MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens say they are not throwing in the towel on the season even though the team unloaded a pair of veterans ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
"We are not giving up," centre Tomas Plekanec said Saturday, a day after general manager Marc Bergevin sent wingers Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischman to the Chicago Blackhawks for Phillip Danault and a 2018 second-round draft pick.
"You want to win every game," said coach Michel Therrien. "We have developed a winning culture here in the last few years and that’s not going to change."
However, the Canadiens’ prospects of making the playoffs look bleak. They need to climb past five teams just to grab the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Danault, 23, is a mainly defensive centre who has one goal and four assists in 32 NHL games. He was expected to make his Canadiens debut Saturday night against the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Therrien called him a "responsible" player.
"He’s a young player making his (NHL) debut this year," he said. "They really liked him in Chicago.
"He’s got a bright future and we’re going to work with him."
The six-foot 200-pound Danault was not a big scorer in junior hockey with his hometown Victoriaville Tigres, but picked up 23 goals in 2010. That same season, he was named the league’s top defensive forward and played for Canada at the 2011 world junior championship.
Danault was selected 26th overall by Chicago in the 2011 draft. He has played mostly in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs the last three seasons, posting 20 goals and 46 assists in 153 games.
The trade may have been Montreal’s last move before the deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Monday. Weise and Fleischman are both eligible to become unrestricted free agents on July 1 and were expected to be dealt.
The Canadiens would likely have traded Tom Gilbert, also an impending free agent, but the veteran defenceman is out for the season with an injury.
The deal left injury-riddled Montreal short of bodies, so they called up big centre Michael McCarron and defenceman Morgan Ellis from AHL St. John’s.
Note: Therrien said goalie Carey Price worked out in equipment for a second day and that the team’s medical staff said it went well. Price has been out with a lower body injury since Nov. 25.