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As first reported by The Gazette’s Pat Hickey last Friday, General Manager Pierre Gauthier announced on Tuesday that the Canadiens have come to terms with forward Ryan Russell and goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, each inking a one-year, two-way contract.
Acquired by Montreal in May 2007, Russell, 23, completed his third season with the organization in 2009-10, collecting 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) and a plus-16 rating in 74 games. He also added 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 19 postseason appearances.
The Caroline, Alberta native made his pro hockey debut in 2007-08, suiting up for 37 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs and ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. While the points were hard to come by with the ‘Dogs (three in 25 games), Russell found success with the Cyclones, recording 10 in 12 contests. He also gained confidence as the ECHL club skated to a Kelly Cup title in the spring of 2008.
“That was huge,” he noted in an early 2009 interview, in the midst of his first full pro campaign. “It was really something special and gave me the chance to play more hockey and end my season on a high note. After that, I was ready to make the full-time jump to the AHL.”
Desjardins, meanwhile, returns after a stellar campaign in Hamilton. The 24-year-old, who went 29-9-4 in 47 games, was tops in the American Hockey League with a 2.00 goals-against average. His win total ranked fourth in the league while his six shutouts were bested only by Jonathan Bernier of the Manchester Monarchs (Kings). He also finished sixth with a .919 save percentage.
Desjardins, who posted a 6-4 records in 10 playoff games, set new franchise benchmarks throughout the year, including most regular season wins by a goaltender and longest shutout streak in team history (212:37 minutes).
The netminder’s success in 2009-10 didn’t go unnoticed. Desjardins, along with teammate P.K. Subban helped lead the Canadian AHL All-Stars to victory at the league’s annual mid-season classic. He also was named to the AHL’s (end of season) Second All-Star Team.
Originally signed by the Bulldogs to AHL contracts, Desjardins signed his first NHL pact in July 2008. And while the trade of Jaroslav Halak might have initially opened the door for the Edmunston, NB-born and St-Pascal, QC-raised backstop, the addition of Alex Auld and return of crease-mate Curtis Sanford will have him battling again to make his big-league debut.
But battling for his chance is nothing new.
“When I was younger, I was told I would never play AA, Midget AAA or even junior. But I did,” he said in April 2009. “Things like that build character. I take it one year at a time. I told myself I want to play one game in junior, then it was one game in the AHL, and now I want to play one game in the NHL.”
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