Habs sign four day after Gomez trade
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens were busy again Wednesday with the signings of wingers Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta and defensemen Jaroslav Spacek and Hal Gill on the first day of free-agent shopping in the NHL.
One day after acquiring center Scott Gomez from the New York Rangers in a six-player trade, the Canadiens signed Cammalleri to a five-year, $30 million contract, Gionta to a five-year, $25 million deal, Spacek to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million, and Gill -- fresh off a Stanley Cup title with the Pittsburgh Penguins -- for two years and $4.5 million.
"We have a player who is a No. 1 center and, without the trade, I think we wouldn't have been able to be as aggressive or as attractive to those other players," general manager Bob Gainey said.
The moves put a new face on the Canadiens, who had 10 unrestricted free agents of their own on the market.
Cammalleri, who led the Flames with 39 goals last season, became a popular player in Calgary after being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings last season. He had 82 points in 81 games, second on the team behind linemate Jarome Iginla.
Although he grew up in the Toronto area as a Maple Leaf fan and was courted by the Leafs and the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday Cammalleri knows he is headed into the perhaps the deepest, brightest fishbowl on the NHL landscape: Montreal.
"I'm pretty aware of it," Cammalleri said of the pressure late Wednesday afternoon after he signed on to try and help resurrect the Habs' sagging fortunes.
He is getting a substantial raise from the $3.6 million he earned last season. Cammalleri will make $5 million the next two seasons, $6 million in 2011-12, and then $7 million in both 2012-13 and 2013-14.
In 364 career NHL games, the 27-year-old Cammalleri has 132 goals and 155 assists.
Gionta had a career-high 48 goals and 89 points in 2005-06 for New Jersey, but his goals have dropped to 25, 22 and 20 over the last three seasons.
"Gionta has a background with Gomez [with New Jersey] and he has a good reputation among the players," Gainey said. "He's a top player in his position and depending on who he plays with, good things can happen. We hope that he can get back to 75-to-80 point seasons."
The 35-year-old Spacek had eight goals and 45 points for the Buffalo Sabres last season, matching a career high for points set with Columbus during the 2002-03 season. He spent the past three seasons in Buffalo, where he signed as a free agent in 2006. He earned $3.3 million last season.
Spacek has 69 goals and 208 assists in 576 career NHL games.
The 6-foot-7 Gill, who began his career with Boston in 1997, joined the Penguins last season after being traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs and became part of Pittsburgh's shutdown defensive pairing with fellow free agent Rob Scuderi.
"I loved the city and the organization, but we decided to part ways," Gill told TSN. "The timing was right.
"[Montreal] is a great organization. I've always loved to play in that building. It's a new experience to go to Quebec and play, and my family is excited about that."
Cammalleri said playing in Calgary for a year gave him a good taste of what it means to play in a Canadian NHL market and noted that the newcomers to the Habs' lineup are all in the same boat of trying to fit in.
"Hockey's the ultimate team game. We're all going to need each other," Cammalleri said.
Cammalleri's agent Ian Pulver said the Canadiens made a push for the talented forward's services right out of the gate Wednesday but were joined by Ottawa and Montreal.
Pulver said Cammalleri will embrace the pressure of playing in Montreal where the Habs are coming off a tumultuous season with a bevy of problems on and off the ice including allegations of player ties to convicted felons and the benching of star Alexei Kovalev and the firing of head coach Guy Carbonneau.
"He's seeking the pressure," Pulver told ESPN.com.
The Canadiens lost veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek as a free agent to the rival Maple Leafs.
Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside and The Associated Press was used in this report.