HabsWorld.net -- 

It was a busy day off the ice for the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.  First, they had to deal with the prospect signing deadline at 5 PM EST, where 4 players either had to be signed, or have their rights released into Saturday’s draft.  Then, there was the matter of hiring their new head coach in Hamilton.  If that wasn’t enough, the club went through a few formalities, and extended qualifying offers to 4 key players.  We start though with the prospect deadline.

Today, the Canadiens locked up a pair of junior teammates, in C Maxim Lapierre and W Jimmy Bonneau.  Both players signed 3 year entry level deals, financial terms were undisclosed.  The 6’2, 201 lb Lapierre was the team’s 2nd round pick (61st overall) in 2003, and notched 52 points in 69 games for the PEI Rocket (QMJHL) last season.  Bonneau, at 6’3 and 224 lbs, was selected 241st overall in 2003, and collected 22 points in 70 games, as well as 234 PIMS, 3rd in the ‘Q’.  Two other players had to be signed today, W Danny Stewart and D Mark Flood.  Neither did, and both will re-enter the draft.

As for matters in Hamilton, the team named Don Lever the 6th team in franchise history, all but confirming that Doug Jarvis will replace Guy Charron in Montreal this upcoming season.  Lever spent the last 2 seasons as an assistant to Mike Kitchen in St. Louis.  Prior to that, he spent 12 years with the Sabres organization, spending most of the time as an assistant with the NHL squad.  He did coach the AHL’s Rochester Americans for a pair of seasons, winning coach of the year in 1990-91.  Lever, the 3rd overall selection of Vancouver in 1972, played a total of 1,020 NHL games, tallying 313 goals, 367 assists, 680 points, and 593 PIMS.  “I am looking forward to the challenge of developing the young players and being behind the bench once again,” said Lever. “It is a great honour to become a part of such successful organizations as the Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs.”  Another note pertaining to one of the Bulldogs, LW Chris Higgins has been invited to Team USA’s Olympic Training Camp this summer.

Also today, the Canadiens extended qualifying offers to G Jose Theodore, D Andrei Markov, and C’s Saku Koivu and Mike Ribeiro.  The team has until 11:59 PM EST on Sunday to extend offers to their other restricted free agents.

Summary of key upcoming dates:

Fri. July 29:
Deadline to buyout players at 2/3 of their salary without it counting against the cap.
Sat. July 30:  2005 NHL Entry Draft, Canadiens’ top pick is #5 overall.
Sun. July 31:  Deadline to extend qualifying offers to RFA’s.
Mon. August 1:  UFA signing period begins.