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The Montreal Canadiens signed defenceman Chris Campoli to a US$1.75-million, one-year contract on Monday.

The Toronto native had 21 points in 77 games with Ottawa and Chicago last season.

A restricted free agent following the season, the 27-year-old Campoli was unable to come to terms with the Blackhawks.

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He became an unrestricted free agent in late July when Chicago general manager Stan Bowman walked away from a $2.5 million arbitrator's settlement, a formality that was negotiated before Campoli's arbitration hearing once it became clear that a deal wouldn't get done.

Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier said the move had nothing to do with the questionable health of all-star defenceman Andrei Markov and did not suggest he was dissatisfied with the performance of any defence prospects in camp.

"Any time there's an experienced player that can help your club you look at it," said Gauthier. "In this case, Mr. Campoli is an experienced player and he can play various roles on your defence, so we feel he's a good addition.

"All we're doing is adding a solid player to the group. As we know from past years, to carry seven or eight defencemen is the right thing to do."

Markov is recovering from a second knee operation in two years. The 32 year old had a setback in his rehabilitation and there is doubt he will be ready for the beginning of the regular season, but Gauthier said he wasn't worried.

"He's progressing very well," Gauthier said. "The knee is in very good health.

"He keeps moving along in his rehabilitation. We'll see if he'll be quite ready or not, but he shouldn't miss too many games."

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They signed Markov to a three-year contract in the summer and opted to let Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski and Brent Sopel leave as free agents.

Gauthier indicated that he sees Campoli among his top eight blue-liners.

Yannick Weber and rookies Rafael Diaz and Alexei Yemelin are vying for spots on the team that already had five experienced defencemen in place and also added former Dallas Star Jeff Woywitka.

The Canadiens also made their first camp cuts, sending Olivier Archambeault (Drummondville), Nathan Beaulieu (Saint John) and Morgan Ellis (Cape Breton) back to their junior teams.

Forwards Alexander Avtsin, Andrew Conboy and Dany Masse, defencemen Mark Mitera and Joe Stejskal and goalies Robert Mayer and Peter Dekmas were assigned to AHL Hamilton.

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