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Future remains uncertain for Canadiens’ Tomas Plekanec

Tomas Plekanec doesn’t remember the first point he registered with the Canadiens, which is understandable because it happened so long ago.

The date was Oct. 6, 2005 and Plekanec picked up an assist on a goal by Chris Higgins as the Canadiens beat the Rangers 4-3 in New York on an overtime goal by Michael Ryder.

On Sunday afternoon, Plekanec recorded his 600th career NHL point with the Canadiens, getting an assist on Artturi Lehkonen’s second goal in a 4-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Bell Centre. Plekanec added his 601st point when he scored the final goal, ending a 20-game goal-less drought for the 35-year-old centre the Canadiens selected in the third round (71st overall) at the 2001 NHL Draft.

“I remember the first goal, but I don’t remember the first point,” Plekanec said after the game when looking back on his NHL career.

“It was against Toronto, I think at home,” he added about his first NHL goal. “(Ed) Belfour was in the net, I think, and I got a pass from (Mike) Ribeiro and just shot it … a slapper.”

Plekanec’s memory is perfect about that night on Oct. 15, 2005, when Toronto beat the Canadiens 3-2 at the Bell Centre.

Plekanec has now played 974 games with the Canadiens, scoring 231 goals and adding 370 assists. He ranks eighth all-time in games played with the Canadiens and 13th in points. But Plekanec’s days in Montreal could be numbered with the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaching and him eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after his two-year, US$12-million contract expires.

Plekanec has made it clear he wants to finish his career in Montreal, but it would make sense for Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin to trade him before the deadline to a team looking for a veteran, two-way centre and then try to re-sign him in the summer to a much less-expensive contract. That, of course, depends on whether Plekanec is in the Canadiens’ future plans.

On a team that’s very weak down the middle, coach Claude Julien continues to lean heavily on Plekanec, who is averaging 16:21 of ice time while killing penalties, winning 52.1 per cent of his faceoffs and posting a plus-2 despite being matched up against the opposition’s No. 1 line. Offensively, Plekanec’s production has dried up with five goals and 15 assists in 53 games.

“That’s what happens, I guess, throughout a career … your role changes,” Plekanec said. “You get older, you get different kinds of assignments. I was so fortunate to play with guys like Kovy (Alex Kovalev) and (Andrei) Kostitsyn at the time (he broke into the NHL) and some other guys that helped me offensively to reach those numbers. I’m not a numbers guy, I’m not big about stats.”

Plekanec’s career high for goals is 29, set in 2007-08, and his most points were 70 in 2009-10. He posted 14-40-54 totals in 2015-16, but his production fell to 10-18-28 last season.

Plekanec said he hasn’t had any discussions with management about the future, but has talked a bit with his agent.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

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