Defenceman Francis Bouillon has played his way into a new contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
The NHL club announced Wednesday that 37-year-old Bouillon has signed a one-year contract extension.
“The important thing for me was to stay in Montreal,” the stocky rearguard said. “I always said I want to finish my career here.
“I couldn’t be happier.”
The Montreal native returned to the Canadiens as an unrestricted free agent last summer on a one-year deal worth US$1.5 million. He will make the same amount in 2013-14.
Bouillon surprised many with his solid play this season. The 5-foot-8, 200-pound defenceman — who plays above his weight — has a goal and six assists in 29 games and is plus-6 for the season.
He had asked for a two-year deal last summer, but new general manager Marc Bergevin offered only one year in order to see how he held up at his age.
Bouillon was surprised when the Canadiens called agent Don Meehan recently offering to extend him for another year.
“I worked hard to get into great shape and I’m happy with my performance,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting an offer during the season.
“But once the Canadiens contacted my agent, the negotiations didn’t drag out very long.”
Bouillon played junior hockey under coach Michel Therrien in Granby, Que., and now the two are together for a second time with the Canadiens.
“He deserves what he’s getting,” said Therrien, who lauded Bouillon’s work with the team’s young defencemen, including being paired recently with call-ups Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi.
Bouillon played his first nine NHL seasons with the Canadiens before inking a free agent deal with the Nashville Predators in 2009.
In 705 career games, he has 30 goals and 111 assists, with 489 penalty minutes.
The signing gives the Canadiens 19 players under contract for 2013-14 with $6.8-million in projected cap space remaining. That would increase by $4.2-million if, as expected, the club buys out defenceman Tomas Kaberle.
It was Montreal’s second player signing in a week. Last Friday, centre David Desharnais inked a four-year $14-million contract.