Alexi Emelin signs 4-year deal with Canadiens

The Associated Press

MONTREAL (AP) -- Hard-hitting defenseman Alexei Emelin has signed a four-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

The deal is reportedly worth $16.4 million and takes effect in the 2014-15 season. The 27-year-old Russian has yet to play this season because of a knee injury. He is earning $2 million this season.

General manager Marc Bergevin said Thursday that Emelin is an ''important part of our group of core players'' and ''can play big minutes against the opponents' best players.''

Emelin was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He tore a knee ligament April 6 and is expected back in late November or early December.

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