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WASHINGTON — Marco Scandella loved his brief 20-game stint with the Canadiens and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of re-signing with the team this summer.
After Scandella was traded to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday afternoon in exchange for a second-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021, Sean Campbell of TSN 690 Radio caught up with the defenceman as he waited at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena for an Uber ride to the airport before the Canadiens played the Red Wings Tuesday night, losing 4-3.
“It was an absolute honour and privilege to play for my childhood team,” Scandella, who grew up in Montreal and is the nephew of former Canadien Sergio Momesso, told Campbell. “It was only 20 games, it was short-lived, but being able to play in front of my friends and family — my mom being at every home game — it was just special. I can’t express how much I enjoyed it.”
Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin acquired Scandella from the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 2 in exchange for a fourth-round pick at this year’s draft. The 29-year-old defenceman is in the final season of a five-year, US$20-million contract and can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Bergevin looked into signing Scandella to a contract extension, but the defenceman wanted to wait until after the season to test the free-agent market. In his 20 games with the Canadiens, Scandella posted 1-2-3 totals and was plus-1 while averaging 17:38 of ice time.
“Absolutely,” Scandella told Campbell when asked if there was a possibility of him re-signing with the Canadiens this summer. “I’m not ruling anything out. I’ll be an unrestricted free agent and we’ll see what happens, what transpires over time. But right now I’m just focusing on going to St. Louis, bringing my best brand of hockey, what I do there and being part of that team.
“The organization’s first class, everyone treated me great,” Scandella added about the Canadiens. “It’s tough leaving your hometown team. Really excited about going to St. Louis, having the opportunity to play there. Defending (Stanley) Cup champs. It’s going to be an awesome opportunity for me and the journey continues. I feel like I was on the last year of a contract, I knew that this year could be a little bit everywhere. Just excited that I feel good, I’m really excited about the opportunity. Can’t say enough good things about Montreal. Original Six, childhood team, great group of guys in that locker room. Everyone in the organization treated me amazing. It’s tough to leave but, at the same time, it’s another opportunity, a new door opens and that’s the hockey world.”
Scandella will make his Blues debut Thursday night when the Arizona Coyotes visit St. Louis.
Capitals get bigger, tougher
With a 37-17-5 record it’s a pretty good bet the Washington Capitals are going to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season and the 11th time in 12 years.
So while the Canadiens (27-27-8) are making trades like the one involving Scandella looking to the future while almost certain to miss the playoffs for the third straight season and the fourth time in five years, the Capitals are making deals hoping to win their second Stanley Cup.
The Capitals, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018 but were eliminated in a seven-game, first-round playoff series last year by the Carolina Hurricanes, acquired defenceman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday in exchange for a second-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick next year. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dillon had 1-13-14 totals and 83 penalty minutes in 59 games with the Sharks and was even in plus/minus.
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said Dillon will bring a lot of things to the Capitals, including size and toughness.
“He’s got playoff experience,” Dillon said Wednesday morning at the Capitals’ practice rink in Arlington, Va. “Veteran player. Physicality. The ability to play with top-end guys. Good character guy. I think he’ll add a lot of energy in our room and on the ice. Physical presence. Checked a lot of boxes for everything we thought we needed.
“I think we’re all attracted to size as long as it can play,” the GM added. “We like having the bigger bodies playing a heavier game. He’s a good skater for his size, too. He has that physical presence and we’re excited to see how it fits for us.”
Dillon was scheduled to arrive in Washington Wednesday afternoon and is expected to be in the lineup Thursday night against the Canadiens (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
The Canadiens had the day off Wednesday in Washington and didn’t practise.
Capitals like to hit
The addition of Dillon means the Capitals now have five players who ranked in the top 20 in hits in the NHL through Tuesday’s games.
Tom Wilson ranked fourth (214 hits), Dillon was ninth (178) Garnet Hathaway was 16th (160) and Alex Ovechkin was 20th (155). The Capitals only have two players on their roster who are under 6 feet tall — Brendan Leipsic and Dmitry Orlov are both 5-foot-11 — and nine players who are under 200 pounds.
“The game has obviously trended toward speed and skill, but towards the end of the year and into the playoffs the good old hockey game always seems to kind of come back out and the playoffs get extremely tough, they get hard-checking,” Wilson said after practice Wednesday. “You want to be confident in the group that you have going into the playoffs that you’re going to be able to play a physical game if need be. We’ve always kind of prided ourselves on having a well-balanced lineup. If it needs to be a skill game, we can play that, but also having a relentless forecheck and a physical game.
“He’s hard to play against,” Wilson added about Dillon. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually fought with him, but there’s other ways to be tough. You know when you’re going into his corner it’s going to be a battle. You know when you’re standing in front of the net with him it’s going to be a battle. That’s one of the biggest compliments that you can pay to a player is you know it’s going to be a tough game or a hard game when you’re battling with him. I think that’s something that we’ve tried to have on our team. When teams come into D.C. you want them to be like: Oh, here we go. It’s going to be a tough game. He’s just another piece that can really add to that, I think.”
Praise for Eller
Wilson also had high praise for former Canadien Lars Eller, who is now in his fourth season with the Capitals and has 14-21-35 totals in 59 games along with a plus-2 while winning 52 per cent of his faceoffs.
“He’s a two-way forward that knows what it takes,” Wilson said. “He’s got a lot of experience, plays really hard. He’s one of the hardest guys on the puck. We’re lucky to have him in that third line. I think that’s a pretty good third-line centreman to have. We’re lucky to have him.”
When Bergevin traded Eller to the Capitals on June 24, 2016, the Canadiens received a second-round pick at the 2017 draft (Joni Ikonen) and a second-round pick in 2018 that was later dealt to the Edmonton Oilers.
Canadiens call up Folin
The Canadiens announced Wednesday that they have called up defenceman Christian Folin from the AHL’s Laval Rocket after Victor Mete was forced to leave Tuesday’s game in Detroit with a lower-body injury.
The Canadiens will have a morning skate at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Capital One Arena before facing the Capitals (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio). The Canadiens will then fly to Ottawa after Thursday’s game and have a practice scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at the Canadian Tire Centre before facing the Senators Saturday night (7 p.m., SNE, SN1, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
Next week, the Canadiens will play three home games at the Bell Centre against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM), the New York Rangers on Thursday (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM) and the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
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