Canadiens to talk contract with Russian defenceman Alexei Yemelin

MONTREAL – Russian defenceman Alexei Yemelin will talk contract with the Montreal Canadiens after the IIHF world championships and may play for the NHL club next season.

As a 25-year-old, Yemelin can only sign a one-year entry level contract that is a two-way deal, that is, with provisions for play in both the NHL and the minors.

Yemelin’s agent Don Meehan confirmed talks will begin Tuesday.

Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier was in Bratislava on Wednesday for the final rounds of the tournament, where he can watch Yemelin play in a Canada-Russia quarter-final on Thursday.

Yemelin put up career highs of 11 goals and 15 assists in 52 KHL games this season for Ak Bars Kazan. He also had 117 minutes in penalties and was plus-16.

He is mostly known as a defensive defenceman with a nasty streak. In Slovakia, he has skated on the fourth defence pair on a team that rotates four duos and has not been used on the power play or in penalty killing. Yemelin has been a regular on Russian national teams in recent years, but was not named to the 2010 Olympic team.

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He was drafted by Montreal in the third round, 84th overall, in 2004.

Yemelin will only be free to negotiate a contract after the world championship.

Gauthier is also expected to begin negotiations at the end of the month on a new contract for Russian defenceman Andrei Markov, who missed all but seven games this season with two injuries to the same knee. The 32-year-old Markov, the club’s top defenceman for most of his 10 years in Montreal, earned US$5.75 last season. He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.