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'I want to be a leader,' Canadiens' new blue-liner Joel Edmundson says

Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Joel Edmundson knocks Calgary Flames left-wing Matthew Tkachuk to the ice during the third period at PNC Arena on Oct. 29, 2019.
Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Joel Edmundson knocks Calgary Flames left-wing Matthew Tkachuk to the ice during the third period at PNC Arena on Oct. 29, 2019.

Defenceman Joel Edmundson made his family happy when he decided to sign a four-year, US$14-million contract with the Canadiens.

“It’s been my one my family’s favourite teams for their whole lives,” Edmundson said Thursday during a conference call from his off-season home in Kelowna, B.C. “My dad’s side of the family is French and that whole side of the family loves the Canadiens. It’s not only a dream come true for me, but I know my dad’s super-excited.”

Edmundson, 27, was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next month and was planning to test the market before the Carolina Hurricanes traded him to the Canadiens in return for a fifth-round draft pick. His focus immediately shifted to negotiating a deal with the Canadiens.

“They were obviously very interested and you want to go to a team that really wants you,” said Edmundson, a native of Brandon, Man.

The physical defenceman might have also cast a wary eye on the market. A year ago, Jacob Trouba commanded a seven-year, US$56 million deal from the Rangers; Tyler Myers signed a five-year deal in Vancouver worth US$6 million a season and Colorado gave Samuel Girard a seven-year, US$35-million contract.

With a flat cap for the next three seasons and uncertainty over revenues, many teams will be unwilling or unable to open the vault. The four-year term might have been one of the keys to the deal because it will allow Edmundson to test free agency again when he’s 31 and economic conditions might be more favourable.

Edmundson will find some familiar faces in Montreal. He has worked out with Carey Price and Shea Weber during the off-season in Kelowna, and he was Jake Allen’s teammate when the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup last season.

Edmundson, a 6-foot-4, 216-pounder, said size was a factor in the Blues’ success and he sees some similarities between St. Louis and Montreal.

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“We had size in St. Louis, but we also played physical and, at the same time, we could all skate and keep up with the with faster forwards,” said Edmundson. “Our goal was to wear down the other team. I think we broke down a lot of teams. I like the way (the Canadiens) are built. It’s a young team with a lot of speed. With the addition of me on the back end, Shea, (Ben) Chiarot and (Jeff) Petry, you have size and we can all skate. You have, in my mind, the best goalie in the world and you also have young guys up front with a lot of potential.”

Montreal is considered a pressure cooker for hockey players, but Edmundson said he always enjoyed playing at the Bell Centre.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win its next Stanley Cup,” said Edmundson, who had seven goals, 13 assists and 72 penalty minutes in 62 games with the Hurricanes last season. “I play well under pressure. Every year of my career so far, in the playoffs — where there’s the most pressure — that’s when I perform at my best.”

Edmundson said winning the Stanley Cup boosted his confidence and he hopes to play a leadership role in Montreal.

“I felt I was one of the younger guys in St. Louis, where we had an older team, but my year down in Carolina, I was instantly one of the older guys,” said Edmundson. “It was a new leadership role and I want to take that into Montreal. I want them to lean on me. I want to be a leader in the dressing room and on the ice.”

While preparing for the new season Edmundson will also be brushing up on his French.

“I took French immersion for nine years, but I’m rusty,” he said. “I have to get on the phone with my grandma and practise.”

phickey@postmedia.com

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