Craig Rivet, who was about to return from a bout of pnenumonia, was traded by the Montreal Canadiens to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday for Josh Gorges in a swap of defencemen.
The Canadiens will also receive a first-round draft pick in 2007 while the Sharks get a fifth-rounder in 2008.
Rivet has 12 years of experience - all with the Canadiens. He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he said he knew he might be traded before the deadline.
"It was something that I was preparing myself for," he said. "It's something that's difficult because I've been in Montreal a long time. I have a lot of roots here. But at the same time I kind of saw the writing on the wall. I was thinking in my mind that change would be good.
"I feel great about it."
Rivet has 39 goals and 112 assists in his regular-season career. He is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The North Bay, Ont., native was not expected to remain with the Canadiens after a dispute with coach Guy Carbonneau that began Jan. 16 when he was made a healthy scratch for a game against Vancouver.
Gorges, 22, has a goal and three assists in 47 games this season, his second. The six-foot-one blue-liner played on Canada's silver medal-winning squad at the 2004 world junior hockey championship.
Meanwhile, the Sharks finally added a veteran defenceman to one of the NHL's least experienced groups.
"We were looking for a Mike Grier-type player to play on a our back end," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said. "Mike Grier has had a big impact up front and we look to get that from Craig on defence. He's obviously been well-coached coming from the Canadiens' organization."
Rivet has six goals, 10 assists and 57 penalty minutes in 54 games this season as a quietly dependable presence on Montreal's blue-line.
He has been out of the Canadiens' lineup since Feb. 8, missing nine games while battling pneumonia and only returning to practice Sunday.
At that point, Rivet was looking forward to getting back into action against Toronto on Monday night, even if he had not yet regained top form.
"It will take time to be 100 per cent, but I've worked hard all week with the trainers to try to open up my lungs a bit and get into the best shape possible," said Rivet. "I feel pretty good on the ice now."
Rivet was drafted by Montreal in the third round in 1992 and went on to become a dependable defensive player who could play on the power play if needed. He also played for Canada at the 2003 IIHF world championship.
"I have so many memories here in Montreal," Rivet said. "Some not all good, but you know what, I've enjoyed every single minute that I've been here in Montreal. It's a fantastic city, it's a very passionate hockey city. Even the good and the bad, I take it all in stride.
"I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I played here. It's a hockey city, an incredible place to play. I was fortunate enough to play 12 years here."
Last season, he had a career-high 34 points, but he struggled at times this season, which led to his being pulled from the lineup for a game.
But the Sharks desperately needed an experienced, playoff-tested defenceman to help lead a defensive crew that has been criticized this season despite the club's strong record. San Jose gave up 29 goals on its just-completed eight-game road trip, including seven in a loss to Calgary on Saturday night.
"I would not have felt very comfortable if we had gone through the trade deadline and not addressed this area," Wilson said.
Rivet says he is excited to play for the Sharks.
"I know they have a very, very strong team," Rivet said. "Everybody knows Joe Thornton is one of the best players to put on the skates right now. I am extremely excited to be part of this team. I think they have a great future, I think they have a team that can really do some damage.
"I'm just looking to bring a little piece of the puzzle to make them hopefully that much better."
The 32-year-old Rivet becomes the oldest player on one of the NHL's youngest rosters. San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has consistently resisted the temptation to ship out his stable of young forwards and goalies to supplement his defence, insisting the Sharks' youngsters deserved the right to play.
Gorges was among those youngsters who earned an opportunity, but he had just four points this season while struggling in his own end.
"We gave up a very good young player in Josh Gorges, a real character kid," Wilson said.
The Sharks still will have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft after acquiring New Jersey's choice last year.