March 1st is the first day that players can sign contracts that begin in 2021-22 and the Habs did just that with Gianni Fairbrother, inking the defenceman to a three-year, entry-level contract. The deal carries an AAV of $848,333.
The 20-year-old was a third-round pick (77th overall) of the Habs back in 2019 following a sophomore season with Everett (WHL) that saw him go from a role player seeing limited minutes to a core piece for the Silvertips. The hope was that he’d take another step forward last season although injuries limited him to just 37 games although he managed a more than respectable 25 points (5-20-25) over that stretch. Fairbrother had been playing through a nagging upper-body injury before opting to undergo surgery back in January 2020 to fix the issue, ending his season early.
Between that and the pandemic, he went more than a year before games but he did manage to get into three games with Laval last month, recording an assist on his very first shift and not looking out of place by any stretch. Now, with the WHL getting back underway, Fairbrother has to go back to Everett to play their season but it is possible that he could rejoin the Rocket later in the year if the Silvertips finish their season first.
Montreal could have opted to wait to see how he fared before making a decision on Fairbrother’s future as they had three more months to sign him before losing his rights but this move allows him to focus on the year ahead without having to worry about his contract situation.
The Habs have four other prospects that need deals by June 1st or they will lose their rights. Those are defencemen Jacob LeGuerrier (who remains with Laval with the OHL not starting yet) and Kieran Ruscheinski as well as forwards Rafael Harvey-Pinard (currently on an AHL deal) and Joni Ikonen.