Canadiens Notebook: William Lagesson hopes to earn spot with Habs

Defenseman acquired from Edmonton Oilers in the Brett Kulak trade will become only the second Habs player to wear No. 84.

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William Lagesson doesn’t know if he has a future with the Canadiens beyond this season.

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Canadiens GM Kent Hughes acquired the 26-year-old Swedish defensemen from the Edmonton Oilers on Monday as part of the Brett Kulak trade. The Canadians also received a second-round pick at this year’s NHL Draft and a seventh-round pick in 2024 as part of the deal.

Lagesson had 0-4-4 totals in 30 games this season with the Oilers. The 6-foot-2, 207-pounder is in the final season of a two-year, US$1.45-million contract with a $725,000 salary-cap hit and can become a restricted free agent this summer. The Oilers selected Lagesson in the fourth round (91st overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft and in 57 career games over the last three seasons he has 0-6-6 totals. He also played 11 games with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors this season, posting 0-2-2 totals.

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Lagesson said he hasn’t spoken with Hughes about his status beyond this season.

“Maybe after the season we’ll have that discussion, but not right now,” the defenseman said. “He called me after (the trade) and welcomed me to the team. He said he was excited to have me here.”

Lagesson averaged only 12:20 of ice time with the Oilers and is hoping to play more with the Canadians, saying that would allow him to gain confidence and improve his offensive game.

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“I think that will come if I’m playing some minutes, but you can’t forget what brought you here to the NHL and that’s I’m a good defender,” Lagesson said. “So that has to be my main focus.

“I would say I play tough down low, win my battles,” he added. “Keep the game fairly simple. Move the puck quick and strong defensive game.”

Lagesson was in Colorado with the Oilers when he found out he had been traded Monday afternoon. The Oilers played the Avalanche on Monday night, losing 3-2 in overtime, before traveling to Dallas to play the Stars Tuesday night, losing 5-3. Lagesson ended up staying an extra night in Colorado before flying to Montreal, but had only packed for the two-game road trip.

“I guess I’ll have to go shopping a little bit today,” he said.

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The only player in the Canadiens organization that Lagesson knows is fellow Swede Lukas Vejdemo, who is playing for the AHL’s Laval Rocket. They were teammates during the 2017-18 season with Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League.

Lagesson did get in a fight with the Canadiens’ Josh Anderson last season.

“I talked a little bit to him,” Lagesson said after Wednesday’s practice. “He seems to be a really good guy. A good player, too.

“It seems to be a really good group of guys,” the defenseman added about his new teammates. “I put them for the first time this morning, so I’m excited to get to know them better.”

Head coach Martin St. Louis said after Wednesday’s practice that he hadn’t decided if Lagesson would play Thursday when the Canadiens face the Florida Panthers at the Bell Center (7 pm, TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

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Lagesson will wear No. 84 with the Canadians. The only other Canadian player to wear No. 84 was Guillaume Latendresse from 2007-2010.

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Barron gets No. 52

Justin Barron, acquired from the Colorado Avalanche on Monday as part of the Artturi Lehkonen trade, was given No. 52 by the Canadians.

The 20-year-old defenseman’s preferred number is 20, but that is currently being worn by Chris Wideman.

When it was mentioned to Barron that he could probably get No. 20 if he offered to buy Wideman a Rolex watch, he chuckled and said: “I don’t have that money.”

Craig Rivet (1995-2007), Mathieu Darche (2010-2012) and Bud Holloway (2016) are the only other Canadians to wear No. 52.

Barron was selected by the Avalanche in the first round (25th overall) of the 2020 NHL Draft. He played his first two NHL games this season, failing to register a point, and had 5-15-20 totals in 43 games with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.

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“I had nothing but a good experience with Colorado from Day 1,” Barron said. “They gave me an opportunity to play this year.

“There’s a ton of depth in Colorado this year,” he added. “I was lucky to play two games this year. It’s a great team here. Really good young core and hopefully there’s going to be more opportunity for me to get in games. Really just looking forward to hopefully getting in some games this year and getting ready for next year as well.”

St. Louis said he hadn’t decided if Barron would play Thursday night.

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Catching up

Barron had a conversation with new teammate Cole Caufield on the ice before Wednesday’s practice.

The last time they were on the ice together was in the final of the 2021 world junior championship, when Caufield’s Team USA beat Barron’s Team Canada 2-0 for the gold medal.

“He just asked me how my travel day was,” Barron said. “Nothing about world juniors. It will probably take a little while before he starts chirping me about that. Just a friendly conversation welcoming me to the team.”

Barron’s defense partner at the world junior tournament that year was Kaiden Guhle, the Canadians’ first-round pick (16th overall) at the 2020 NHL Draft.

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Watch and learn

While with Colorado, Barron got a close-up look at center Nathan MacKinnon and defenseman Cale Makar, two of the best players in the NHL.

“Just how hard they compete in practice,” Barron said when asked what he learned from watching those two players. “In games, how committed they are. It was great meeting Cale this year, getting to pick his brain a little bit and watch him every day in practice. With Nate, I got to stay with him last summer, get to know him a little bit. It was nice having him in Colorado, too. Another guy from Halifax. They really are two of the best players in the world. It shows in practice how hard they compete and how bad they want to win and get better.”

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Tough for young defensemen

St. Louis was asked after practice if it’s harder to play in the NHL as a defenseman than a forward.

“I think it’s a harder position to play as a young guy because your mistakes are way more exposed,” the coach said. “Just like a goalie. Goalie is probably even tougher as a young guy. I think as a forward the mistakes can be hidden a little more. As a defenseman they’re not and sometimes players might lose a little confidence because some of the mistakes end up in the back of the net.

“As a young guy, maybe you’re not as prepared to deal with those consequences, sort of speak, in terms of the puck going in your net and you’re part of the reason why. It’s a tough position to come as a young guy.”

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Price misses practice

Goalie Carey Price, who has yet to play a game this season as he recovers from surgery last July to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, missed practice Wednesday because of a non-COVID related illness.

Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin also missed practice, taking a therapy day instead. Brendan Gallagher, who missed Monday night’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins because of a non-COVID related illness, rejoined the team on Wednesday but didn’t take part in practice.

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