made no secret of the fact he wanted to remain with the Montreal Canadiens
for a long time. On Tuesday, his wishes became a reality when he signed a six-year deal that will keep him off the market when free agency begins on July 1.
Plekanec, 27, figured to be one of the most sought-after free agents if he had hit the market next week after scoring 25 goals and a career-best 70 points in 2009-10. Instead, he opted to stay with a team that struggled to make the playoffs but upset Washington and Pittsburgh before losing to Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"I said I wanted to stay in Montreal," Plekanec said via conference call from his home in Kladno, Czech Republic. "I had a chance to stay there, and I'm extremely happy about it. I'm excited to be back, especially after last year, when we had great success – and I'm sure we can do even better.
"I'm very happy to be staying in Montreal for another six years. I'm happy to commit myself to Montreal. My best option for myself was to stay in Montreal."
Plekanec, who said during the conference call that the deal included a no-trade clause, will be staying with the only organization he's ever played for. The Canadiens chose him in the third round (No. 71) of the 2001 Entry Draft. He came to North America the following year, spent three seasons with the Canadiens' AHL farm team in Hamilton and made the leap to the NHL in 2005. Plekanec has 103 goals and 151 assists in 393 games in his five NHL seasons. He's had 20 or more goals in each of the last four.
All that would have made Plekanec a prime target in a free-agent market that's not overflowing with scorers. But he said the right move for him was to stay where he was.
"I've been asked several times during the last season if I want to stay, and I always said ‘I love Montreal and I want to stay,'" he said. "This is how I wanted it to end up. (The contract) went the way I wanted it to, and I'm happy about it.
"I like the city and I love playing in front of the fans in Montreal. Playing in Montreal is special – ask any player in the League and he's going to tell you that playing in Montreal, whether you're playing for Montreal or against Montreal is special. I have a chance to be a part of the Montreal organization for another six years. I've been part of the organization for eight years already, so I know what it's all about. The city of Montreal – I love it. There was no concern about leaving because there wasn't something I didn't like about Montreal."
Plekanec's 70-point season came after a disappointing performance in 2008-09, when he dropped from 29 goals to 20 and 69 points to 39. He said his performance in '08-09 gave him added incentive for his improvement this past season.
"I had a bad year the previous year, and I wanted to start strong last year – and that's what happened," he said. "I was able to do everything well that I wanted, and it carried all the way. I knew I had to get stronger mentally, and that's exactly what happened last year.
"I got a chance to play a lot under (new coach) Jacques Martin, and I felt he really put confidence in me, that he really trusted the job I'm doing. "
Plekanec said the long-term deal won't result in any changes in his style of play, but he's expecting to take a bigger leadership role as a core member of the team.
"I will bring the same things that I brought so far. I'm a two-way player. I'm asked to play a two-way game and I will do it," he said. "My job is to play a two-way game and help the team win, not to score goals. My job is to do everything well. I will do the same thing for another six years.
"I said I wanted to stay in Montreal. I had a chance to stay there, and I'm extremely happy about it. I'm excited to be back, especially after last year, when we had great success – and I'm sure we can do even better." -- Tomas Plekanec
"Signing the contract shows me that I'll be part of the core, that I'll be in Montreal for another six years. One of my jobs will be to step up in a leadership role, to be able to take that step and be helpful."