MONTREAL – Torrey Mitchell wasn't about to contemplate free agency at season’s end. He’d already found his hockey home, and it just happened to be in his own backyard.
On Tuesday afternoon, the 30-year-old Greenfield Park native, who would have been an unrestricted free agent come July 1st, addressed members of the media via a conference call to comment on his new three-year deal with the Canadiens, which will see him ply his trade in front of family and friends through at least the 2017-18 campaign.
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Jack Nevins and a seventh-round selection at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Mitchell sensed something special in Montreal from the start, so much so that solidifying the move for the foreseeable future was a top priority.
“I just had a great experience in Montreal. Everything from all the little off-ice details to the type of team and the type of character that we had. I think we have all the ingredients of a winning team. The whole experience was great, and it’s definitely something that I wanted to continue to be a part of,” explained Mitchell, who registered six goals and 14 points in 65 regular season games with the Sabres and the Canadiens in 2014-15, before adding one goal and five points in 12 playoff outings.
“When I got traded, I saw right away that we had good defensemen and the best goaltender in the world. It’s hard not to have a winning team with players like that. That’s the big difference that I saw. I felt that the future was bright,” added Mitchell, who boasts 457 games of NHL experience, racking up 42 goals, 105 points and 232 penalty minutes along the way. “Even the series we lost against Tampa Bay [in Round 2], I found that we outplayed them. We’re not far off. I wanted to be a part of a winning team like that. The decision was easy for me.”
It was a relatively easy decision for general manager Marc Bergevin, too, who got a good taste of what Mitchell was capable of during the latter stages of the regular season and onward into postseason play. Coming to terms on a new contract took about three weeks, according to Mitchell, who was informed by the Canadiens’ brass in mid-May that the club was interested in extending his stay.
“I wanted to stay in Montreal. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen after the season. Marc said he wanted to re-sign me, and I said that I wanted to stay here. My agent did a good job. I’m excited to spend the next three years here,” offered Mitchell, who hasn’t called La Belle Province home on a full-time basis since heading south of the border after his Midget AAA season with College Charles-Lemoyne in 2001-02. “Term was important. I’m not 23 years old anymore. I’m 30. I wanted to feel like the team was going to commit to me. Telling them that I wanted to be in Montreal and commit to the team and the organization was important, too. It was just good that we could get something done.”
With the departure of veteran pivot Manny Malhotra, Mitchell is well-aware of what Michel Therrien & Co. are expecting of him. A seven-year NHL veteran in his own right, the University of Vermont product is committed to providing the same type of service going forward that ultimately prolonged his tenure with the CH.
“My role is pretty simple. I’m a fourth-line center. I try to provide energy and use my speed and create momentum every time I’m on the ice in every opportunity that I get. That’s the role that a fourth line center has to play. I think that type of role is important on every team. We saw it in the playoffs, even this year. You’ve got to have four lines. I think I can help in that way, for sure,” stressed Mitchell, who, in addition to spending almost two full seasons in Western New York, also donned the colors of the San Jose Sharks and the Minnesota Wild over the course of his career before joining his childhood team. “I don’t think I want to re-invent my game [just because of the contract]. I play simple. I play fast. That’s what helps the team on the third and fourth lines. I won’t change anything big.”
Given what the Canadiens’ No. 17 managed to accomplish in his short time with the squad already, that sounds like a solid plan.
“I’m happy with this contract. It was a dream to finish the year in Montreal," concluded Mitchell. "The experience was everything I could’ve imagined. I'm looking forward to the future.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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