $800,000 salary, and the Canadiens made room for him on their roster by placing defenceman Karl Alzner on waivers.

The 28-year-old registered two helpers in 26 games this season with Philadelphia.
A corresponding move to make room for Weise could be in the offing. Canadiens coach Claude Julien has been tinkering with his fourth line since the season began and is looking for a combination of players he can put on the ice more regularly.

“We want to play a fast game, we want to be on teams,” Julien said after Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell Centre. “If you shorten your bench, you can never keep that momentum and that pace going.”

Weise’s experience gives him an edge on players like Kenny Agostino and Matthew Peca, who will both be scratched from Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I’m going to go down to Laval and do what I do,” said Weise. “I’m going to be a good teammate, be a good leader down there, and I’m going to earn my way up. I’ll be ready when I get the opportunity.”

He scored just 17 goals and 34 points in 152 games with the Flyers, but Weise feels this opportunity with the Canadiens will rejuvenate him.

“I think it’s amazing — from where they were last year (28th place) to where they are this year,” he said. “I haven’t watched a lot of hockey myself this year, but the times I have watched them (I see) they’re a quick team. Any time you have Carey Price in the net you have a chance to win every night, and I really like their team. It’s a fast team, they get contributions from everybody, and I’m just happy to get the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Schlemko leaves the Canadiens after having appeared in just 55 games following his trade to the team from the Golden Knights in the summer of 2017. Over that time, he missed several games due to injury and was made a healthy scratch on several occasions. The defenceman split time between Montreal and Laval this season, tallying two assists in 18 games with the Canadiens, along with four points in eight games with the Rocket.

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