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Ottawa Senators' Colin Greening fights Montreal Canadiens' David Desharnais for control of the puck during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Ottawa January 30, 2013.   (Reuters)

Ottawa Senators' Colin Greening fights Montreal Canadiens' David Desharnais for control of the puck during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Ottawa January 30, 2013.  

(Reuters)

Canadiens sign David Desharnais to four-year contract extension Add to ...

Pee-wee double-A?

Got cut.

Midget triple-A?

They cut him too.

But David Desharnais didn't care, he just wanted to play hockey, and knew in his bones he was pretty good at it.

So he persisted and made it to the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens as a second-round pick, and played four years of junior.

At 5-foot-7, he wasn't drafted into the NHL, but cadged an invite to the Montreal Canadiens' rookie camp, thanks in part to Sags part-owner Guy Carbonneau.

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Then he went to the Habs' AHL camp - and was cut.

When he reported to Cincinnati of the East Coast Hockey League - annual salary: $30,000 - Desharnais was at a point where he was ready to let go of the dream.

"You go from living with a billet who feeds you, does your laundry, you move 15 hours away from home, you almost make less money than in junior . . . you say, 'is this really what I want to do?' But you're 20, so you give it a year. It was probably the most important year of my life, I picked up so much confidence," Desharnais said on Friday.

After a slow start ("I really didn't want to be there") he eventually became the team's scoring leader, and helped them win a championship.

Four years later, Desharnais is a first-line forward in the NHL, and has signed a four-year, $14-million contract that will set him up for life financially.

"He had to work his way on to every team, he had to work his way to being the best player on every team and he's done it at every level," said teammate and linemate Max Pacioretty, who credits Desharnais with turning him into a 30-goal scorer when the two played in the AHL. "He's done what it takes and no one in the sport deserves a contract like that than him."

Desharnais and Pacioretty have become the Habs' most dependable offensive duo (the diminutive Desharnais tallied 16 goals and 60 points last year in his first full NHL season).

That Montreal GM Marc Bergevin could lock both up long-term on cap-friendly contracts is a canny bit of business.

The annual $3.5-million value of Desharnais's contract makes him an exceptional bargain for a top-six playmaker of his ability.

Desharnais recently changed agents - he hired Pat Brisson, who represents Sidney Crosby, among other NHL superstars - and was clearly pleased at having reached an agreement before this summer, when he would have become a restricted free agent.

"It's not just the money. I'm part of the Montreal Canadiens for at least the next four years. We have a great team, we've all known each other since the minors, we won in the minors and want to repeat that, we're in first place," he said. "It's incredible."

Desharnais got off to a slow start this season as well, the bulk of his 16 points on the season have come in the last 15 games.

Pacioretty fully expects that now his contract is done and dusted, his linemate's play will improve even more.

"When things aren't going your way, it's nice to have that (security). It has helped me, and I'm sure it'll help him too," he said.

 

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