NHL Salaries

Montreal Canadiens: Paul Byron – Regular waivers for playoff hero


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I think we’ve all seen this goal a hundred times. We will probably see it a few thousand more times in the future.

The incredible shorthanded game winner in Game 1 against the Maple Leafs is sure to be an incredible highlight for Paul Byron. Of course, for all Montreal Canadiens fans, this was the goal that made everyone jump off their couch, wake up kids and non-hockey fans everywhere and celebrate what was an intense and moving game.

For Byron however, while shocking the world with the Canadians winning Game 1, it’s an incredible milestone in what has been, to say the least, a very frustrating season.

In an attempt to offload his annual salary of $ 3.4 million, Marc Bergevin placed Byron on waivers not once, not twice, but three times! As expected, no one took the bait, so Byron was left to walk back and forth to the Taxi Squad. To be more precise, he has been nominated for an assignment within the Taxi Squad a total of 14 times. That’s fourteen in case you were wondering if that was a typo. It doesn’t matter whether he was nominated due to injury or to save a few bucks on the salary cap, in a season when everything is strange at first, it can’t be easy to digest.

Ultimately, Byron’s professionalism is something to admire and that’s one reason he regularly wears an “A” on his jersey despite being relegated to the 4th row. You will never hear him complain about anything or anyone.

Never.

The Ottawa native and former Gatineau Olympiques was drafted in the 6th round by the Buffalo Sabers in 2007. During his stay in Gatineau, he had the chance to play with future Flyers captain, Claude Giroux. During the 2007-08 season, Byron and Giroux joined forces to lead their team to the President’s Trophy, giving the team their 7th championship in history, the best of any team.

When Giroux left for the Flyers in 2008, Paul Byron took the pressure off his shoulders and led the team with 99 points, 33 goals and 66 assists. The Olympiques won their division and were ultimately eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs despite having Byron as the only player drafted into the NHL and having a drama behind the bench. Benoit Groulx, who was head coach of the Olympics for 7 seasons and won 3 championships, left the team to become the head coach of the Rochester Americans in the AHL. One of Groulx’s former assistants, Mario Richer, has been hired as the bench’s new boss, although he has not been a coach since the 05-06 season. It only took 20 games to realize the mistake of hiring him and after a 5-13-2 record, Richer was fired and replaced by former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Jerome Dupont.

KITCHENER, ON – MAY 19: A scrimmage with Matt Beleskey # 17 of the Belleville Bulls falling to Paul Byron # 20 of the Gatineau Olympiques in Game 4 of the Memorial Cup round robin on May 19, 2008 at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, Ontario. The Bulls beat the Olympics 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen / Getty Images)

Byron often speaks very well of the Gatineau Olympics. Not only was he able to play his juniors right across the bridge from home, but he was also part of a legendary franchise with famous names like Pat Burns, Alain Vigneault and Claude Julien behind the bench. Notable former players include Jeremy Roenick, Luc Robitaille, Jose Theodore, Michael Ryder and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, to name a few of the more than 80 players and coaches who have played or coached in the NHL.

Just hours before the Buffalo Sabers lose their rights, Byron will sign his entry-level NHL contract. After spending the majority of his time with the AHL Portland Pirates, Byron would finally make his NHL debut on January 22, 2011 against the New York Islanders and get an assist for his first NHL point. He will score his first NHL goal against his hometown team, the Ottawa Senators, the very next game. Those would be the only points he would amass in his 8 NHL games that season.

Thinking he would have a shot at breaking through the Sabers roster after a 33- and 53-point AHL seasons, Byron would learn in the 2011 draft that he was traded to the Calgary Flames.

Sabres Get

Robyn Regehr

Ales Kotalik

2012 2nd Round Pick (CGY – #44 – Jake McCabe)

Flames Get

Paul Byron

Chris Butler

For the next two seasons, Byron would regularly travel between the Abbotsford Heat of the AHL to the main club in Calgary. A trend seemed to be setting in, however, one all too familiar with current Habs fans, where Byron would play a few solid games only to be injured. A shoulder injury here, a broken hand there, it just seemed unavoidable that Byron would be spending some time at the infirmary. Fans and media alike would attribute that to his small stature, being only 5 foot 9 and barely 160 pounds. People saw the potential but his small frame seemed too fragile for the NHL style of play.

VANCOUVER, BC – APRIL 13: Paul Byron #32 of the Calgary Flames during NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on April 13, 2014 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

One who didn’t give up on Byron was then Calgary Flames Head Coach Bob Hartley. After notching 18 points in 23 games with Abbotsford, Byron finally earned a regular spot on the Flames roster. Scott Cruickshank of the Calgary Herald caught this quote from Bob Hartley in December of 2013:

The size of the heart is much more important than the physical size. Here’s a guy who plays like he’s six-foot-two, six-foot-three. He’s not avoiding traffic. – Bob Hartley on Paul Byron, December 2013.

Byron’s hard work and dedication finally paid off. The following season he would stay with Calgary and to this day, has never been sent back down to the AHL. Once again, however, his career would take a twist.

During the 2015 offseason, Paul Byron became a restricted free agent and the Flames made a qualifying offer to retain his rights. After filing for arbitration, the player and team would finally settle on a 1-year $900,000 deal. So far, nothing out of the ordinary.

What wasn’t expected however was that a few days before the 2015-16 season would start, Byron would find out he didn’t make the starting roster and would have to be exposed to waivers before being sent down to Abbotsford. The team was confident that someone like Paul Byron, who had an NHL career consisting of 17 goals, 31 assists for 48 points in 138 games, plus a history of injuries, wouldn’t get claimed.

They didn’t count on the magic of the internet to shine through.

A Flames fan put together this video jokingly, showing what appears to be a developing reputation that Byron can’t seal the deal when he enters a breakaway. The winger has always been known for his speed and skill, but he just couldn’t bury the puck.

Despite a sports hernia that required surgery last April as well as surgery to her right wrist in May, which included a screw stuck in her tendons that was eventually removed in September, the video caught the attention of scouts. Montreal Canadiens professionals. led the team to claim Byron over the waivers, according to Sportsnet’s Eric Engels.

It’s not exactly a flattering way to be recognized, but it got him an NHL job close to home and, as usual, Paul Byron took it in stride.

Playing most of the year on a fourth row with players like Torrey Mitchell, Bryan Flynn, Sven Andrighetto and Dale Weise, Byron managed to score a career-high 11 goals in 62 games. His hard work and dedication were quickly rewarded with a 3-year contract extension signed at the end of February for a total of $ 3.5 million. The Canadians thought they had found themselves a fast and strong 4th liner with character.

Once again, things would change. This time, however, in his favor.

Byron would enter the 2016-17 season healthy and hungry. His potential finally exploded and showcased, as he walked through a year of career. In 81 games, he scored 22 goals, 21 assists for 43 points. The following season, he would remain healthy again, this time playing all 82 games and finishing with 20 goals, 15 assists for 35 points.

Entering the 2018-19 season the last year of his contract, Byron had the big end of the stick. He had just finished two healthy 20-goal seasons and proved his consistency and leadership on and off the ice. Plus, he’s proven he can stay healthy. Marc Bergevin would quickly rally Byron to a new contract but this time to a gigantic 4 years of $ 13.6 million. An annual cap of $ 3.4 million struck with a quirk. Byron would receive $ 4 million in salary in years 1 and 3 of his contract, while years 2 and 4 would pay him $ 2.8 million.

SUNRISE, FL – MARCH 8: Paul Byron # 41 of the Montreal Canadiens prepares for a face-off against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 8, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers beat the Canadiens 5-0. (Photo by Joel Auerbach / Getty Images)

Both fans and the media liked the player, but the contract wasn’t exactly applauded. Despite two excellent seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, he was still a 3rd row winger at best who can jump on 2nd on occasion. Fans often pointed out that Byron’s aggressive playstyle would eventually catch up with him despite playing two full seasons for the first time in his professional career.

The skepticism has partly turned out to be correct. Despite being limited to 56 games, Byron still played at full speed and registered 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points. Despite the missing time, it looked like the # 41 was still able to play their game at high speed / high intensity and put the puck in the net. So we’re going to scratch this season as bad luck.

Another twist in his career, once again, however, with more bad luck on the horizon.

In the shortened 2019-20 pandemic season, Byron only played 29 games. His injury list was growing so long that some fans would think such a list would make former Canadian Benoit Brunet blush. It was impossible that a player with such a history of injuries, while entering his 32-year-old season, could return to his 2017 form.

In an incredibly condensed season, having received three waivers, this time dealing only with minor injuries and even healthy once, Paul Byron has missed just 10 games yet in the 2020-2021 season of 56 games. . His 5 goals and 11 assists were nothing out of the ordinary, but Byron played a much more responsible type of play on the fourth row and formed some kind of chemistry with rookie Jake Evans.

Aside from the regular season, let’s not forget that Byron loves to play under pressure. Remember him going up and down the ice when he recorded 4 points in 10 games playing the 3rd and 4th minutes in a row in last year’s playoffs.

I have mentioned it more than once in this article and I will mention it again. Despite injuries, criticism of his contract and being waived three times this season, Paul Byron has never complained. He wears his “A” on this legendary jersey with so much pride.

He married Sarah Leblond in 2014. The same woman he met during his early years in Gatineau and after almost failing to survive those early years due to the estranged relationship they have now been together for over 12 years. years old and have two wonderful children. He lives year round on the south shore near the Canadiens training center in Brossard. He’s bleeding “blue-white-red” from start to finish and has said many times that he doesn’t want to play for any other team.

If he had been four or five inches taller, he would have been picked in round 2. He wouldn’t have been snubbed because of his size and would have made the NHL much faster. Maybe he wouldn’t have been injured that often because of his style of play, either.

Paul Byron often cites Brendan Gallagher as a source of inspiration. The same intensity runs through them and they go all out, quarter after quarter.

If you want to be an accountant and leave your emotions at the door, yes his contract is too rich and we’re probably stuck with the expensive cap for another 2 seasons.

However, when Paul Byron explodes from his blue line and passes everyone else, catches the opposing defender’s puck, gets tripped, lands on his knees and throws his whole body to get a shot, and scores the winning goal, all while killing. a penalty in a playoff game to start, that moment becomes simply priceless.

TORONTO, ON – MAY 20: The Montreal Canadiens bench celebrates a shorthanded # 41 Paul Byron goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 20, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Canadians beat the Maple Leafs 2-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the series. (Photo by Claus Andersen / Getty Images)

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