LOS ANGELES – Roughly 12 hours after being leaving the ice after morning skate at TD Garden as a member of the Panthers, Mike Weaver will be landing in Southern California as the newest Hab on the roster.
Despite being just a cross-country flight from joining the sixth team of his NHL career, the 35-year-old veteran admits it’s never easy to prepare for the news of a trade. Instead of heading back to the team hotel in Boston following the morning skate on Tuesday, Weaver was called into his coach’s office to set the wheels in motion on swapping his Panthers swag for some classic bleu-blanc-rouge.
“This is actually my first time being traded. I was at Pittsburgh’s training camp and I was picked up on waivers by Vancouver and that’s the closest I’ve been to a trade,” explained the undrafted blue-liner, who was traded by the Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2015. “Fortunately over the years I haven’t really had to deal with this but it’s an exciting situation going into an Original Six team that’s in a high spot in the standings and in a playoff position. I’m really excited to be coming to Montreal.”
Leaving Florida as the Panther’s leading shot blocker, with 94 in 55 games this season, Weaver was also the team’s busiest penalty killer and third-heaviest hitter, with 101 hits in 2013-14. The Habs will be getting a solid veteran presence to bolster the blue line and Carey Price and Peter Budaj can expect to see even less rubber as Wever joins forces with fellow shot blocking specialists, Josh Gorges and Douglas Murray.
“If I stay out of the paper, I’m doing my job,” joked the Bramalea, ON native. “I’m not a guy who’s going to score a lot of points but I do the little things like block shots and penalty killing is my specialty. I’d rather block a shot than score a goal so I guess you could say I’m a goalie’s best friend back there. And in Montreal, there are a lot of forwards I can pass the puck to who will take it up and score, so it’ll be a good situation.”
Having jumped 18 spots in the standings after leaving the 28th-place Panthers for the greener pastures of the 10th-ranked Habs, Weaver is looking forward to landing in Anaheim and helping his new team down the home stretch.
“From what I’ve seen, the team is strong and they’re in a high playoff position,” described Weaver, who will wear No. 43 with the Canadiens. “We’ve been able to play against them a couple of times this year and I know they’re a fast team. The forwards can handle the puck and they can score goals. It should be exciting. My first game in the NHL was actually at the Bell Centre so it’s a rink I know well.”
He’ll also be welcomed to the fray by a few familiar faces when he lands in Orange County, having previously played with George Parros in Florida and Los Angeles and Lars Eller for a brief stint in St. Louis. While his main focus at the moment is making his connecting flights on time, he’s had a chance to study up on what to expect in his new hockey home.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to many people, but I spoke to Marc [Bergevin] and Michel [Therrien] this morning,” mentioned Weaver. “They just welcomed me to the team and said they had been looking at me earlier in the year but the Panthers at the time were in a playoff push. Now that’s not really the case, so they were able to bring me in.”
If all goes according to plan, Weaver will be on the ice for the Canadiens’ morning skate in Anaheim and could suit up for his first game as a Hab on Wednesday night against the Ducks.
“It’s moving quickly. It’s going to be fun. The nerves are starting to go right now, but nerves are often a good thing,” admitted Weaver, who previously played for the Thrashers, Kings, Canucks, Blues and Panthers prior to arriving in Montreal. “I’m just trying to get to Anaheim now. If it works out that I’m able to get in there in good enough time, I’ll possibly be in the game, but if not, I’ll be in the next one. I’m just looking forward to getting going.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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