Raphael Diaz

Montreal signs Diaz — two years, $2.45 million


The Montreal Canadiens have avoided an arbitration hearing with RFA defenseman Raphael Diaz, signing the Swiss native to a two-year deal worth $2.45 million.

The deal comes with an average annual cap hit of $1.25 million, a slight bump from the $900,000 he made last season.

Diaz, 26, made his NHL debut in 2011-12 after spending eight years with EV Zug of the Swiss League.

His first campaign proved to be a good one as he scored 16 points in 59 games, averaged 18 minutes of ice time per night, finished third among rookie defensemen in blocked shots (102) and was part of the NHL’s All-Rookie Team at the 2012 All-Star Weekend.

Diaz was scheduled for an arbitration hearing on July 26. By avoiding it, he locks into a Montreal blueline that could be crowded next season — Andrei Markov, Tomas Kaberle, Josh Gorges, Alexei Emelin, Francis Bouillon and Yannick Weber are also under contract with RFA P.K. Subban still yet to be signed.

Montreal signs Palushaj to one-year deal

Aaron Palushaj

The Montreal Canadiens have agreed to terms with RFA winger Aaron Palushaj on a one-year, two-way deal. Financial terms were not released — his previous contract was a three-year, $2.1 million deal worth $883,333 annually.

Palushaj, 22, was drafted 44th overall by St. Louis in 2007 and acquired by Montreal in exchange for Matt D’Agostini in 2010. Last year was the first time he saw significant action in the NHL — he appeared in 38 games for the Habs, scoring 1G-4A-5PTS.

A skill winger that lacks size (5-foot-11, 187 pounds), Palushaj was a dynamic scorer at the AHL level last season, recording 22G-35A-57PTS in 68 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

With the signing, Montreal now has just three RFAs left — forward Blake Geoffrion and defensemen P.K. Subban and Raphael Diaz.

Did Hurricane Debby keep Larry Robinson from landing a job in Montreal?

Larry Robinson, Martin Brodeur

Larry Robinson landing a new gig as associate coach in San Jose makes for another great turn in his post-playing career, one where he spent the bulk of in Montreal. The Canadiens too were interested in bringing Robinson aboard Michel Therrien’s staff but talks never got far.

Why? Apparently Mother Nature determined a return to Quebec wasn’t in the cards as Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette shares.

It was no secret that a number of NHL clubs had expressed interest in Robinson’s coaching talents. Complicating matters with the Canadiens was the fact that he was unable last month to come north for a face-to-face interview, tied down in Florida dealing with the onslaught of Hurricane Debby and the torrential rains that overflowed his swimming pool and swamped the 12-acre polo farm he co-owns, stabling and training polo horses.

As Stubbs notes, Robinson kept in touch with Habs GM Marc Bergevin but an interview never happened as Therrien wanted to bring J.J. Daigneault so badly, they hired him before even speaking to Robinson. Alas, romanticism only goes so far when it comes to getting business done.

Robinson landing his gig in San Jose, however, should turn out pretty good for him given the defensemen he’ll get to work with there in Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Brad Stuart among others.

Jagr: Canadiens were my first choice, but they weren’t interested

Jaromir Jagr

Newly acquired Dallas forward Jaromir Jagr conducted his introductory presser on Thursday and told reporters that coming to Texas wasn’t his first choice, surely thrilling the Stars in the process.

Dallas might not have even been his second choice.

As per NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, Jagr said his original goal was to play next season in Montreal, but the Canadiens weren’t interested in acquiring his services.

Not that this comes as a huge surprise. On Monday, TSN’s Darren Dreger first reported Jagr’s interest in Montreal, the same team that employs Czech countryman Tomas Plekanec. Jagr had also stated in the past his desire to play in Canada — especially in Montreal.

The Jagr-to-Habs development hit a snag, though, when it was learned the 4o-year-old wanted $4 million in salary, a price point apparently out of GM Marc Bergevin’s range (or comfort level.)

It turns out Montreal wasn’t the only team Jagr was looking at.

He also noted his former team, Philadelphia, could’ve been in the mix as well — but that possibility died when Flyers GM Paul Holmgren went silent after the season ended.

“If they really wanted me back I think they would probably make some kind of talk before free agency,” Jagr said. “Because they had a chance.”

Update: Here’s the full audio of Jagr’s conference call, if you feel like listening. The key quotes…

“I always wanted to play in Canada and I wanted to go to Montreal if I had a chance, but Montreal wasn’t interested. All of a sudden I got a phone call form Joe Nieuwendyk that Dallas was interested.

“After the season — even during the season — I thought I would re-sign in Philadelphia, but I guess they wanted to go in a different direction. They were waiting for Parise and Suter, and probably I would have to wait until right now to try to negotiate a new deal with the Flyers and I didn’t want to wait.”

Dreger: Jagr likes Montreal, looking for $4 million

Jaromir Jagr

While we’re fully embroiled the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter watches, Jaromir Jagr is busy figuring out where he wants to play next season.

Jagr’s agent, Petr Svoboda, says 21 teams contacted him about playing for them — but No. 68 has apparently set his gaze upon Montreal.

TSN’s Darren Dreger says Jagr would like to play with the Canadiens next season and wants a one-year deal worth $4 million. Jagr made $3.3 million last season with Philadelphia.

Montreal appeals to Jagr because he could play fellow Czech Tomas Plekanec — it should be noted Montreal was one of the teams that was heavily in on Jagr last season, along with Detroit, before he ultimately signed with the Flyers.

In 73 games last season, Jagr scored 19 goals and finished with 54 points. Is that worth $4 million for a season? Tough call. Jagr showed he can be productive when with the right linemates, as we saw when he played with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell during 2011-12.