The Montreal Canadiens were the first team to dip into the free agent frenzy, just minutes after the market opened, and they signed Manny Malhotra to a one year deal worth $850,000.
Malhotra is a big fourth line center who comes in at a cheap cap hit, and can fill a role left void with the departure of Ryan White and Daniel Briere yesterday.
Malhotra played this past season with the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring 13 points in 69 games, and filling in as a depth center man for the Canes. He will not help the Canadiens score many goals, but Malhotra fills a need as the fourth line center, and is the best faceoff man in the entire league.
Malhotra led the league in faceoff percentage last season, at 59.4% and can help the team on the penalty kill. He is a big forward at 6’2” and 220 pounds, adding to the Habs need for more size down the middle of the ice, behind David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec who are not known for their stature and physicality.
Malhotra suffered a near career ending eye injury while a member of the Vancouver Canucks in 2013, but returned to sign with the Hurricanes, and was a nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy for his persevance and dedication to the game.
At less than a million dollars, Malhotra will be well worth the price tag, as he will become the number one faceoff guy on the team, and can help fill some penalty killing ice time that was lost when Brian Gionta hit the open market this afternoon.
Malhotra is a veteran of 933 games in the National Hockey League, and has scored 291 points in his career, but will mostly help the Habs with his size and defensive abilities on the penalty kill.