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Leblanc signing is good news, no?

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People in the public relations business will tell you that Fridays are reserved for bad news.

Did your company lose a big overseas order? Announce the news on Friday after the markets are closed.

Have to admit that you're not going to be able to meet a deadline on cleaning up an oil spill? Let the news leak Friday after the six o'clock news.

And if a team is trading its most popular player, there's no better time to announce it than Friday evening.

The thinking behind the Friday bad news practice is that, by the time folks congregate around the water cooler on Monday morning, the bad news has become old news.

That's why it's surprising that the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Juniors chose Friday at 8:54 p.m. to announce that Louis Leblanc, who was the Canadiens' first-round draft choice in 2009, had signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Canadiens and was planning to suit up with the Juniors in the fall.

This is bad news if you're Ted Donato, the coach of the Harvard University hockey team. Leblanc's decision to leave Harvard after one season robs Donato of his top scorer at a time when it's difficult to come up with a Plan B.

But you would think it would be good news in Montreal.

Normally, when an NHL team signs its first-round draft choice, it's a big deal.

The team's general manager is usually available to talk about how the youngster is the key to the future and how happy the organization is to have him under contract.

But the only words from Pierre Gauthier, the team's reclusive GM, was that there would be no word.

Usually, the prospect is available to talk about his decision and what he hopes to bring to the table. When the Canadiens were asked whether Leblanc was available, they said the Juniors were handling availability and the Juniors said he wouldn't be available until Aug. 9, after the national junior team camp.

I finally reached Leblanc yesterday morning, and he seemed comfortable discussing what he described as a "long and difficult" decision.

"I thought playing junior was the best choice from a hockey standpoint," Leblanc said. "I had a great year at Harvard and I have nothing against the hockey program or coach Donato. It may have been the best year of my life."

But Leblanc's goal has always been to reach the NHL as quickly as possible and, while Gauthier has said that there is little difference between the NCAA and junior routes for development purposes, the word on the street is that the Canadiens are not unhappy with Leblanc's decision.

Junior hockey offers more games while university hockey offers more practice time, regimented strength programs and, most importantly, a chance for an education. For many players, this is an important backup plan in case hockey doesn't work out.

But Leblanc said yesterday that he still has his eyes on a Harvard degree, although it may take longer than expected.

"I'm looking into taking online courses from Harvard or taking some courses at McGill that I can transfer to Harvard," Leblanc said. "And there's always a chance of taking courses in the summer."

While Leblanc said he has made a commitment to the Juniors who traded for his rights, there is an outside chance he could play at a higher level. He's unlikely to make the Canadiens, but the club does have the option of sending him to Hamilton. The competition would be better but there's a drawback because the clock would start running on his three-year entry-level contract.

Habs sign free agent Picard: In other news involving the Canadiens, the club signed unrestricted free-agent defence-man Alexandre Picard to a two-way contract. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has played 193 NHL games with Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Carolina. The 25-year-old has 16 goals and 41 assists and has been used on the power play.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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