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Mutual respect

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – After getting off to a solid start in La Belle Province, Jeff Petry will be patrolling the Canadiens’ blue line for the foreseeable future.

On Tuesday, the CH announced they’d signed the talented defenseman to a six-year contract, ensuring the 27-year-old would remain in the fold through at least the 2020-21 campaign.

Addressing the media via a conference call from his home in West Bloomfield, MI, the five-year NHL veteran was clearly pleased that the two sides had reached an agreement relatively quickly.

“There was consideration before to test the free agent market, but I knew that Montreal was at the top of the list. When they approached me and asked if I wanted to stay, it was something that I strongly considered and I’m glad things worked out the way they did. It’s nice to join the team the next six years,” offered Petry, who registered three goals and seven points in 19 regular season games with the Canadiens after being acquired at the trade deadline, before adding two goals and three points in 12 playoff games. “It didn’t take long to see myself being a part of this organization for a long time.”

While Petry hasn’t been in Montreal for long, his time with Michel Therrien’s troops certainly had a profound impact on him. Coming over after four-plus seasons in Edmonton in exchange for a second-round pick in 2015 and a conditional fifth-round selection, the former Michigan State standout wasted little time soaking up everything he conceivably could in his new hockey home, and he quickly adapted to the nuances that come with learning a new system – and integrating into a new locker room – in no time at all. In the end, it proved to be a perfect fit for both parties involved.

“Everything from the day I got there, to the playoffs, the environment at the Bell Centre, the players in the locker room and the organization just being first-class. It was a real eye-opener. It all played a big part in my ultimately signing the deal,” explained Petry, who was the Canadiens’ third-most utilized player during the postseason behind P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov, logging 22:16 of ice time per game. “Once I started negotiating with the Canadiens, my family and I were happy that we could get an agreement done fast.”

Needless to say, the fact that the Canadiens are among the League’s elite teams was an important factor in Petry’s decision to sign on the dotted line, too. Having never been to the postseason prior to the 2014-15 campaign, the former second-round selection back in 2006 appreciated every moment of his playoff debut and he’s hungry to go even further in the not so distant future.

“I felt that the team isn't far off [from winning a Stanley Cup]. The pieces are there. We’ve got a world-class goaltender and good scoring with guys like Max Pacioretty. That played into the decision as well,” mentioned Petry, who represented Team USA at the World Hockey Championship on three occasions over the course of his career, earning a gold medal in 2013. “We’re a quick puck-moving team with a quick transition. That's something I take pride in doing with my game.”

Despite the inevitable pressures that come with signing a long-term deal, Petry isn’t about to change his game anytime soon. Well-aware that his style his play is what ultimately earned him a lucrative contract, he plans on staying true to what he’s done all along. General manager Marc Bergevin insisted on it.

"[Pressure] is something that comes with the contract,” emphasized Petry, who boasts 20 goals and 81 points in 314 career NHL games. “Marc [Bergevin] stressed the importance of not changing my game, though. It’s what got me to this point.”

It also didn’t hurt to have the full support of his teammates, too, many of whom let Petry know just how important a piece to the puzzle he would prove to be down the road.

“When we were packing our things up and saying goodbye, a few guys came over to see me. They wished me good luck in the future. But, they also said that they’d like to see me back,” concluded Petry, who can now quietly enjoy some well-deserved rest back home in the Michigan. “It really touched me when guys like P.K. Subban and Carey Price said they hoped I’d come back. Those are important guys on this team. That really played into my decision, too.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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