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Canadiens sign Hamrlik to 4-year, $22-million deal @NHL

MONTREAL (AP) -Roman Hamrlik wanted to keep playing hockey in Canada, and the Montreal Canadiens were happy to give the veteran defenseman that opportunity.

Hamrlik signed a four-year, $22-million deal Monday with Montreal, which is likely to lose unrestricted free agent defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Chosen first overall by Tampa Bay in the 1992 draft, Hamrlik spent the last two seasons with Calgary.

"I remember 1992, when I was drafted in Montreal, the city just stayed with me," Hamrlik said in a conference call from his home in Zlin, Czech Republic. "I really liked the city, and now coming back and playing there is just an awesome feeling."

Hamrlik, who also played with the New York Islanders and Edmonton, said that he wanted a longer contract than the two-year deal Calgary offered and told his agent his priority was staying in Canada.

"It's like playing soccer in England," said Hamrlik, who confirmed the deal would pay him $5.5 million per season, up from the $3.5 million he earned last year with the Flames. "I really, really enjoy playing in Canada, especially for the Montreal Canadiens because they have a great history."

The 33-year-old Czech had a plus-22 rating with Calgary last season and 38 points in 75 games, including seven goals.

"I'm sure I'm going to have lots of ice time," Hamrlik said. "That's up to me, how I'm going to play."

Canadiens GM Bob Gainey referred to Hamrlik as "a solid NHL veteran" in a statement announcing the signing.

"The acquisition of Roman fills a very important need in our organization," Gainey said. "He is a strong defenseman with a powerful shot and excellent hockey skills. He brings to our club a solid experience and an excellent reputation."

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Hamrlik won an Olympic gold medal with the Czech Republic in 1998. A three-time NHL all-star, he has 131 goals, 374 assists and 505 points in 999 regular season games.

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