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Canadiens sign Russian defenceman Alexei Yemelin to one-year contract

MONTREAL - Russian defenceman Alexei Yemelin has signed a one-year contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

The six-foot-two 223-pound blue-liner was drafted in the third round, 84th overall, by Montreal in 2004.

The two-way deal will pay him US$984,200, including a signing bonus, in the NHL. However, there are reports he has an agreement to return to the KHL if he doesn't make the NHL team.

The 25-year-old native of Togliatti, Russia, opted to move to the NHL after three full seasons with Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL, where he amassed 12 goals, 25 assists and 200 penalty minutes in 149 games.

He is the second defence prospect signed in a week by Montreal, following Rafael Diaz of the Swiss club EV Zug.

Considered mostly a defensive blue-liner with a nasty streak, Yemelin had career highs of 11 goals and 16 assists in 52 games this season. Seven of his goals were on the power play. He averaged 21:18 of ice time, was plus-17 and served 92 penalty minutes.

"Alexei is a steady, physical defenceman with strong skating ability," general manager Pierre Gauthier said Tuesday in a statement. "The experience he has acquired in the KHL over the past few years will make for a smooth transition to the NHL."

There has been confusion over the spelling of his name. The Canadiens' and NHL guides have it as Alexei Yemelin. But the Canadiens news release had it as Alexsey Emelin, which a team spokesman said is how it is written on his passport. His jersey at the IIHF world championship last week also had it Emelin.

His agent, Don Meehan, says Yemelin prefers his name spelt with a 'y'.

The confusion stems from the translation from the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia to the Roman letters used in the west.


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