In a season marked by disappointment and curious moves, the NHL's most decorated franchise was the talk of the league again on Thursday night when news broke that Michael Cammalleri had been traded to Calgary for René Bourque.
The teams also swapped a prospect and a pick in the deal, which Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier said was done to add size to the Montreal lineup. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Cammalleri had a tendency to play on the perimeter while Bourque, at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, is a drive-to-the-net player with a physical edge.
"We've been trying for all those weeks to try to get bigger up front," Gauthier told reporters following Thursday's loss to the Boston Bruins. "We felt as the season started that was one of the things [we needed]. We felt that if we want to improve the club, we need to be bigger up front.
"We need to score the goals that are not the fancy ones and not the outside shots. The outside shots don't go in anymore. It's the second chances, the third chances, the rebounds, the screen shots, the tip-ins. And the stats show it very clearly. And that's why Mr. Bourque was a very attractive player to us, because he scores most of his goals from the hard areas."
While the deal itself, which included a prospect and draft pick on both sides, came as a surprise, it was how it went down that garnered the most chatter.
Cammalleri was set to head out for the third period against the Bruins when general manager Pierre Gauthier pulled him aside. His absence on the bench raised eyebrows, even more so when revealed to be a team decision and that Cammalleri wasn't injured. Shortly thereafter, confirmation came that he was headed back to the Flames.
The timing was later explained, in part to do with the trade call and the Canadiens wanting one more game off Bourque's suspension before heading east.
Despite the unusual timing, it's nothing new for the Habs this season. It began with the firing of assistant coach Perry Pearn, announced just two hours before a puck drop, and Gauthier meeting with media while his team was on the ice for warm-ups. Then Jacques Martin was let go just ahead of a morning skate.
Bourque, who admitted to always wanting to play in Montreal, arrived in the city on Friday night and met his new teammates and media the next morning. Set to make his Canadiens debut on Sunday against the Rangers, he doesn't anticipate a letdown in his physical play, despite coming off a five-game suspension – his second ban in a month.
"It changes your perception," he said after Saturday's morning skate. "I'm not worried about it, I know what I've done and I'll learn from it."
The left-winger brings 13 goals to his new team, a total it hopes to see grow. Inconsistency has been a knock on Bourque's game, a label he wants to shed in Montreal.
"I'm working on it every game, I have to get better every game," he said. "This is a fresh start for me here; it's a clean slate. I'm looking to shed that reputation, I guess."
Despite a 3-1 record in their recently completed homestand, the Boston Bruins aren't pleased with the efforts they've put forth. "We need to be on top of our game, execution, and our decision making is something we put our focus on," coach Claude Julien told the team's website. "For a while, it hasn't been up to par to our expectations." That homestand was followed with Saturday's 4-2 loss in Carolina, where the Bruins gave up three goals in the final six minutes of regulation. ... Ottawa Senators winger Colin Greening will join his four already-named teammates at the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa. The 25-year-old, who qualifies as a rookie by virtue of only 24 NHL games played last season (one below the limit), will take part in the SuperSkills competition. "It'll be fun to have a lot of familiar faces there, but it's going to be nice to see all the other all-stars, too, and meet all the other rookies," he told ottawasenators.com. ... Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula isn't laying the blame on his team for its disappointing season but rather an injury-ravaged roster. "Forget about the season. I'm talking about the last 25 games. We've had 18 players go down," he told the Buffalo News. "It's like a merry-go-round every night. You look on the ice and what are your defensive pairs tonight? Hell, who knows? Who's healthy?" ... Rumors were swirling that Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn might be on the move, with speculation including a move to the Philadelphia Flyers for winger James van Riemsdyk. Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke denied any such talk. "We are not in trade discussion for Luke Schenn," he told media on Friday. "I told (Schenn) I can't guarantee him he won't be traded (if the right deal came along), but nothing's been offered. I don't know where the rumours started . . . but it's not happening."