Rivet was traded to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday along with a fifth-round draft pick in 2008 for 22-year-old defenceman Josh Gorges and a 2007 first-round selection. “He was really under-appreciated here by the fans,” Souray said Monday. “Unless you’re in this room day in and day out, you don’t know what he meant.
“He’s a great guy and a great leader. But we’re happy for him. Good luck to him. Now we have to focus on what we have to do here.”
Rivet was a steady defensive player who would, at times, move into the attack. He also played the point on the second power-play unit.
The Sharks, a team loaded with young players, wanted an experienced defenceman with a right-handed shot, which they didn’t have, and paid a steep price to get it.
Gorges’ flight to Montreal was delayed in New York and he is to join the team there Tuesday, when the Canadiens play the Rangers.
Coach Guy Carbonneau said he saw the six-foot-one, 195-pound Gorges play only once at the world junior championship and doesn’t know much about him.
“We have good reports on him,” Carbonneau said. “He likes to compete.
“He may be a little under-sized and that has always been the knock against him, but we know he’ll be a good player in the new NHL. He can skate and move the puck, so we’ll see what he can do in the next couple of weeks.”
The Canadiens insist the deal did not signal that they have given up on this season and that Gorges will provide more short-term help than would Rivet, whose conditioning took a hit when he missed nine games with pneumonia.
Another deal before Tuesday’s NHL trading deadline for some scoring help would be no surprise, especially since Montreal now has an extra first-round pick to offer.
Rivet was not always a Bell Centre whipping boy, but he heard some cat-calls this season when his play slipped a notch. It picked up around the time he was made a healthy scratch for a game Jan. 16.
Souray said that likely eased the shock of being traded for the first time.
“He’s taken a lot of the heat from fans over the past few years and I think he’s a bit relieved that he’s going to a great team,” Souray said. “But he would have never said that publicly.
“It never changed his game. I can tell you, the San Jose players and organization are lucky to get a guy of his calibre.”
Heading into the trading deadline, there had been more talk of moving Souray than Rivet.
And Souray nearly lost his temper when asked once again if he wanted a deal to a western team closer to his daughter, who lives with his estranged wife in California.
“I’m not talking about any of that,” he said. “I stayed out of the media the last few days because I’m getting tired of the same old questions.
“It doesn’t make any difference now. We’re fighting for a playoff spot. I’m here and I’m committed to helping this team make the playoffs.”
Rivet, Souray and fellow defencemen Andrei Markov and Janne Niinimaa are all scheduled to become unrestricted free agents July 1. So are forwards Radek Bonk, Mike Johnson and Aaron Downey, who was placed on waivers Monday.
Souray is having a career year and is likely in for a huge salary boost, which fuels speculation that he may be traded even though that would be a clear indication the Canadiens are playing for next season.
Rivet was said to be at odds with Carbonneau since he was not dressed for that game in January, which the coach denied.
“I had a good relationship with Craig,” he said. “I have my own ways and Craig had his ways, but the decision to put him in the stands had nothing to do with him being traded.”
Rivet may have become expendable with the development of second-year defenceman Mark Streit, who recently returned to the blue-line after a long stint on the wing.
While not big or physical, Streit is cool under pressure and a good skater who can jump into the rush.
“We put him back on defence and every game, he’s played better, so that was one more option for us,” said Carbonneau.
The Canadiens were expected to deal winger Sergei Samsonov, who asked for a trade after he was scratched for three straight games last month. But they found no takers for Samsonov, who will make $US3.5 million next season.
“We had a meeting not long ago and it’s funny because someone said that if were waiting for a trade to happen, we’re thinking about the wrong things,” said Souray. “When a trade happens, it’s not the guy you think.
“You lose good guys. and Craig was one of those great guys.”
Streit said trade deadline time was a nervous period for all players.
“As it comes closer, there’s a lot of rumours,” he said. “Everyone has scoops every day.
“Usually we laugh about them, and then suddenly poof, a guy gets traded. It happens very fast. It’s something you can’t control. You can only be happy when you don’t get traded.”