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Canadiens lose out on big name in free agency

Montreal unable to sign left wing Lucic, add Russian forward Radulov, goalie Montoya

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Signing forward Alexander Radulov was a big gamble by Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin after striking out on his bid for unrestricted free agent Milan Lucic.

Radulov signed a one-year contract with Montreal on Friday; it's worth $5.75 million, according to ESPN.

Known for his accurate shot and goal-scoring ability, Radulov, who turns 30 on Tuesday, spent the past four seasons with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he averaged 1.26 points per game.

"I like his skill level," Bergevin said. "You could arguably say he was one of the highest-skilled players that was signed today. For sure, in my opinion, the highest skill level outside of the NHL, and he's a hard-working kid, the compete level has always been there, and the term was very important to us, too."

Bergevin acknowledged that he was taking a risk in signing Radulov, who had two previous stints with the Nashville Predators.

Selected by Nashville in the first round (No. 15) of the 2004 NHL Draft, he had 47 goals and 102 points in 154 regular-season games with the Predators. Radulov the NHL at the start of the 2012-13 season, choosing to play in Russia after being suspended by the Predators for violating curfew during the 2011-12 season.

"What happened in the past, happened in the past," Radulov said from Italy via conference call. "I really want to come back and play in the best league against the best players, to compete and obviously try to win the Stanley Cup."

Before making his decision, Bergevin spoke to Shea Weber, the Canadiens' newly acquired defenseman who was Radulov's teammate in Nashville, and Sergei Fedorov, Radulov's GM with CSKA Moscow.

"[Weber] talked to me about when he was with [Radulov] in Nashville; it was not a character issue but a maturity issue," Bergevin said. "He was younger, he was 22 or 23 at the time, and Sergei said, 'Now, he's one of my leaders. He's my captain. He's got a wife and a kid and he wants to come back in the NHL.' And my scouts, we watched him a lot in the KHL this year and he's one of the hardest-working kids, so we're taking a risk, but hopefully the reward is big."

Radulov had not spoken to Weber but appreciated his teammate's endorsement.

"Well, 'Thanks, Shea!' You can say that," Radulov said. "Yeah, thank you, Shea, and I'll do everything to make sure everybody's happy."

Radulov had 23 goals and 65 points in 53 games last season to help CSKA advance to the Gagarin Cup Final. He had 169 goals and 492 points in 391 KHL games.

"He was looking for longer terms, which I understand, all players do," Bergevin said. "It's never happened to me that a player says, 'You know what? That's too long, let's do a shorter term.' So, it was me. I was very strict on that, and the fact that he's willing to do that and come and prove, I think it shows a lot. But there's no guarantees and it's going to be up to him."

Bergevin was in the running for Lucic, who signed a seven-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers that ESPN reported is worth $42 million.

"It's a decision that he made, to go to Edmonton," Bergevin said. "With the respect that I have for Milan, we had good discussions. I'm telling you because he has already spoken about it, but no, he made his decision, I believe he said, based on his relationship with [Oilers GM] Peter Chiarelli. But for him, Montreal was a place that really intrigued him."

Bergevin signed two other free agents Friday, goalie Al Montoya and defenseman Zach Redmond, though he was unable to land forward David Perron, who signed a two-year contract to return for a second stint with the St. Louis Blues.

"We didn't get into numbers, but for me, it was important to have a short-term contract and David decided he wanted to go to St. Louis, so we wish him all the best," Bergevin said.

Montoya, who signed a one-year contract, was 12-7-3 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 25 games as Roberto Luongo's backup with the Florida Panthers last season. He adds depth behind Carey Price, who missed most of the 2015-16 season with a right knee injury.

"I have a ton to learn from him," Montoya said from Chicago via conference call. "I hope to show him a thing or two, or push each other as much as we can, and get this team to the playoffs."

Montoya, 31, is 55-40-18 in 136 regular-season games over seven seasons with the Arizona Coyotes, New York Islanders, Winnipeg Jets and Panthers. He will compete with Mike Condon, who went 21-25-6 with a 2.71 GAA and .903 save percentage in 55 games as a rookie last season.

Redmond, who turns 28 on July 26, signed a two-year contract. He has nine goals and 33 points in 114 games over four seasons with the Jets and Colorado Avalanche.

Defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, selected in the first round (No. 9) of the 2016 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract. Forward Daniel Carr signed a two-year contract.

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