Much-travelled David Schlemko looks to find home on Canadiens defence
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BROSSARD, Que. — David Schlemko has worn a lot of jerseys in recent years but he hopes to have finally found one that lasts with the Montreal Canadiens.
The 30-year-old defenceman is on his seventh team in three seasons.
"It's definitely a relief to come to a great team and have the best goalie in the world behind you," Schlemko said when training camp opened Friday. "That's a great start."
Three seasons ago, the Edmonton native was an Arizona Coyote, playing in his seventh season with the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent. He was claimed off waivers by Dallas in mid-season, but played only five games for the Stars before he was put on waivers again and taken by the Calgary Flames.
He signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils for the 2015-16 campaign and played well enough to be signed last season as a free agent with the San Jose Sharks.
He thought he'd found a home after inking a four-year contract with the Sharks, but after one season, he was claimed in the expansion draft last June by the Vegas Golden Knights, only to be flipped to Montreal the next day for a 2019 fifth-round draft pick.
"This is the first time I've actually been traded," he said. "I'm happy to end up here in a great hockey market, on a good team.
"It's been a lot of moving."
Schlemko looks to be improving with age. He had a career-high six goals and 19 points for the Devils and then had six goals and 18 points with the Sharks.
"Confidence and opportunity make a big difference," he said. "You get put in the right situations and do the right things and you'll be rewarded.
"I still think I have more to contribute offensively than I have in the last couple of years."
The Canadiens were seeking left-shot defencemen after losing Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin in the off-season. To go with Schlemko, they signed Karl Alzner and veteran Mark Streit as free agents.
Where they will fit on the depth chart when the season opens remains up in the air, but coach Claude Julien had Alzner on the second unit with veteran Jeff Petry to start camp.
Top defender Shea Weber played with junior-age Victor Mete of the London Knights. That may have been a reward for Mete after strong play at the team's summer development camp and last week's rookie camp.
Schlemko skated with prospect Noah Juulsen, while Streit was with veteran Jordie Benn.
The Canadiens also have experienced NHL defencemen Joe Morrow, Zach Redmond and Brandon Davidson. Julien previously coached Morrow in Boston.
And there is Jakub Jerabek, a 26-year-old who was a KHL all-star with Podolsk Vityaz last season. The five-foot-11 Jerabek, said to be a strong skater and puck-mover, signed a one-year free agent contract with Montreal and has a chance to crack the lineup if he can adjust quickly to NHL hockey.
If not, he should start the season in the AHL. Only two seasons ago, Jerabek was playing in the Czech league.
"I had a big year in Czech and after that season I got a chance to play with the national team in Moscow and it was good for me," said Jerabek. "The year in Russia was very big for the team and for me.
"I appreciate (being) here and I'll try to be part of this big organization."
The Canadiens traded Mikhail Sergachev — perhaps their best left-side defence prospect — to Tampa Bay for gifted forward Jonathan Drouin, who will be given a shot at playing centre. He started camp skating on a line with captain Max Pacioretty.
Alex Galchenyuk was back at left wing with Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher.
Julien cautioned not to read too much into the first day of camp. They have an intrasquad match Sunday and play the first of eight pre-season games Monday.
"We're just trying to figure out the individuals and see how they do together," said Julien, who took over from the fired Michel Therrien in February. "We'll have plenty of chances to mix and match and see what the best combinations are when the season starts."
Sixty-one players were invited to camp, but 2015 draft pick Jeremiah Addison will miss it with a shoulder injury.