Former Montreal Canadiens to Follow in the Playoffs

EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 09: Artturi Lehkonen #62 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Rogers Place on April 9, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 09: Artturi Lehkonen #62 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Edmonton Oilers during the first period at Rogers Place on April 9, 2022 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /
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The Atlantic Division

We will start close to home, in the Montreal Canadiens own division. There might not be too many overlapping players, since teams tend to avoid trading to divisional rivals, and the Atlantic also holds bitter rivals Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.

But every team has made a deal with every other team (minus the Seattle Kraken, naturally), and free agency exists. I probably won’t sway anyone to the Bruins’ or Leafs’ side, but maybe we can look on the bright side if one of those teams win the Stanley Cup. God help us all if that happens.

Florida Panthers

Let’s start with the President’s Trophy winners. The best Panthers team to ever exist will be hungry for playoff success, something rarely found in the much maligned franchise. Especially after last year, where a very good Panthers team got bounced out in the first round by eventual Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ben Chiarot

Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

This one’s easy, since Ben Chiarot is one of the most recently moved Canadien. He was traded just before the trade deadline this year for quite the haul. A first round pick, a fourth round pick, and prospect Ty Smilanic.

It was tough to see Chiarot go, but it was necessary. Chiarot was having a career year in Montreal this year, and essentially played his way out of town, but in the good way. And the haul was just too good to pass up.

Ben Chiarot wasn’t the longest tenured Canadien, in fact, he is one of the last Atlanta Thrashers draft picks to play in the league. When Atlanta moved north to Winnipeg, Chiarot followed and made his NHL debut with the Jets.

Over 5 seasons with the Jets, Chiarot made his name as a stay-at-home defenseman. A big, physical, unimpressively offensive defender. A.K.A Marc Bergevin’s dream in a defender.

When entering free agency, Chairot was quickly snapped up by Bergevin and the Canadiens. And he proved them right for signing him by producing better than he ever had in Winnipeg.

Together with Shea Weber, Chiarot formed one of the most physically domineering defensive pairs in the entire league. Especially during the playoffs, where the rules are slackened and defenders can get away with a lot more.

Chiarot especially gained notoriety these past two playoffs, forming ‘The Trident’ and ‘The Clydesdales’ as the strong physical backbone to Montreal’s postseason success. Something the Florida Panthers hope he will bring to their high-octane offensive team this year.

Chiarot is having the best season of his career offensively, with 9 goals and 26 points.

Why To Follow Them

And that is it for former Montreal Canadiens on the Florida Panthers. However, if you want to back a winning horse, there aren’t many teams better than the Panthers. And facing a Washington Capitals team that has struggled in the playoffs as of late, its a good bet that the Panthers will go far.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Is this the year that the Toronto Maple Leafs finally make it out of the first round of the playoffs? Against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning, it will be tough, but not impossible.

Michael Bunting

Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

That’s right! A Montreal Canadien might still win the Calder Trophy! Okay, former Montreal Canadien might be a stretch. He never played a game in Montreal, and wasn’t even picked by the Canadiens, but he is technically a Montreal Canadiens draft pick.

Just before the 2014 NHL draft, the Montreal Canadiens struck a deal with the Arizona Coyotes to move up in the draft. The Canadiens traded their 3rd round pick, 87th overall, and their 4th round pick, 117th overall to acquire the Coyotes’ 3rd round pick, 73rd overall.

The Canadiens ended up selecting Brett Lernout. Lernout has played just 21 games in the NHL, all with the Habs, and has since bounced around the AHL. Arizona’s third round pick was Anton Karlsson, a player who never made it over to North America and is playing in Austria right now.

However, that fourth round pick was Michael Bunting. Bunting never found his footing in Arizona, playing more often with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL, but has since signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and scored 23 goals and 63 points in 79 games.

It definitely does help that he gets ice time with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but he remains the favorite for the Calder, despite cooling off his production late in the year.

Why To Follow Them

It may seem sacrilegious, but if the Toronto Maple Leafs win their series against the Lightning, it might be one of the most cathartic series wins of all time. And if they don’t win it will be undeniably the lowest of lows. Follow Toronto and there’s no in-between.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The two-time reigning champs are back at it again, and they have a serious chance of going the distance once again. Any team with Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman will have a strong chance at the Cup. And that’s just the big names. Tampa radically overhauled their bottom 6, and haven’t missed a beat. They will look to come out strong against a possibly fragile Toronto Maple Leafs team.

Corey Perry

Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

This one stings. Especially considering that the team was just a few months and a management change away from probably resigning Corey Perry.

You love him on your team, you hate him on everyone else’s. That’s been Perry’s modus operandi for his long and prosperous career in the NHL. Tenacious physically, but with a deft scoring touch with the puck on his stick, Perry often toed the line between clean and dirty, and has been known to cross right over it on occasion.

But with age comes wisdom, at least in some part. Perry was still his pest-like self in Montreal, but never got into much trouble with the league. He more brought a Stanley Cup winning pedigree and 15 years of NHL experience to a young team.

In fact, it was said that Perry and Eric Staal were the ones that lead the Canadiens in the locker room to that amazing 3-1 comeback series win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was part of the massive loss of leadership in the past offseason (along with Staal, Price and Weber), and if he had stayed with the team as he wished, I would not be surprised if he was wearing a letter this year.

And this year, Perry proved that he still has plenty left in the tank. Perry has always been hardy, but at 36 years old, Corey Perry played all 82 games of the season, while scoring 19 goals and 40 points. All while coming off a long postseason drive, a short offseason, and gearing up for another long playoff run this year.

Mikhail Sergachev

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

It is impossible to talk about Mikhail Sergachev without discussing Jonathan Drouin. Ever since that day, June 15th, 2017, where the two were traded along with a pair of conditional picks for each other.

Its pretty easy to see that the Tampa Bay Lightning came out on top with this one, no matter how optimistic you are on Jonathan Drouin, which admittedly, I guess I am, considering the reactions to this article.

Sergachev has been a stalwart feature on the back end of the elite Tampa Bay defense. He has often found himself on the second or third pairing, not because of his play, just because the Tampa Bay defense is just that good.

Even on the third pairing, Sergachev has put up between 30-40 points, and has played on the powerplay. Sounds nice, compared to Montreal’s defensive first back end, but that is all in the past now.

Ryan McDonagh

Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

Okay, I will keep this brief. There seemed to be a time where not many people knew that Ryan McDonagh was once a Montreal Canadiens draft pick; but now the deal is seen as one of the worst in recent memory, and for good reason.

In 2009, Montreal traded McDonagh, Doug Janik, Chris Higgins and Pavel Valentenko for Scott Gomez, Michael Busto and Tom Pyatt.

All things considered, without the trade I mean, Montreal had one of the best drafts ever in 2007. They drafted McDonagh and Pacioretty in the first round, and then P.K. Subban in the second round.

McDonagh became a defensive force in New York, and became the Rangers’ captain in 2014. He never put up impressive offensive numbers, but that wasn’t his job. He scored an outlying 14 goals in 2013-14, and has topped 40 points 3 times. But every year in the NHL, McDonagh has finished with a positive +/-, a testament to his stout defensive play.

Now as a member of the Lightning, McDonagh has started to slow, but still provides good defense on the bottom 6 of a stacked Lightning team.

Why To Follow Them

The Tampa Bay Lightning are a proven winner, and possibly have one foot in the second round already for facing Toronto in the first round. If Tampa wins another Cup, they will be right up there with some of the best dynasties in history, considering this is the salary cap era. Follow Tampa for the pedigree.

Boston Bruins

It is kind of crazy how long the Boston Bruins have been good. Ever since winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, the Bs have always seemed to be in the conversation for a deep playoff run. That’s over 10 years ago. This seems like it might be the last hurrah for Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and the team as a whole, as age has to catch up to them eventually (right?).

Mike Reilly

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Mike Reilly had an almost blink-and-you’ll-miss-it career in Montreal. He was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011, but played his first game as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild. The Wild then sent him to Montreal for a fifth round pick (Matvey Guskov) in 2018. Montreal traded him to Ottawa in 2020 for Andy Sturtz and a fifth round pick, so that’s at least an improvement. And then Ottawa got a 3rd round pick from Boston for him.

Reilly was always a fringe player in almost all of his NHL career. The most games he played in a season in Montreal was 57 in 2018-19, and while he occasionally showed flashes of offensive flair, but never enough to stay on the roster full time.

But he seems to have found his niche in Boston this year. He played 70 games, scored 4 goals and 17 points. That is the most goals he has scored in a year, and just 2 points less than his highest point total. He is signed for $3 million for 2 more years which is pricey for what he is, but it is great that he has a found himself a full time NHL position.

Why To Follow Them

And that is also it for the Boston Bruins. Again, bitter rivals don’t trade with each other very often, so there aren’t many overlaps here. Follow the Bruins for a big underdog story against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round.