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Canadiens sign Swiss free agent defenceman Diaz to one-year, two-way contract

MONTREAL - The Montreal Canadiens have signed Swiss defenceman Raphael Diaz to a one-year contract.

The 25-year-old free agent inked a two-way deal that will pay him US$900,000 if he sticks with the big club.

"We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Raphael Diaz, who we strongly believe has all the attributes to play in the NHL," general manager Pierre Gauthier said Friday in a statement. "Raphael is a defenceman with excellent offensive and defensive skills, who constantly improved his play over the years.

"We look forward to seeing him at training camp."

Gauthier was in Slovakia this week where Diaz had three goals and an assist in six games and averaged 20:52 of ice time for Switzerland at the IIHF world championship.

The five-foot-11, 194-pound rearguard had 12 goals and 27 assists and was plus-14 in 45 games for EV Zug in the Swiss league this season. In eight seasons with Zug, he had 33 goals and 85 assists in 352 games.

The Baar, Switzerland, native played at the 2005 and 2006 world junior championship and at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

It is not the first time the Canadiens have reached into Switzerland for an experienced defenceman. In 2005, they picked up a then-28-year-old Mark Streit from the Zurich Lions and he became a key component of their power play, posting 62 points in 2007-08 before signing as a free agent with the New York Islanders.

On its current roster, Montreal has 22-year-old Swiss defenceman Yannick Weber, a third-round draft pick in 2007.

Gauthier is to begin contract talks on Tuesday for another defenceman, Russian Alexei Yemelin.

The Canadiens have only two defencemen under contract for next season, P.K. Subban and Jaroslav Spacek. They must decide whether to try to ink new deals with restricted free agents Weber, Josh Gorges and Alexandre Picard and unrestricted free agents Hal Gill, Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Brent Sopel, James Wisniewski and Paul Mara.

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