Weber wont play for Canadiens next season, NHL return in question

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Shea Weber will not play for the Montreal Canadiens next season and the defenseman’s NHL career could be over.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Weber is dealing with several injuries.

“I was amazed how he played,” Bergevin said Thursday. “He was one of our top-minute defensemen throughout the whole playoffs all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. I personally wasn’t aware [of the severity of his injuries], and from what I’ve gathered from the information, I don’t think anybody was really aware of it. I think we’re all aware of their pain and what he was going through every day, but to that degree we didn’t know. Shea, as you all know, is a man of few words and sharing or complaining about his body is not one thing that he does so I was very surprised.

“He won’t be back next season, and probably won’t be back for his career.”

Weber scored six points (one goal, five assists) and averaged 25:13 in ice time playing all 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games this postseason, when the Canadiens advanced to the Cup Final for the first time since 1993. Montreal lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.

“It will be impossible to replace Shea Weber, what he brings to our team on and off the ice,” Bergevin said. “We’ll try our best but I know deep down that you can never replace Shea Weber.

“Obviously we need to somehow replace his minutes, defensemen that will get more responsibility as we move forward. We’ll look closely to the market, either via trade or free agency to try to at least, to a degree, replace Shea, if we can.”

The Montreal captain has five seasons remaining on a 14-year contract he signed with the Nashville Predators, who matched an offer sheet he was given by the Philadelphia Flyers prior to the 2012-13 season. It has an annual NHL salary cap charge of $7.85 million.

If Weber were to retire before the end of the contract, the Canadiens and Predators would face salary cap recapture charges.

Weber played his first 11 NHL seasons for Nashville before he was traded to Montreal for defenseman P.K. Subban on June 29, 2016.

“I’ve been really enjoying my time here,” Weber said last month prior to playing in the Stanley Cup Final. “Been fortunate to be traded to a great city and organization. And yeah, there’s been some hard times, there’s been some good times, but it’s a part of the journey and a part of the story. … It’s been a good ride so far and hope to keep it going here.”

Weber missed 94 games the past four seasons with Montreal, including 56 in 2017-18 because of a tendon tear in his left foot, the first 24 of the following season recovering from knee surgery, six games with an ankle injury in February 2020, and the final eight this season with a thumb injury. He turns 36 on Aug. 14.

“I think the thing with ‘Webby’ is once we hit the ice it’s all business,” Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “There’s no messing around. He wants everything done exactly the way the coaches said it’s done. And I think that’s a big reason why he’s been so successful as a player, his attention to details, his seriousness once we hit the ice.

“And off the ice, he’s got a relationship with everybody in the room. The young guys, he’s dad to the young guys, and he’s buddies with all the older guys. He connects with everybody. And I think that’s why he’s considered one of the best captains in the League.”

Selected by Nashville in the second round (No. 49) of the 2003 NHL Draft, Weber has scored 589 points (224 goals, 365 assists) in 1,038 games and 42 points (18 goals, 24 assists) in 97 postseason games.

He was voted runner-up for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL and was named an NHL First Team All-Star in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award in 2015-16.

“As a kid, you dream of playing in the NHL. … You think that it’s going to come true and you imagine it,” Weber said before playing his 1,000th NHL game Feb. 2. “Realistically, it’s a lot tougher than people realize and it’s tough to do, so just making it here is really special. Make it this long and having a career this many games is something that I never really imagined … it’s pretty surreal.

“I can’t say thanks enough to coaches, family, friends. There’s so many people on the way, it’s definitely not just a personal thing. There are strength coaches, therapists, hockey coaches, family members. Obviously, my mom and dad were my biggest influences growing up. It’s just a team effort for sure.”

NHL.com columnist Dave Stubbs and LNH.com editorial director Sebastien Deschambault contributed to this report

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