The Canadiens traded centre Mike Ribeiro to the Dallas Stars for Janne Niinimaa on Saturday. Montreal will also receive a fifth-round draft pick in 2007 while the Stars get a sixth-round pick in 2008.
Ribeiro, a career Canadien, said he was shocked by the move.
"I'm disappointed and sad at the same time," the Montreal native said. "I didn't expect this now.
"There were rumours last year that I'd be traded, but I didn't think about it this year. I just concentrated on getting ready for the season. I guess Montreal wanted defence and Dallas wanted a centre. It's a great city for me. No winter. No snow. So I'll be happy."
Tomas Plekanec was in Ribeiro's spot on a line with Alex Kovalev and Sergei Samsonov in a pre-season game Saturday night against Ottawa.
Montreal is short of defencemen with injuries to Francis Bouillon and Jean-Philippe Cote. They learned Friday that Bouillon's knee injury would keep him out longer than expected and he may not return until the end of November.
General manager Bob Gainey said a minor shoulder injury suffered this week by defenceman Sheldon Souray made it clear that the team lacked experienced depth at that position.
The Canadiens claimed veteran Patrick Traverse on waivers from San Jose on Thursday, then made the move for Niinimaa, a 10-year NHL veteran who has played for Philadelphia, Edmonton, the New York Islanders and Dallas.
"When another injury happened, we found we just didn't have the depth among our prospects on defence as we have at centre," Gainey said.
He said he was not concerned that Niinimaa was often a healthy scratch by the Stars after they acquired him last January from the Islanders.
"I know he had an ankle injury, but he had it fixed this summer," said Gainey.
Niinimaa will earn US$2.508 million on the final year of his contract this season. Ribeiro is on a one-year deal worth $1.9 million.
The six-foot-one, 220-pound Niinimaa, 31, has 54 goals and 262 assists in 700 career games. His best season was 2000-01 with Edmonton, when he scored 12 goals and had34 assists in 82 games. He had a total of three goals and 13 assists in 63 games last season.
The Stars are deep on defence after acquiring Darryl Sydor and Jaroslav Modry in the off-season, while Montreal has several centres both with the NHL club and in the minors.
Ribeiro, a slick play-making centre who had a strong training camp, has played 276 career games for Montreal, collecting 50 goals and 103 assists.
"Dallas has great players, a great team, and they'll be playing for the Stanley Cup," he said. "I always dreamed of winning a Stanley Cup here (in Montreal), the 25th, but I guess it won't happen."