BOSTON — The Montreal Canadiens shipped forward Michael Cammalleri to the Calgary Flames on Thursday, adding another chapter to the storied organization’s turbulent season.
The trade comes one day after Cammalleri was quoted as questioning the Canadiens’ attitude in the dressing room after a loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Montreal’s general manager Pierre Gauthier denied the trade had anything to do with the recent controversy and said the team has been working on a deal for more than a month.
The Canadiens receive forwards Rene Bourque and Patrick Holland and a second-round pick in the 2013 draft. Bourque is currently serving a five-game suspension for elbowing Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom in the head.
Calgary also acquires goaltender Karri Ramo and a fifth-round pick in the 2012 draft.
Gauthier said the young players who joined the team this year like David Desharnais and Rafael Diaz are smaller skaters, but the team needs to get bigger.
“The majority of goals are scored around the net now, on deflections, screened shots,” he said. “We need to score those difficult goals. You need to go to those areas to get those second and third chances.”
“We improved our team tonight. It’s not to put down Mr. Cammalleri, it was to get bigger as a team.”
Cammalleri is listed as five-foot-nine and 190 pounds, while Bourque’s player profile says he is six-foot-two and 211 pounds.
Cammalleri returns to the Flames, where he had 39 goals and 82 points in the 2008-09 season, both career highs. The trade shows the Flames are serious about contending for a playoff spot. Calgary entered Thursday 12th in the Western Conference, but only four points behind eighth-place Los Angeles.
“We think he’s a dynamic player,” Calgary GM Jay Feaster said during the first intermission of Calgary’s game with Anaheim. “He’s a player who has had success here. He’s a player who is familiar with a lot of players in that room.
“We feel he helps us on the power play, which is an area where if we’re going to make a run here in the second half, we need the power play to be very good. From our perspective, he’s a guy that needs a change of scenery right now.”
Bourque said the move took him by surprise.
“It’s a big shock. I had no idea that any of this was going on,” he said. “But, if there’s any place I want to play, it’s Montreal. I’ve always enjoyed playing there so I’m happy that I get to go to a place where I enjoy playing.
“I spent 3 1/2 years here. I’m going to miss the guys, the staff, and everybody that’s involved in the organization. But, I’m going to a new family now.”
Although Calgary and Montreal had been in negotiations for some time, things came together quickly on Wednesday.
“When Bourquie was suspended this most recent time, I thought there no sense trying to advance it any further while he was on the suspended list,” Feaster said. “Last night, Pierre called and asked if we were still interested and I said we were, and we started working on it again last night and into today and ultimately got it done late this afternoon.”
Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth confirmed the deal after Thursday night’s game against Boston. Cammalleri was pulled during the third-period of the game and apparently sent back to the team hotel.
Cammalleri, a native of Richmond Hill, Ont., has nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points in 37 games for the Canadiens this season.
So far, this has been a season to forget for the proud Canadiens franchise. After stumbling out of the gates, the team fired head coach Jacques Martin. Cunneyworth, Martin’s replacement, sparked controversy when it was revealed he couldn’t speak French.
“I might be in trouble too, I don’t speak French and probably have the most French name on that team,” Bourque joked. “I know a few words, but that’s just from school.”
The Habs are languishing in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot.
Feaster said Cammalleri is already relishing his first game back with the Flames.
“When I phoned him, and I said who it was calling, the first thing out of his mouth was: ’What are we, four points back? Saturday night, it’s the Kings right? Hockey Night in Canada.’
“He told me he can’t wait to get here.”