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Martin Réway and the Montreal Canadiens agree to a contract termination

The tumultuous Habs tenure of the young Slovak is over.

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Club de hockey Canadien, Inc.

The Montreal Canadiens and forward Martin Réway agreed to a mutual termination of his entry-level contract after he cleared unconditional waivers.

Feeling frustrated with his own level of play, in combination with the slow adaptation to the North American style of hockey, Réway requested time to reflect on his future while the Laval Rocket went on their recent two-game road trip.

He played his final game on October 25 after a total of five AHL games this season. He earned two assists, but had a goal differential of -5, highlighting the difficulty he was having with the defensive side of the game.

Réway was drafted in the fourth round by the Canadiens, 112th overall, in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, from the same crop that yielded Michael McCarron, Jacob de la Rose, Zachary Fucale, Artturi Lehkonen, and Sven Andrighetto.

Coming off of a 50-point season with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Slovak National Team player was not heavily scouted headed into the draft. Hockey Prospect described him as "a great power-play player [who] controls the play with ease and shows tremendous poise with the puck."

His reputation of being an excellent playmaker is what drew the Canadiens’ interest in the 5’8” forward. “He has the necessary determination to survive in this league in spite of size,” said Trevor Timmins about Réway. A few weeks later at the Canadiens’ Summer Development Camp, he stood out as a top talent on the ice for the team.

What stood out to me is that he was the best playmaker on the ice. On 2-on-1 drills he always got his pass through, no matter who was defending, usually right on the tape. His frame is extremely slight but his skills are there. — Andrew Berkshire, July 5, 2013

Réway’s next opportunity to shine was at the Canadiens’ training camp, where he got to play in the first pre-season game for the Habs, again showcasing his play with the puck, but, as La Presse reported, he “tried to do too much by himself.”

This would become a recurring theme for the young Slovak throughout his career. He was cut by the Canadiens a few days later and returned to Gatineau for one final season. There he posted 62 points before heading back to Europe to continue to develop, feeling that he could stand to play at a higher level than junior.

Réway was front and centre for Team Slovakia at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship, putting up 10 points in five games for his team. The following year he captained Slovakia to an unexpected bronze medal, with nine points in seven games, exciting the Canadiens fanbase at the potential he was showing.

I started to think about my future (at the World Junior Championships). I truly believed that I can handle playing at the highest level. I don't want to say that I had a great tournament but I don't think it was a bad one either. I wanted to make the jump and since I still had two years left on my contract with Sparta , I decided to return to Prague. We tweaked the contract a little though, changed the out-clause. — Martin Réway, 2014 interview with Habs Eyes on the Prize

Réway is very skilled with the puck, but doesn’t enjoy playing without it. He feels that in order to be effective he has to be the distributor, controlling the play on the ice. This began to cause him problems when he joined his first professional team, HC Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga, after a remarkable season offensively that earned him Rookie of the Year honours.

Feeling that his accomplishments, not his age, should dictate his usage, he grew frustrated with Sparta when his ice time was limited in favour of older players, even though Réway led the Extraliga in scoring. This led to a disagreement with his head coach, and after requesting a trade, Réway was removed from the team and assigned to their farm team while a trade was worked out.

"Forward Martin Réway was temporarily reassigned to the major league squad Benatky nad Jizerou. The player told us through his agent that he did not want to play for Sparta at the moment. Playing for our club should be considered an honour for every player, and if the situation is such, we have no other choice than to exclude him from the squad.

Due to the fact that he is under contract in our country, he must recognize that Sparta remain a priority for him in his current hockey career. Once he does we can talk about his possible return to the team.” - HC Sparta Praha statement

Despite some early talk of Réway heading over to the KHL, it was in fact Fribourg-Gottéron of the Swiss NLA that acquired his services from Sparta. He immediately made an impact for his team, scoring at a torrid pace, and settling down a nervous Canadiens fanbase that felt this talented prospect was simply going to fade away.

In 19 games for the Swiss side, he contributed 21 points, once again scoring at above a point-per-game pace and continuing down the path he had shown throughout his career.

We met up with Réway later in 2015, and he opened up a bit more about liking the centre position more than wing; partly because of puck possession, but also because of the overall larger responsibilities granted.

“I like to play centre, that’s for sure. It's quicker; you can use your skills; you can read the play much, much more. As a winger in the defensive zone, you have to be in the middle and help out your defencemen. It is much easier than to play centre. But as a centre you get to be a better player, you have to learn something new, play much better defensively, but also have to be aware, I don’t really mind playing wing or centre, it's only good for me.”

At the end of the season, he caused some noise again by wishing Fribourg well for the following season on his Instragram account, making it sound like he was not planning on returning to the Swiss club. This after he was scratched from a few playoff games that he did not accept particularly well.

There were rumours of Réway negotiating with Slovan Bratislava of the KHL for the 2016-17 season, which would have meant that the Canadiens would lose the rights to the forward as the deadline for an entry-level contract was quickly approaching.

I know about the interest, but no actual offer or contract did come. I still don't know where I'll be next year. I felt a great interest from Slovan, I was kind of sure about it, but then I heard about Montreal. So right now I have to quickly decide what would be best for me." — Martin Réway, April 2016

Two weeks away from the deadline, on May 18, 2016, the Montreal Canadiens announced that they signed the forward to a three-year entry level deal, seemingly bringing an end to the drama, with the expectations that he would return to North America for the 2016-17 season and compete for a spot on the Canadiens.

He looked good at the Canadiens’ Development Camp in the summer of 2016, and there was firm excitement in the forward’s arrival at Rookie Camp to kick off his first professional hockey season in North America. Then things took a turn for the worse.

Instead of hitting the ice with the Habs at training camp, Réway was battling for his life in a Slovakian hospital, where he was admitted to the ICU with an undisclosed serious health disorder. An illness that would, in fact, rob him of the entire season.

"I felt fine. I had been training heavy all summer, then I got a fever and they hospitalized me. I went from one hospital to another as they couldn’t diagnose me, and in the end I ended up in Piestany. They prescribed the treatment that I am still following. I am peaceful at home, but I don’t move around much. I talk to the doctors. There have been no further complications, so there was no need to go back to the hospital. There is no operation necessary.

While I do not know about the future, I shouldn’t really talk about it as I am under contract with the Montreal Canadiens. I feel sorry because it happened so late during summer. [The Canadiens] support me and we still keep in contact. I have lost a lot of kilos, but I am slowly getting some back. I want to recover fully and as fast as possible in order to continue my career." — Martin Réway, December 2016 interview with CAS.SK

Réway slowly returned to training in March of 2017, seven months after his incapacitating illness, and gradually worked his way back into form so that he could attend the Canadiens Rookie Camp in the fall of 2017, one full year after his illness. In his first game back, he made a few good plays, but a lack of timing, synchronicity, and conditioning were evident. He struggled at times, and by the second game of the tournament found himself skipping shifts.

He took part in the main Canadiens training camp, but was quickly cut to the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket, where he would start the season. The team tried to work him in slowly, avoiding putting him in any back-to-back situations.

Not being one who is known for his patience, Réway grew frustrated with his utilization and also with his own play. The most telling outpouring of his feelings was in a recent interview with The Athletic.

“Honestly I didn’t know what to expect, but the style of hockey here is very different. There is a lot of forechecking, and you play a lot without the puck. I’m the kind of player who needs to have the puck, and right now I’m not seeing it too often. It’s very hard for me. You have a lot of situations without the puck and it’s affecting my gameplay because I love to create opportunities for my teammates. But up until now I have not been able to do that. I guess that’s how things work in this League. It might take me some time to get used to it.” - Martin Réway, The Athletic, October 2017

He gave a bit more insight recently when he was interviewed by the Slovakian site Pluska.SK:

“Of course, I knew that in terms of fitness, there would be concerns, but what’s troubling is things like my stick-handling, pass accuracy, or even quick decision-making to pass or shoot. These are the things that have helped me all my life and have been second nature, which allowed me to enjoy playing hockey, but now are difficult for me.

I see that many players on our team are playing better than me at the moment. If my performances do not improve, I will not play NHL because it would be to the detriment of players who are now better than me.”

Ultimately it appears as though the changes required were just too much for a proud player who just wants to have fun playing the game he loved after nearly losing everything in tragic circumstance. We wish him all the best, and hope that despite the heavy life challenges he faced, that he emerges happy and content with everything going forward.