This was a tough deal to make, but one Marc Bergevin absolutely had to pull the trigger on.

Tomas Plekanec was a heart-and-soul player for the Montreal Canadiens; a consummate pro; an ever-reliable spoke in the machine, drafted and developed by the franchise; a player who grew into a star, transitioned into a shutdown centre, and one who played in integral role in the development of several others in the organization; an alternate captain on the ice and a beloved teammate off of it; the 13th-highest scoring player in franchise history; a tough player to say goodbye to.

But the way the Canadiens general manager handled trading the longest-serving member of his team must absolutely be commended. In the end, Bergevin got an excellent return for the 35-year-old and gave himself his best opportunity at having a chance to re-sign him if he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Bergevin was under no obligation to consult with Plekanec on the deal — the Kladno, Czech Republic native had no trade protection — but he did just that and ended up respecting his wishes to remain in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens had a potential deal in place with the Winnipeg Jets to fall back on but they opted to instead trade Plekanec, along with AHL forward Kyle Baun, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a second-round pick, a 23-year-old 2013 first-rounder in forward Kerby Rychel and 22-year-old defenceman Rinat Valiev.

It’s that kind of co-operation that can go a long way towards mending whatever pain Plekanec endured in having to leave the only team he’s ever played for. A contract extension for him was being structured over the weeks leading up to his trade out of town and sources have informed us the parameters have been set for him to return if he so wishes.