On October 6, 2015, the Montreal Canadiens claimed forward Paul Byron off waivers from the Calgary Flames. Byron a 5’9″, sixth-round draft pick in 2007 by the Buffalo Sabres joined his third team with the Montreal Canadiens. The move will end going down as one of the best waiver claims in the history of the NHL. During Byron’s time in Calgary, he had 16 goals and 30 Assists in 130 games.
Paul Byron Blooms in Montreal
Since coming to Montreal Byron has become a top-six forward and has been producing at an impressive rate. Over the last two-plus years in Montreal, he has 42 goals and 74 points. He is also known for his play on the penalty kill and his knack for being able to score shorthanded. In the 2015-16 season, Byron scored three shorthanded goals. In his career he has more points shorthanded then points scored on the powerplay. He leads the Habs in shooting percentage since joining the team and since the 2013-14 season, he has the highest shooting perentage in the NHL.
One of the biggest strengths of Byron is his ability to find open spaces and score on the breakaways. One of the fastest players in the league, Byron creates that space with his blazing speed. This year, Byron picked up his first career hat trick in the Habs 10-1 Rout of Detroit on December 2nd. So far this year Byron is second on the team with 10 goals, just three behind captain Max Pacioretty.
The Future for Byron in Montreal is Bright
Bryon is in the second of his three-year, $3.5 million contract ($1.167 million AAV) with the Canadiens. It would be shocking if Montreal does not re-sign him once his contract ends next year. One of the biggest challenges Montreal will have is that Byron is going to ask for more money than what he is making now. While the Habs have plenty of cap space right now, Carey Price‘s contract kicks in next year, and Pacioretty will also be looking for a new deal after next season. However, increases in the salary cap could help alleviate any issues. The Canadiens will not want to repeat what happened this past off-season when Alexander Radulov left to sign with Dallas and Andrei Markov decided to return to Russia to play in the KHL.
With all the injuries that have hurt the Habs have had to do a lot of shuffling with their lines. The question that remains concerns Byron’s role once Artturi Lehkonen and possibly Ales Hemsky return to the Habs lineup? Byron started the season on the Habs fourth line but now finds himself on the top line with Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin. Given the fact that Byron has outproduced what either of the other two wingers has done, he should not fall too far down the lineup. It is clear that Byron continues to bring offence to the team, and earned significant playing time, no matter who his linemates are. Lehkonen will likely have to earn his way back up the lineup, and it is unclear if Hemsky even has a spot on the roster when he is healthy.
High Shooting Percentage
Paul Byron has become one of the Habs most productive players over the last two-plus years. He also provides solid play in his own end of the rink, and is quite gritty and aggressive, especially given his size. This is more than what anyone could have expected when he came over from Calgary in 2015. While some believe his high shooting percentage is a fluke, the fact that so many of his chances come either on breakaways or pouncing on pucks in high danger areas show that he can continue to produce. The ability to take a high percentage of his shots in tight to the net is the reason for the production, and as long as he uses his speed and grit, there is no reason that this can’t continue.
MONTREAL, QC – DECEMBER 02: Paul Byron #41 of the Montreal Canadiens tosses a puck towards the fans against the Detroit Red Wings during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on December 2, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 10-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)