With the departures of Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk this summer, Paul Byron has seen his stock rise in Montreal. After breaking out with a 43-point campaign in 2016-17, Byron was again a top forward for the Canadiens last season with 35 points and a second consecutive 20-goal season. While the team’s trades have brought in the likes of Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, Byron is now one of the elder statesmen in the Habs forward corps and will be looked upon to take another step forward this year. Byron underwent off-season shoulder surgery and is focused on working his way back to full strength in training camp, with the Canadiens certainly hoping that he will be fully prepared for the regular season. One way or another, Byron’s production in 2018-19 will play a major role in Montreal’s season. Some fans see the 28-year-old impending free agent going the way of Pacioretty and being shipped out of town before he can walk next off-season. Others see him as part of the team new core moving forward. The latter philosophy gained some credence today when Sportsnet’s Eric Engels spoke with Byron. Byron stated that his agent and GM Marc Bergevin have had preliminary extension talks, although he admitted that all parties are interested in how his shoulder recovery and resulting scoring ability pan out. Byron added “I want to stay, I think they want to keep me. Hopefully we’ll get something done soon.” It seems that perhaps the Habs are moving on from trading away core pieces and could look to keep a healthy Byron around beyond this season.
- While yesterday’s signing of Anders Lindback by HC Davos of the Swiss NLA is newsworthy enough – the veteran goaltender spent last year in the AHL and has 130 NHL games to his credit – the team’s reason for signing him will also have reverberations in the NHL. Davos was a playoff team in the NLA last season behind their young tandem of Gilles Senn, 22, and Joren van Pottelberghe, 21, and with both keepers still under contract, there was some question as to why the team felt the need to bring in a third goalie of Lindback’s pedigree. Swiss news source Tages Anzeiger reports that the age and performance of those goalies is the exact reason the team decided to move forward with a new starter. Both Senn and van Pottelberghe are NHL draft picks; Senn was selected as an overage player by the New Jersey Devils in the fifth round of 2017, while van Pottelberghe was taken by the Detroit Red Wings in the fourth round when first eligible in 2015. Given their success, Davos was unable to convince either to abandon their plan of making the jump to North America next season, after their current contracts end, to begin the next stage of their careers. Rather than be left without any experienced goalies heading into next season, Davos decided to sign Lindback to a one-year deal to see if he could instead be their long-term solution. If Lindback meets expectations this year, expect an extension sometime over the course of the season.
- Elsewhere on the international stage, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is very happy about the league’s growing relationship with China. The Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames are currently overseas in the second O.R.G. NHL China Games, after the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks squared off last fall. Per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, Bettman sees this as just the beginning and has big plans for China. In fact, Bettman stated at a press conference on Friday that he envisions regular season games in China in the future, similar to the games planned in Sweden and Finland this season. With the Chinese government and several large companies committed to building rinks and arenas across the country, it’s fair to say that hockey has already made an impact and will only continue to grow in popularity in the world’s most populous country. Bettman acknowledges that no formal talks have been had about regular season games yet, but more preseason games are being scheduled and the league only stands to benefit from a continued presence in China.