Zack Kassian reinstated by NHL, demoted to AHL by Canadiens

Canadiens winger Zack Kassian was reinstated by the NHL Tuesday after entering follow-up care in the NHL’s substance abuse program, but Montreal wasted little time putting the 24-year-old on waivers. He was officially demoted to the AHL Wednesday.

Canadiens winger Zack Kassian was reinstated by the NHL Tuesday only to be waived by Montreal less than half an hour later. Now the 24-year-old has cleared waivers and is heading to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps.

The NHL and NHLPA released a statement Tuesday afternoon stating that Kassian “has been returned to available status and has entered the follow-up care phase of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Kassian’s care continues to be administered pursuant to the NHL/NHLPA SABH Program.”

When TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Kassian had been placed on waivers by the Canadiens, it seemed unlikely any team would take a chance and pick up the final season of Kassian’s deal, which is set to pay him $1.75 million this season. Those suspicions that no team would take a shot on Kassian were confirmed Wednesday afternoon, when Montreal announced Kassian had been assigned to the AHL.

Kassian was acquired by the Canadiens from the Vancouver Canucks along with a fifth-round pick in the off-season in exchange for Brandon Prust, and it appears he could be in the AHL for some time before the Canadiens decide to bring him back up.

Kassian, a first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, 13th overall, in 2009, was entered into the first stage of the substance abuse program during his time in Vancouver. It was an incident in October, little more than three months after his trade to Montreal, that landed Kassian in Stage Two of the program.

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On Oct. 4, Kassian was involved in a car accident while in a vehicle driven by a 20-year-old woman. Kassian sustained a broken foot and broken nose, and police said alcohol may have been a factor in the crash.

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin voiced his displeasure with Kassian following the accident, calling it “disappointing to say the least.”

“Every training camp, I talk to our team, to our young players, that Montreal…like any other city, we are professionals and we have to behave like professionals,” Bergevin told the Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan. “You have to be respectful and you’re lucky to be a hockey player. I’m a firm believer in character and that’s really a lack of character and judgment on his part.”

Bergevin later added that he was “looking at all of [his] options” regarding Kassian following the incident.

Kassian has not played a single game for Montreal and is coming off of a disappointing season in which he scored 10 goals and 16 points in 42 games for Vancouver. Kassian signed a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Canucks in July 2014 following a career-best 14-goal, 29-point season in 2013-14.