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The Montreal Canadiens are building with Maple Leafs castoffs

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When people said to rebuild like the Leafs, they didn’t mean this...

NHL: Preseason-Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens
Rychel is now fighting to protect that net
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens are in a bit of a pickle. They have two players locked into major contracts — Shea Weber is signed with a $7.8m cap hit and Carey Price is locked up at $10.5 cap hit until 2026.

The rest of the team? Looking like the 2014 Maple Leafs. So, what’s a team to do? They’re too deep into the #1D and goalie to do a full rebuild, and they can’t tank, or it’s almost $20 million wasted each season. They need a quick rebuild, and they’re going about it in a peculiar way: Signing and trading for the castoffs of the Maple Leafs.

Example one: Kerby Rychel made his Montreal Canadiens debut this weekend, and Rinat Valiev played up with the big club as well. Both players were acquired in exchange for Tomas Plekanec at the trade deadline. Valiev was called up to the Leafs but never played a game, and played 10 games in 15-16 when the Leafs were trying to lose. Rychel never played for the Leafs at all, being passed over time and time again for other forwards on the Marlies.

Example two: Nikita Korostelev was a 2015 7th round pick for the Leafs and became a free agent this past summer when the Leafs chose not to sign him. After his overage season in Peterborough ended, the Canadiens farm team, the Laval Rocket, signed the winger who was deemed not good enough to get a Marlies two-way deal and end up with the Orlando Solar Bears.

Example three: Byron Froese signed with the Marlies, leaving the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones in January 2015. He would split most of the next two seasons between the Maple Leafs and the Marlies — only being a Leaf while they were actively tanking (sense a pattern?) He would sign with the Habs in the 2017 off-season, start the year as captain of the Laval Rocket and is currently playing with the Canadiens.

It’s only four players across two teams, but it’s looking a little bit like they’re jealous of the Leafs and want to look more and more like us. To help them out, I’ve made a list of other players who will never make the Maple Leafs.

Nolan Vesey

The University of Maine forward is set to become a free agent this summer, and there’s been no whispers about him joining the Leafs or Marlies this year. Rumours are that the Leafs only drafted him (and hired his dad) to try and woo brother Jimmy Vesey to the team. With James on the Rangers, it looks like Nolan’s set to go off on his own.

Frederik Gauthier

The 2013 1st round pick is set to become an RFA this off-season and he’s been pulling fourth line duty in the AHL this year, so a re-sign isn’t looking too good. If he’s made available to the Habs via trade or free agency he may be a popular choice to bring over. A big, former first round pick francophone centre would play well with the papers and buy Bergevin some much needed good will. Until the season starts anyway.

Stephen Desrocher

The former Leafs pick saw his rights expire, and after leaving the Kingston Frontenacs, he was last playing at the University of Western Ontario. An ELC waved in front of his face may make him think about leaving school. He’s a left shooting defender who has a slightly frenchish name and is a well liked guy — good in the room, you know?

Matt Martin

Okay, he’s still a Leaf but hasn’t played much since the calendar turned to 2018. After July 1st he’s paid little in actual cash and has that strong dressing room personality that the Habs like — Pacioretty is talked about in trades and Subban was supposedly let go for lack of it. Give Lou a call on July 2nd, Marc, and bring your late round picks.

The Canadiens are going to be a fun team to watch the next few seasons. Not for Canadiens fans, but for everyone else, especially Leafs fans who would like to find where long lost prospects ended up.

Get ready to play a whole season of “oh yeah, that guy” next year.