Exceeding expectations: The greatest Montreal Canadiens waiver pickups

Mar 15 2022, 8:55 pm

When a player goes through waivers, it’s usually a calculated risk on behalf of the organization sending him down. Most of the time, the player goes unclaimed and stays in the minors. And, on the occasion that he is picked up by another franchise, it’s usually not considered a huge loss to the team that dropped him.

With that said, every once a while, you catch a diamond in the rough, and the Montreal Canadiens have obtained their fair share of gems over the years via the waivers market.

In fact, four of the players on their current roster were acquired that way. And funnily enough, interim head coach and former NHL superstar Martin St. Louis actually cleared waivers as a member of the Calgary Flames before eventually signing with Tampa Bay the following season.

By that logic, it would seem like one team’s trash is another’s treasure. And since we all love a good underdog story, here are five of the greatest waiver pickups in Canadiens history.

5. Glen Metropolit

When the Canadiens picked up Glen Metropolit in 2009, they got more than they bargained for. And while the seasoned vet was never much of an offensive force, Metro provided some much-needed faceoff experience and defensive maturity to that Habs team.

He was also an important part of the team’s 2010 playoff run. Not bad for a waiver pickup.

4. Antti Niemi

antti niemi montreal

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

In November 2017, the Canadiens found themselves in a tough spot. With both Carey Price and then-backup Al Montoya out with injuries, they were desperate for a short-term goalie substitute. Meanwhile, Antti Niemi, who was having an abysmal season in Florida, was made available.

The Habs knabbed him and got the Finland native suited up immediately. The veteran stuck around until 2019, and played a few show-stopping games with the Canadiens, along with a respectable 909 SV%, 3.10 GAA.

3. Rem Pitlick

rem pitlick

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Canadiens only picked up this 25-year-old rookie a few months ago, he’s already making his former team regret their decision to waive him.

With 16 points in his first 23 games with the bleu-blanc-rouge, Pitlick is playing like a top-sixer and shows no signs of slowing down. Maybe a change of scenery was all he needed to shine.

2. Steve Begin

Steve Begin is fondly remembered by Habs fans as a roster staple during the 2000s era. The gritty forward, who was notoriously tough to play against, was placed on waivers by the Calgary Flames in 2003.

After being claimed by the Canadiens, Begin had the chance to play for his boyhood team. He spent the next five seasons proudly donning the Habs uniform.

1. Paul Byron

paul byron

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

With smooth hands, rocket-like speed and an “A” plastered on his jersey, one would never guess that veteran forward Paul Byron got his start in Montreal as a waiver pickup.

But the 5-foot-9 sixth-round draft pick never had an easy road to the big league. After being told that he was too small to play in the NHL, Byron was placed on waivers by the Calgary Flames in 2015.

While he soon found success in Montreal, playing top-line minutes with the likes of Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty, Byron would go through the waivers process yet again in March of 2021 when he was assigned to the Canadiens’ taxi squad.

Luckily for Montreal, the Ottawa native, who recently played in his 500th game, was not claimed and remained a Hab.

Known for scoring big goals, Byron is a leader and penalty kill specialist.

It’s fun to think how Montreal gave up nothing to acquire him.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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