Montreal Canadiens AHL Affiliate | Laval Rocket News: New Contracts for Alex Belzile, Xavier Ouellet, Nikita Jevpalovs, Ryan Culkin, Pending RFA decisions

Nikita Jevpalovs (Photo by Martin Alarie / Journal de Montreal)

ROCKET SPORTS MEDIA | LAVAL, QC. — As we get closer to the start of the free agency period that begins on July 1st, Marc Bergevin got to work with the organization’s restricted free agents.

Belzile Rewarded

The Canadiens announced on May 24th that the club had signed Alex Belzile to a one-year, two-way contact. The deal will pay Belzile $700,000 at the NHL level and $175,000 in the AHL, with $200,000 in guaranteed salary.

I think that this was a good decision by the organization to bring the veteran back to the organization. This past season, Belzile finished as Laval’s leading scorer with 19 goals, 35 assists and a minus-11 rating. With his 54 points in 74 games, he set a personal high in the AHL. In my mind, he was the team’s best and most consistent player, and was the Rocket’s representative at the All Star Game.

Returning with the organization was Belzile’s number one priority. Heading into the season, he had played 145 games in the AHL, playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs and the San Antonio Rampage. Laval was his first opportunity to have an important role on a team in the AHL.

The 27-year old will get to experience his first NHL camp next season, which will certainly serve as motivation to him. Belzile is also a good leader in the dressing room, and was named an alternate captain in February following Byron Froese‘s trade to the Flyers.

Ouellet Re-signed

On May 27th, the Canadiens announced that they’ve agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with defenseman Xavier Ouellet. The deal will pay Ouellet $700,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 in the AHL, with $400,000 in guaranteed salary.

Ouellet’s goal is to play in the NHL, and was disappointed that he didn’t finish the year in Montreal. His feelings didn’t show on the ice as he had a good season with the Rocket, and management named him as the team’s captain in February.

His goal still remains the same. “I was clear with the organization that my goal is to find a way to establish myself in the NHL. I wanted everyone to know and that’s what I have in mind this summer,” said Ouellet last week in a interview with TVA Sports. He would need to clear waivers to return to the AHL, therefore an additional incentive for the defenceman to have a good training camp in September.

Jevpalovs Will Return

On Wednesday, the Rocket announced that they came to terms with Nikita Jevpalovs on a  one-year contract. In 69 games, Jevpalovs scored 13 goals and added 12 points. His 25 points were a career high for him in the AHL.

He had played for the San Jose Barracuda for two seasons before leaving North America to play for one season with Riga Dynamo in the KHL. In his final season in the QMJHL in 2014-15, Jevpalovs recorded 100 points in 64 games for Blainville-Boisbriand Armanda, coached by Joel Bouchard. 

For most of the season, Jevpalovs was paired up with Canadiens prospect, Lukas Vejdemo, on even strength and on the penalty kill. In the Rocket’s final game of the season, Jevpalovs scored the tying goal with 50 seconds remaining in the third period and then scored a spectacular goal in overtime to give the Rocket a win.

 

Culkin Two-Way Contract

On Friday, Laval announced that they’ve agreed to a one-year, two-way (AHL/ECHL) contract with defenseman Ryan Culkin. Culkin played 10 games with the Rocket last season, and 39 with the Maine Marines in the ECHL.

This was a surprising signing in my opinion, as Culkin spent most of his time with Laval watching the games as a healthy scratch, and had very limited ice time when he was in the lineup.

Remaining decisions

There are five restricted free agents that played for the Laval Rocket this season that the organization will need to make a decision in the upcoming weeks. Hunter ShinkarukMichael McCarronDaniel Audette, Brett Lernout, and Gustav Olofsson are all waiting decision from the organization.

I expect them all to return to the organization with the exception of Shinkaruk. Shinkaruk was acquired from the Flames for Kerby Rychel via trade in August 2018, and was immediately signed to a one-year contract.

Shinkaruk was drafted 24th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2013. In 54 games with the Rocket this season, Shinkaruk scored five goals and added five assists. He never seemed to have adapted to his new team.

By Chris G., Senior Writer.
All Habs Hockey Magazine
Copyright © 2019 Rocket Sports

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