On Sunday night, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey announced that the club and D Sheldon Souray have agreed to terms on a new 3 year deal, reportedly worth $8.4 million dollars.
Souray was one of the biggest surprises in the NHL last season, leading all NHL defencemen in scoring prior to the All-Star break, before an injury slowed down his progress, a trend that carried through the postseason. Despite that, he posted a stellar 15 goals and 20 assists in just 63 regular season games, plus a +4 rating and 104 PIMS (tops amongst Hab rearguards). As a result, he led all Montreal defencemen in scoring, and finished 6th on the team overall. In the postseason, he wasn’t quite as successful, notching just a pair of assists in 11 contests, and a -2 rating. His 39 penalty minutes during this span also led the team. All in all, he had quite the season, considering he played in a grand total of 0 games in 2002-03. He was also a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey.
Souray was originally a draft pick of the New Jersey Devils in 1994, 71st overall. On March 1st, 2000, Souray, along with Josh DeWolf (who has since bounced around the minor leagues) and a 2nd round pick, were dealt to the Habs in exchange for Vladimir Malakhov, who left the Devils at the end of that season.
Souray, at 6’4 and about 230 pounds, is the biggest defender on the Habs, and arguably is the best at using it on the team. This season, management expects him to further round out his game at both sides of the rink, while filling one of the top 2 defensive spots on Claude Julien’s blueline.
Restricted Free Agent Update
With Souray taken care of, the Habs have just a pair of restricted free agents left to sign, Olivier Michaud and Michael Ryder. Rene Vydareny, acquired in March at the deadline, is still technically an RFA, but he has signed on in Germany for this season.