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Adding pieces to the puzzle

The Canadiens announced signings aplenty on Sunday, including youngster Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a three-year entry-level deal

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - The Canadiens' brass were a busy bunch as the unrestricted free agent market opened on Canada Day.

Even before announcing six new signings on Sunday, though, general manager Marc Bergevin acquired the services of right-winger Joel Armia from the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday.

"I remember seeing him at the World Juniors. He was excellent there," said Bergevin, on the 25-year-old forward and restricted free agent, who spent the last three seasons with Winnipeg and was selected 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2011. "He had a good playoffs, too. He's got size. He's a guy who can kill penalties."

The Pori, Finland native is eager for a fresh start in Montreal after posting career-highs in all three major offensive categories during the 2017-18 campaign with 12 goals, 17 assists and 29 points in 79 games.

"I'm going to work hard for every minute I play and keep getting better, and I hope I can produce even more offense than I've done before," said Armia, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 205 pounds. "I think I have good size and I think I'm pretty good at both ends of the ice. I hope I can be better at scoring goals and help the team that way."

Video: Joel Armia on being traded to Montreal (Audio)

And, it just so happens that the four-year NHL veteran has long been a fan of suiting up at the Bell Centre.

"Every time we played there, I think it's probably my favorite away rink to play in," affirmed Armia. "It's going to be nice."

Shortly after the clock struck noon, the Canadiens announced the return of Tomas Plekanec on a one-year contract. 

The 35-year-old forward will be back in Habs colors after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 25, just ahead of the trade deadline.

"We're bringing back a player we know very well who wants to play in Montreal," explained Bergevin, who is counting on the Kladno, Czech Republic native to once again be strong up the middle. "He's not the player he once was, but he can kill penalties, he's good on faceoffs and he brings important things late in the game. He also buys us a bit of time with our young players who are coming up."

Video: Tomas Plekanec's message to Habs fans

Plekanec also sits just two games shy of reaching the 1,000 games played mark for his career entering the 2018-19 season.

Next up for the Canadiens was announcing the signing of defenseman Xavier Ouellet, who'd recently been placed on buyout waivers by the Detroit Red Wings.

The 24-year-old rearguard was signed to a one-year, two-way contract.

"I was looking for a place where I'd have the chance to earn a roster spot and prove that I'm an NHL player," said Ouellet, via conference call from his home in Michigan. "I see this as an opportunity in Montreal. Marc [Bergevin] told me that my play is going to dictate where I am in the organization."

Before l talk about how excited l am about signing with the @canadiensmtl , I want to take a second to thank the @detroitredwings organization and the city of Detroit for giving me an opportunity to make my debut in the NHL-it was an amazing experience! The cities of Detroit and Grand Rapids brought me so much. It was an honor to wear the Redwings jersey and I'm sad to leave Michigan behind as I move back home to Montreal. Thanks again to all my teammates, all the fans, and the organization. #detroit #RedWings Maintenant c'est le temps de dire a quel point ma famille et moi sommes excité pour ce nouveau depart à Montreal, la ville ou j'ai grandi, devant le support de ma famille et mes amies. Now l want to say how truly excited my family and l are about this new opportunity in Montreal. A fresh start in my hometown in front of my family and friends is going to be amazing. #montreal @canadiensmtl

Une publication partagée par Xavier Ouellet (@the_xman16) le

In 45 games with the Red Wings this past season, Ouellet amassed seven assists. He's hoping to up those numbers, obviously, if given the opportunity.

"I've always been looked at as a reliable defenseman with some offensive instincts," explained Ouellet, who was selected 48th overall by the Red Wings in 2011. "I'll have to come to camp in great shape and impress the organization to prove that I'm a regular NHLer. I believe it. Over time, I think I'll be able to bring my offensive touch while staying reliable defensively."

Centerman Matthew Peca was the next player to join the Canadiens' fold, inking a two-year contract.

"I see a team that's headed in the right direction. They've made some moves and I think they're going to be a competitive team next year, and obviously there's some opportunity at the center position," said the 25-year-old Petawawa, ON native, who spent the bulk of last season plying his trade for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. "I'm going into camp hoping to make the team, and I couldn't be more excited."

A seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011, Peca played just 10 games for the Lightning last year, scoring two goals and registering five points.

"I'm a two-way center. I think I have a lot of skill and a lot of speed, and I think I'm good in the defensive zone as well," noted Peca, who boasts 20 games of NHL experience. "I take a lot of pride in faceoffs. I think I'm a player that can do it all, and I think I can really help this team."

Then, the Canadiens announced the signing of youngster Jesperi Kotkaniemi to a three-year entry-level contract. The 17-year-old Finn - who will turn 18 on July 6 - was selected third overall at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas.

"I'm feeling very honored. It's great to be a part of this kind of team. It's an amazing feeling," said Kotkaniemi, fresh off wrapping up his first Development Camp experience at the Bell Sports Complex. "That's a big bonus for me."

Video: Jesperi Kotkaniemi signs his first NHL contract

It remains to be seen if Kotkaniemi will remain in the Finnish Elite League next season where he is still under contract with Porin Ässät for two more years. 

Bergevin addressed that subject during his press conference on Sunday afternoon.

"He's coming to training camp… We're going into it with an open mind. Just the fact that he signed and he's coming to camp, he's closer to the NHL," mentioned Bergevin. "Where he's going to be on October 1, I can't tell you, but we see a lot of potential and growth in this young man."

Centerman Michael Chaput was the next signing on Bergevin's list. The 26-year-old Île Bizard native received a two-year, two-way contract.

"I like to play at both ends of the ice. I have good size at 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. I like to use my weight and my physicality to create space on the ice," said Chaput, a five-year NHL veteran who amassed 17 goals and 42 points in 55 games with the AHL's Utica Comets last season, and played nine games with the Vancouver Canucks, too. "I think I can bring that to the Canadiens and win draws. I think that's one of the strengths in my game."

Finally, the Canadiens announced the signing of left-winger Kenny Agostino to a one-year, two-way contract.

Tweet from @kennyagostino: Very excited to be joining the @CanadiensMTL organization! #GoHabsGo

The 26-year-old Morristown, NJ native put up 16 goals and 53 points in 64 games with the AHL's Providence Bruins last year. He also played five games with the Boston Bruins as well.

Agostino was selected in the fifth round, 140th overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010.

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