Phillip Danault has defined his role this season with the Habs, hopes to be back

Of all the Habs players who could become free agents without compensation when the market opens at noon on July 28, the case of centre Phillip Danault will undoubtedly receive the most attention in Montreal.

The centre played a key role in the Habs' playoff run, having been matched up more often than not with the best players on opposing teams -- Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, and others.

Danault's season didn't start out like a fairy tale. Quite the contrary. He made no secret of the fact that his contract situation affected him at the start -- he had to wait until the 25th game of the campaign before finding the back of the net for the first time.

The Chicago Blackhawks' first-round pick, 26th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft said he was shaken by the fact that the news that he had turned down an offer from the Habs earlier in the season had leaked to the media.

The pizza business is booming in Montreal these days.#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/z9hL6539pG

— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) July 9, 2021

"I was worried about the role that 'Suze' (Suzuki) and 'KK' (Kotkaniemi) would eventually play, but I think we see across the league that if you want to win, then you need three quality centre players -- that was the case for the New York Islanders and ourselves this year -- and players who are good at both ends of the ice," he said. "That played a part (in my early season performance), but I've found my style of play, I know who I am and I know what I can bring to a team. And I know I can win. So it's been a big year, personally and collectively, with the team."

So Danault made the best of it.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 9, 2021.

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