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I never wanted to leave, repatriated Canadien Dale Weise says

I never wanted to leave,  repatriated Canadien Dale Weise says
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“I always wanted to come back; in fact, I never wanted to leave,” said Weise, who was repatriated on Saturday when the Canadiens sent David Schlemko and Byron Froese to the Philadelphia Flyers in return for Weise and Christian Folin.

Weise enjoyed his greatest success in the NHL during a two-year stint with the Canadiens but, ironically, his success led to his departure. Weise came to Montreal late in the 2013-14 season and contributed to the team’s run to the Eastern Conference final. He followed that up with a career season in 2014-15 when he had 10 goals and 29 points, and became a fan favourite with his hard work and a knack for scoring key goals.

Canadiens’ Dale Weise fights for position between Boston Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask and defenceman Torey Krug in Montreal on Dec. 9, 2015. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

He was on his way to another career season in 2016 — 14 goals and 12 assists in 56 games — when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in the deal that brought Phillip Danault to Montreal.

Weise, who was earning a shade over US$1 million, was in line to become an unrestricted free agent, and general manager Marc Bergevin wanted to get something in return before Weise jumped ship. Weise would more than double his salary when he signed a four-year deal with the Flyers for US$9.4 million.

While things didn’t work out in Philadelphia — he had 17 goals and 17 assists in 152 games — Weise, 30, said he is determined to prove he’s a better player than he was when he left three years ago.

“I feel revived,” said Weise. “I don’t want to talk about the last two years in Philly. I’m a pretty positive guy and this is going to be awesome for me. I’m faster and I’m a better pro. The older you get, the more experience you have and you understand the game better.”

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien is wasting no time putting Weise and newly acquired Nate Thompson to work. When the Canadiens play the Predators in Nashville on Thursday (8 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio) they’ll join Nicolas Deslauriers on a fourth line that is reminiscent of the Merlot line of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paillé, which helped Julien’s Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

Canadiens forward Dale Weise is tripped by Boston Bruins’ Dennis Seidenberg in Montreal on Dec. 9, 2015. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

Julien said the key to the latest shuffle is to get a little more grit and a little more experience. He recalled Weise’s play in 2014, when the Canadiens beat the Bruins in the second round of the playoffs.

“He got under guys’ skins and scored some big goals,” said Julien. “He had his best years here and I hope that continues.”

Most notably, Weise got under Milan Lucic’s skin. When the series ended, Lucic not only refused to shake Weise’s hand but he also threatened Weise.

Julien has some history with the 34-year-old Thompson, who broke into the NHL with the Bruins.

“He was a younger player and we had roster issues, and we had no choice but to put him on waivers,” said Julien. “I always liked him. I was sad to lose him, but we had a lot of good players in those days. When he went on waivers, I knew someone would pick him up and he’s been in the NHL ever since.”

The Canadiens gave Los Angeles a fourth-round draft pick to acquire Thompson and a fifth-round pick.

“We need a solid faceoff guy who can give Phil (Danault) a break, and he’s a good penalty killer, a grinder. And he’s the kind of guy who elevates his game in the playoffs,” said Julien.

Deslauriers is the lone survivor from the fourth line that provided the Canadiens with some energy this season. Kenny Agostino was placed on waivers Sunday and was picked up by the New Jersey Devils, while Michael Chaput was placed on waivers Tuesday.

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