Caufield: 'I'd still be playing' through shoulder injury if Habs were in playoff spot
Despite suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, Cole Caufield said he would still be slotting into the Canadiens' lineup if Montreal had its eyes on a postseason run.
"For sure, if we were in a playoff spot, no doubt in my mind I'd still be playing," he told reporters during a press conference on Friday. "It really wasn't up to me to stop playing. But in the right circumstances, I feel like this is the best decision long-term."
The Canadiens are currently in last place of the Atlantic Division with a record of 20-25-4 and are 13 points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The 22-year-old winger was ruled out for the remainder of the 2022-23 campaign on Sunday after the team announced he'd been playing through a right shoulder injury that would require surgery.
Caufield said he initially sustained the ailment on Dec. 23 against the Dallas Stars after what he called an "awkward fall."
"I kind of put (my shoulder) back in myself a couple of seconds later and, you know, it wasn't too bad," he said.
Caufield ended up playing 16:33 and registering three shots on goal during the Canadiens' 4-2 defeat in Dallas. However, the issue reared its head again four games later against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 3.
"The same thing kind of happened and that time was a little more painful, but our medical staff has done a great job of doing some rehab work on it and making me feel 100%, in my opinion," Caufield said.
All in, Caufield suited up for 12 more games after initially suffering the injury, putting up seven goals and one assist in that span. In his final game of the season against the Florida Panthers on Jan. 19, he saw just under 18 minutes of ice time.
"For me, I didn't want to stop playing. I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly, but in the end, it could have been one more fall and it could have been even worse," he said. "I guess the risk factor of that, it was hard to face. ... I didn't want to hurt it more."
The details of the surgery are still being finalized, but Caufield said he expects to undergo the procedure soon.
Caufield can become a restricted free agent this summer. One day before his season ended, he confirmed his representatives had started preliminary contract talks with the team.
The Wisconsin native added Friday that the decision to call off his campaign had nothing to do with the negotiations, noting that both he and the Canadiens are prioritizing his health.
Caufield leads the Habs with 26 goals in 46 games and ranks second on the team - behind captain Nick Suzuki - with 36 points this season.