Montreal Gazette

Two-year deal works for Pezzetta and Habs


Michael Pezzetta is staying in Montreal.

Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes announced Friday that the 25-year-old left-winger has agreed to terms on a two-year contract that has an annual salary cap hit of US$812,500.

Pezzetta tallied seven goals and eight assists in 63 games with the Canadiens this season, along with 77 penalty minutes and a minus-4 differenti­al while averaging 9:19 of ice time per game. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Pezzetta also engaged in nine fights, tying him for fifth in the NHL.

The Canadiens selected Pezzetta in the sixth round (160th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft. In 114 career NHL games, Pezzetta has posted 12-14-26 totals along with 158 penalty minutes.

The contract works well for both sides. The Canadiens keep a rugged fourth-liner who is well-liked by his teammates and the coaching staff with a minimal salary cap hit, while Pezzetta gets the security of a one-way contract on a twoyear deal. Pezzetta is coming off a one-year contract that paid him US$750,000. Before that he had a one-year, two-way contract for the 2021-22 season that paid him US$750,000 in the NHL but only US$82,500 with the AHL'S Laval Rocket.

“Pezz is a guy who takes care of the team," Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis has said.

Pezzetta said that St. Louis helped him regain confidence in his game this season, telling him not to just play dump-and-chase, but to hold onto the puck and try to make plays when possible.

“The more you hold onto the puck, you just kind of just rewire your brain to make plays like I was used to making when I was young,” Pezzetta said this season. “I think it's helped me rewire those pathways so that, instead of just thinking so simple, I can think outside the box again. It just gives you the confidence to play your game and I feel like I've developed as a player because of that, and I'm thankful for that opportunit­y.”

The highlight of this season for Pezzetta came on March 27 in Buffalo when he scored the winning goal in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Sabres. Pezzetta paid tribute to former NHLER Dave “Tiger” Williams in his goal celebratio­n, riding his stick while pointing at the many Canadiens fans who were in attendance at the Keybank Center.

“It was definitely a tribute to Tiger Williams,” Pezzetta told reporters in Buffalo after the game. “I think I was just like: Heck, I might never get a chance where if I score it's to win the game. I know maybe it was a little bit much. But it's funny and I think I'll definitely remember it.

“I was just pure adrenalin and it was something I thought about maybe sleeping at night and I was just like: Heck, let's just do it. I haven't watched (Williams) live, but I've seen him do that (on my cellphone) and I've watched a few of his games (on video) and he was always an entertaine­r.”

Williams played 14 seasons in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers, retiring after the 1987-88 season. In 962 career games, Williams had 241 goals, 272 assists and 3,971 penalty minutes, the most in NHL history.

 ?? ?? Michael Pezzetta
Michael Pezzetta

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