MONTREAL — It’s a big summer for Montreal Canadiens centre Phillip Danault.
The 25-year-old signed a three year contract worth US$3.08 million per season this week and is getting married on the weekend.
"That’s why I wanted to avoid arbitration," an only half-joking Danault said Monday on a conference call. "We’re kind of happy that we’re done now."
His arbitration hearing was to have been on Friday, but the restricted free agent got that out of the way with a deal that represents a big raise from the $912,000 he earned the last two seasons.
"It was a great negotiation," said Danault. "My agent (Newport Sports) and Marc (Bergevin) did a great job.
"First-, second- or third-line centre, I’ll be ready. And with how much money I have I’m really happy to be here three more years."
Danault was in a strong position to negotiate. Bergevin did not land the first-line centre the team has sorely lacked in recent seasons on the free agent market, so it was important to satisfy the experienced two-way pivot who can play on any line.
The Victoriaville, Que. native is generally considered to be a solid third-line centre, but has played mostly on the first and second units.
In recent weeks, Bergevin inked three centres — bringing back veteran Tomas Plekanec from Toronto, extending low-scoring Jacob de la Rose, and signing 25-year-old free agent prospect Matthew Peca. Where they will all fit in next season is still to be decided. Jonathan Drouin, a natural left winger, was considered the top centre last season.
"Only Marc and (coach) Claude (Julien) know what’s going to happen," said Danault, adding that the club’s first-round draft picks from the last two years — Ryan Poehling and Jesperi Kotkaniemi — may also get a look. "We’ll see at the camp.
"The whole team’s going to be ready to play so it’s going to be a different year."
In Danault’s favour is that he has developed chemistry with top left-winger Max Pacioretty. The bad news is that there have been persistent trade rumours regarding the Canadiens captain, who is entering the final year of his contract.
"I’m sure it’s tough for him mentally, and for his family, but I guess it’s part of hockey," said Danault. "We all want to see Patch back at camp. He’s a good captain for us. He works hard. So we’ll see what the future’s going to give us."
Danault missed 30 games last season, mainly with a concussion suffered Jan. 13 when he was hit in the head by a Zdeno Chara shot. He said he is now 100 per cent healthy.
The six-foot-one, 195 pound centre had eight goals and 17 assists after putting up 13 goals and 40 points in 82 games in 2016-17.
The Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round pick from 2011 was acquired by Montreal along with a second round draft pick in February, 2016 for veterans Dale Wiese and Tomas Fleischmann.
With Danault and RFA Joel Armia, who signed last week, under contract, the Canadiens have 26 players signed and have $7.812 million remaining in salary cap space.
July 15, 2018