LONDON – Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty says it’s an “honour” to be able to call Montreal his hockey home for the next seven years.
The 23-year-old on Monday signed a six-year, $27-million contract extension reported to be worth $4.5 million per season. His current deal still has one year to run, the extension to begin following the 2012-13 season.
Pacioretty would have been a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of the coming season.
“This is something I wanted to get done,” Pacioretty said from his off-season Connecticut home late Monday night. “I think once the team knew I wanted to get it done, they jumped on the opportunity as well.
“The biggest thing for me is, my career has been maybe plagued by instability and just to be able to call Montreal home for seven years is such an honour. I want to do whatever I can to help this team win and this will help me focus on that for years to come.”
The instability, as Pacioretty calls it, hasn’t exactly been his fault. He suffered a fractured vertebra and a severe concussion in March 2011 when famously slammed into a Bell Centre stanchion by Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
Pacioretty rehabbed furiously and returned to start the 2011-12 season in great shape, which led to his enjoying a breakout season, his fourth in the NHL. He led the Canadiens with 65 points, ranked second only to power forward Erik Cole in goals scored with 33 and was ranked third with 32 assists.
Pacioretty played 79 games last season, missing three by suspension, and along the way scored five game-winning goals and had 286 shots on goal, which tied him for 10th in that category in the NHL.
In recognition of his remarkable comeback, Pacioretty won the NHL’s 2011-12 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy this past June, awarded by a Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote to the player deemed to best demonstrate perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
The Canadiens are likely to hold a teleconference with Pacioretty on Tuesday to discuss his signing, which the club announced on Twitter and on its website late Monday.
“I just got out of the shower tonight and my phone was bombarded,” Pacioretty said, laughing, of the earthquake once the signing was announced. “I don’t know how it went out but I signed it today and I guess the team broke the news. I’m not really sure about that.
“We haven’t done anything (with the media). I have a message from Dom (team media relations manager Dominick Saillant) that I didn’t check.”
He laughed again.
“Maybe I should have checked it before I talked to you. I don’t know what the plan is but we might do (a call) tomorrow.
“It’s always been my mentality that I want to focus on winning hockey games right now. I think when you’re playing for yourself and playing for your contract, you kind of get away from the team mentality. So just being locked up for six years, I feel at home.
“The organization has taken a chance on me and now my job is to prove to them that I can help this team win games and I hope to do that for seven more years.”
Pacioretty continues to train with great gusto, as he always does in the off-season, and expects that when the NHL season begins, whenever that is, he’ll be in the best shape of his life.
“I’m doing a pretty good job of (training), coming back to my normal routine,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to happen with the beginning of the season? But I’m acting as if the season is going to start on time and if not, then I think I’ll be in better shape than ever.
“I’ll expect that, when we do start, I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)