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Flurry of moves fortifies Canadiens penalty-kill unit, adds depth

Flurry of moves fortifies Canadiens  penalty-kill unit, adds depth
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Bergevin didn’t find any help for the team’s anemic power play, but he did add veteran players who improve the team’s depth and provide some help for a penalty-killing unit that ranks 21st in the NHL, with a 79.3 per cent success rate.

Bergevin acquired depth forward Nate Thompson and a fifth-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Kings on Monday in return for a fourth-round pick.

Los Angeles Kings’ Nate Thompson, left, celebrates his goal next to Boston Bruins defenceman Torey Krug during the third period on Feb. 9, 2019, in Boston. Winslow Townson / AP

The deal came two days after Bergevin re-acquired Dale Weise and landed defenceman Christian Folin from Philadelphia in return for blue-liner David Schlemko and minor-league forward Byron Froese.

The deals touched off a flurry of activity as Bergevin made room for the newcomers. Defenceman Karl Alzner went on waivers to make room for Folin and is back in Laval. Weise was originally sent to Laval but, after a couple of miscues by the fourth line Saturday against Toronto, the Canadiens decided they needed help and he was promoted at noon Monday after the Devils claimed New Jersey native Kenny Agostino off waivers.

Montreal must make room for Thompson, who will join the Canadiens in time for the start of a three-game road trip, which begins Thursday in Nashville. Thompson isn’t the fleetest of foot nor is he a scoring threat, but he’s solid defensively and is above-average in the faceoff circle. Head coach Claude Julien probably had some input in the deal because he coached Thompson, 34, at the beginning of his career in Boston.

The trades met Bergevin’s requirement of not surrendering any of the team’s core assets — players on the roster, prospects or high draft choices. The Canadiens could still use another scorer and/or a left defenceman. Bergevin has more than $8 million in cap space, but he has made it clear that he doesn’t feel the need to spend the money.

Weise was a fan favourite during his first stint with the Canadiens and he was at his most productive with the Canadiens from 2014 to ’16. The question is how much he has left in the tank. He’s only 30 years old, but his production has dropped since leaving Montreal. He had five goals and six assists in 42 games with the Flyers this season.

Folin represents an insurance policy. He has good size at 6-foot-3 and he’s a reliable defender with a limited offensive upside. But the Canadiens have been happy with their defensive pairings and it will take an injury or a total meltdown from one of the top six to create an opportunity for Folin.

A native of Gothenburg, Sweden, Folin was traded on his 28th birthday and he said it was a good present as he went from an also-ran to a contender.

“I’ve played in this building before and I know it can be loud and a lot of fun,” said Folin, who had two assists and a plus-5 rating in 26 games with the Flyers.

Christian Folin of the Philadelphia Flyers hits Brady Skjei of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 29, 2019 in New York City. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

He spent Monday meeting his new teammates and catching up with Mike Reilly, who was a teammate in Minnesota. He also smiled at the news that Weise had  been called up shortly after the Canadiens completed their practice.

“I met some of these guys before on the ice — I’ve hit them and they’ve hit me,” Folin said.

Folin was a late bloomer. He wasn’t offered a pro contract after playing junior hockey in Sweden and he came to North America for what he called an adventure. He played two seasons in the  junior North American Hockey League and then played two seasons on a good UMass-Lowell team that was backstopped by Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

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