Canadiens Sign Plekanec, Kotkaniemi & Ouellet

The Montreal Canadiens have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with veteran center Tomas Plekanec, the team announced Sunday. The contract comes with a base salary of $2.25 million with bonuses throughout the deal that brings the contract to a total of $3.25 million.

Plekanec spent the first 14 years of his career as a member of the Canadiens, playing in 981 games and scoring 232 goals with 605 points. A valuable two-way center who has the respect of the entire city of Montreal as well as his once-again teammates in Montreal, Plekanec will fit in perfectly in Montreal as they look for depth down the center of the ice. Plekanec obviously won’t be the impact center that the Canadiens are looking for but his presence down the middle of the ice has long made them a better team.

He may not be a 20-goal scorer at this point in his career and he may not record anything close to 40 or 50 points anymore, but his defensive accountability and leadership should bode well for the Canadiens as they try and bounce back from an abysmal season in 2017-18. With six goals and 26 points in 77 games in 2017-18 split between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs, Plekanec simply is what he is at this point in his career.

Montreal Canadiens Tomas Plekanec
Plekanec has been a major piece for the Canadiens for his entire career. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Getting a chance to play in the postseason last year in Toronto was a classy move by the Canadiens and it was one that obviously went a long way in keeping the respect between player and team. With 981 games in a Canadiens uniform already under his belt, Plekanec should hit the 1,000 game-mark as a Canadien next year – something that seems fitting for a player who had spent his entire career with the team prior to that trade to the Maple Leafs.

The Canadiens also announced that they would be signing Jesperi Kotkaniemi, their first-round selection from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, to a three-year entry-level contract Sunday. Plekanec and Kotkaniemi represent the past and future of the Canadiens as Plekanec is one of the long-standing centers for the Canadiens and a player who has been with the team since 2003 while Kotkaniemi, a third-overall pick, could finally be that legitimate No. 1 center for the Canadiens – a role they’ve been trying to fell for over two decades.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi Canadiens
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Montreal Canadiens, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s unreal where Kotkaniemi will spend his 2018-19 season but signing an entry-level contract already is very interesting. There has been the belief that Kotkaniemi will return to Finland to play out the 2018-19 season and then potentially make the jump to the NHL in 2019-20. Whatever happens with him, though, the belief is that he’ll finally restore glory to the Canadiens – a team that was once crowned Stanley Cup Champions at least once per decade but who have failed to win a Title since the 1993 season.

If Plekanec can instill any advice in Kotkaniemi in the brief time that he gets to see him this offseason, that could go a long way in the long-term development of the 18-year-old.

The Canadiens also announced the signing of Xavier Ouellet. The 24-year-old defender spent the majority of his hockey life in Montreal prior to the Detroit Red Wings in the second round in 2011. Back in Montreal following parts of five seasons with the Red Wings, Ouellet is signed to a two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level with $350,000 guaranteed to him regardless of whether he plays in the NHL or not.