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The Habs continued to be busy prior to the official start of free agency by re-signing defenceman Alexei Emelin to a two year contract late Saturday afternoon. He will receive $2 million in each year. The 26 year old was one season away from being eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Emelin made his NHL debut last season, seven years after being drafted in the 3rd round (84th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He quickly became a fan favourite for his physical style of play, leading the Canadiens in hits given while finishing fourth amongst NHL defencemen in that category. He also displayed some versatility midway through the year when he was switched over to the right side on the blueline which isn't his natural position.
Offensively, he didn't have as strong a year as he was accustomed to in Russia, tallying just 7 points and a team worst -18 rating in 67 games. That wasn't the case in the World Championships back in May, however. In nine games playing for Team Russia, he had a pair of goals plus two assists with a +12 rating which was tops among all tournament defencemen en route to winning the gold medal. He also averaged just under 19 minutes per game, about a minute and a half more than he logged with the Habs in his rookie campaign.
Emelin is now the 5th Montreal defencemen under contract for the upcoming 2012-13 season. Raphael Diaz and P.K. Subban are both restricted free agents as is Frederic St. Denis who spent some time with the big club last year. Chris Campoli was informed yesterday that the team would not be offering him a contract, he will enter unrestricted free agency at noon EST Sunday.
- Official Press Release