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Price contract trumps Canadiens' other deals

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The Montreal Canadiens were active as free agency opened, but the team's biggest splash came with the announcement that goaltender Carey Price has agreed to a six-year contract worth $39 million.

The deal calls for an annual salary of $6.5 million, which gives Price the third highest cap hit among NHL goalies behind Nashville's Pekka Rinne ($7 million) and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers ($6.88 million).

The Canadiens went into free agency with the idea of getting tougher, but the question after their July 1 spending spree is: Did the team get better?

The Canadiens made three acquisitions, signing forwards Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust as well as defenseman Francis Bouillon, who returns to Montreal after a three-year absence.

The Prust deal raises the most questions because the Canadiens gave him a four-year, $10 million contract. That represents a healthy raise over the $800,000 he made last season with the New York Rangers.

Prust is a tough right winger and an excellent fighter, but is he worth that money? Brad Staubitz, who provided the Canadiens with toughness down the stretch last season, was allowed to test free agency and signed with Anaheim on a two-year deal that will pay him less than $700,000 a season.

The other two newcomers have a connection to head coach Michel Therrien.

Armstrong, who was injured most of last season, was signed after the Toronto Maple Leafs bought him out. He played under Therrien in Wilkes-Barre and later with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has a one-year deal for $1 million and will be given a chance to play on the No. 2 line with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. He had his best year in 2008-09, when he scored 22 goals for Atlanta.

Bouillon, who has spent the last three seasons in Nashville, played for Therrien in junior hockey and later with the Canadiens. He's on the small side at 5-foot-8, but he is a solid 200 pounds and was a popular player the first time around.

The Canadiens also retained the services of right winger Travis Moen, who was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. He received a four-year deal while restricted free agent defenseman Alexei Emelin received a two-year deal and restricted free agent center Ryan White signed a one-year deal. The Canadiens also retained center Petteri Nokelainen and Ryan White while Michael Blunden, who wasn't extended a qualifying offer, signed a two-way contract.

The Canadiens failed to find a goaltender at the draft but signed Cedrick Desjardins to a two-way deal. He was previously part of the Canadiens' organization but spent last season with Tampa Bay.
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