MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens traded popular checking winger Steve Begin to the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenceman Doug Janik on Thursday.
Begin, 30, who had been a healthy scratch in the last five games, had expressed a wish to be dealt to another team if the Canadiens were not going to use him.
The Trois-Rivieres, Que., native had six goals and four assists in 42 games this season. It was his fifth season with the Canadiens since he was claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Sabres in 2003. The former Calgary Flame had his best NHL season with Montreal in 2005-06 with 11 goals and 12 assists.
“It was more of a wish than a demand,” said Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey. “I believe this will be a good opportunity for Steve and we also capture a defence player with NHL experience who will be available to us if he clears waivers.”
Gainey added that Begin expressed his desire to go to another club in “a very mature way.” He also said Janik will be assigned to AHL Hamilton if he clears waivers by noon on Saturday.
The six-foot-two, 211-pound Janik had one assist in 13 games with Dallas this season. The 28-year-old previously played for Buffalo and Tampa Bay before signing with Dallas a free agent in 2006.
Gainey said the team needed depth on defence with Francis Bouillon out for three to four weeks with an injury. Janik is to take the No. 8 spot on the organization’s depth chart on defence, just behind Ryan O’Byrne, who was sent to Hamilton two weeks ago.
Begin, a favourite of the Bell centre crowd who is known for his high-impact, up-tempo game, saw his place taken in the past two weeks by the younger, bigger Gregory Stewart. Gainey said Stewart was “ready to take his place as one of our 12 or 14 forwards, which put Steve in a difficult spot.”
The Stars were glad to get him.
“Steve is a gritty, honest player with a very strong work ethic,” GM Les Jackson said in a statement. “He’s good on the penalty kill and he is a competitor in every sense of the word.”
It was Montreal’s second trade for blue-line help ahead of the March 4 NHL trading deadline. Last week, they picked up veteran Mathieu Schneider and a draft pick from Atlanta for a pair of draft picks.
Gainey said the team will stick with goalies Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak and the defence is now set, but he will be looking for a centre before the deadline to provide depth behind the top four of Saku Koivu, Tomas Plakenec, Maxim Lapierre and Kyle Chipchura.
The Canadiens lost centre Robert Lang for the rest of the regular season with a severed Achilles tendon.