Unsung Hero: Ti-Paul Byron

The Montreal Canadiens hit the jackpot when claiming Paul Byron off waivers. That, everybody knows. But it hasn’t always been easy for the undersized speedster, who has been told too many times that he wouldn’t be making it to the show. Too small and not heavy enough were the reasons he was given each time. But that didn’t stop him from pushing the envelope, proving doubters wrong and that, at every level that he’s played.

Let’s go back in time. It’s June 22nd, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. In Nationwide Arena, it is with great anticipation that hundreds of young men aspiring to, one day, fulfil their dream to play in the NHL are attending the league’s 45th Entry Draft. Patrick Kane is the first name being called to the podium, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. But it’s on the second day of the Draft that Paul Byron heard his name… finally. We are in the sixth round and 178 prospects have been called. It’s the Buffalo Sabres’ turn and they called Byron. Step one of the dream had finally come through.

Byron was drafted by the Sabres

On January 23, 2011, called up from Rochester, Byron played in his first NHL game against the New York Islanders in Long Island. He managed to record his first point, an assist, in his first game. Two days later, he scored his first NHL goal in his hometown, in Ottawa, against the Senators. He ended up playing six more games with the Sabres that season and was traded to Calgary on June 25th of that year, along with Chris Butler in exchange for Ales Kotalik, Robyn Regehr and a 2012 2nd round pick .

The Habs claimed Byron off waivers from the Flames

On October 5, 2015, looking to add toughness to their line-up, Flames’ management decided to try sending the Ottawa native down to the AHL and placed him on waivers. Not only didn’t he go down that season, but he has never even come close to being sent back down after the Canadiens put in a claim for him. Byron ended up playing 130 games with the Flames, managing 16 goals and 46 points in Cowtown. To this date, this waiver claim figures amongst GM Marc Bergevin‘s best hockey decisions since taking over the reigns in Montreal.

An impact player

Byron has some good memories of Columbus. Not only did he get drafted in that City, but he also just played his 400th game in the NHL against the Blue Jackets and to commemorate the milestone, he scored his 11th goal of the season in that game, helping his team edge Columbus by the score of 3-2.

Paul Byron is a warrior. Listed at 5-foot 9-inches and 163 lbs (those numbers might be generous), he has managed 64 goals and 116 points in 262 games with the Canadiens. Along with Brendan Gallagher, Byron is part of the Habs’ leadership group as an Assistant to team Captain Shea Weber. His relentless work ethics and the way he conducts himself on and off the ice, his outstanding defensive ability, his blazing speed and fearless attitude make of him a genuine impact player for the most storied franchise of the NHL.

Many would venture to say that he is likely one of the most underrated players not only on the Canadiens, but in the entire NHL. One thing we know for sure: management and coaches love him, fans love him and he genuinely loves playing in Montreal. Here’s hoping that he can be surrounded by quality player and raise the Stanley Cup over his head one day, wearing the red, white and blue number 41. Go Habs Go!

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The Skinner Effect on Pacioretty? Not So Fast!

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The market value of a player is a constant moving target, everyone knows that. There are so many things factoring into how much players are worth, particularly when it comes to trade value. Age, production, health issues, statistics… and yes, even intangibles such as off-ice antics, grit and leadership. But really, a players isn’t worth what most General Managers would give up for that player, but rather what only one GM is willing to trade away to acquire him. Only one. And when assessing that, there are even more factors playing into what they are willing to sacrifice in order to get rid of or acquire a player.

We had a good example of that on August 2nd when the Carolina Hurricanes traded away Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres for what seems to be a relatively low return. Skinner, a 3-times 30 goals scorer, only has one year left to his contract and Hurricanes’ GM Don Waddell “settled” for a former third round pick in Cliff Pu, Buffalo’s second round pick in 2019 as well as their third and sixth round picks in 2020. Call it what you want but value-wise, this is low return for a proven NHL goals’ scorer.

Some people are quick at saying that Buffalo won that trade hands-down, but this will prove to be true only if they manage to re-sign Skinner or if they manage to get significant assets in return for him at the trade deadline if they don’t get him re-signed. If he walks away next summer, it will be a steep price to pay. But that’s beside the point.

Effect on Pacioretty’s value?

Many people were quick at pointing out that this trade should set the benchmark for Max Pacioretty‘s value in a trade. This is, in my opinion, a very superficial analysis of the Pacioretty situation. Yes, Skinner is a winger with one year left to his contract and yes, he has scored similarly to Pacioretty (in a shorter career though) but that’s where the comparison ends. One plays in all situations including short-handed, the other one doesn’t. And one is captain of his team, voted by his teammates. Skinner also had a no-trade clause, which Pacioretty doesn’t have, and came with a cap hit of $5.725M, which is over a million dollars more than the Canadiens’ captain. But then again, that’s all superficial.

In my humble opinion, Skinner is worth more than what Carolina received for him but there is no doubt that the Sabres had the best offer out there – at that time – and that’s the return that they got for him. Don Waddell settled. He’s sitting at the poker table, he flinched and panicked. Whether he was forced or not to trade Skinner at that time, only he knows, but this moves smells desperation. And for an experienced GM like him, that’s a no-no. Unless Skinner had requested a trade and had threatened to not show up at training camp (and even then), Waddell should have hung on to Skinner and even started the season with him in the line-up instead of giving him away for less than his value. That’s my opinion anyway.

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Marc Bergevin is holding for higher value for Max Pacioretty

Contrarily to Waddell, Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin has chosen to take the same approach as Joe Sakic did with Matt Duchene, and what Steve Yzerman chose to do with Jonathan Drouin back then: if the price isn’t what you feel is true value is at this moment in time, hang on to your asset. Someone will come calling later. Every team is a contender in August but injuries happen during a season, teams and GMs get desperate. Further, it seems rather obvious that Bergevin, for a second year in a row, won’t be spending anywhere close to the salary cap and that, even with Carey Price‘s new contract kicking in. This means that he will be able to accommodate a team by taking a contract to get more in return if or when he trades Pacioretty. But as we touched on recently, the Canadiens are, under no circumstances, in a position where they have to trade their captain.

So what’s Pacioretty’s value? His value is what ONE General Manager is willing to pay at a point in time. This will be dictated by the level of desperation that said GM will be in, and how Pacioretty picks up his game after a bad season, in what is now a contract year for him. In addition, a positive twist with Skinner being traded is that it’s one less asset available for those teams looking for a quality scoring winger. That also has an effect on value. Will the Canadiens get more for Pacioretty by choosing to wait? Time will tell but what we know now is that the offers aren’t anywhere close to his value.

In the meantime, be grateful that it’s Bergevin and not Waddell who runs the Habs as the return may not have been much different than what the Hurricanes got for Skinner. Go Habs Go!