Thursday, July 7, 2011

Habs sign B. Willsie, trade for M. Blunden

For a second consecutive day, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier was busy in preparing the roster of the Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2011-12 season. Today he announced the signing of forward Brian Wilsie to a 2-way contract, and announced the team has traded forward Ryan Russell to the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Michael Blunden.

Wilsie, 33, has played 381 NHL games. Though few may remember, he did the Habs a huge favour on April 17, 2006. He scored the game-winning goal in a 6-4 Capitals victory over the Atlanta Thrashers - a win that clinched a playoff spot for the Canadiens in the 2005-06 season. That was a career year for Wilsie, who topped the 40 point mark for the only time in the National League. The 6'1", 202 lbs forward is nearing the end of his career, appearing in only 5 NHL contests in total over the last 2 years, but being a dominant AHL scorer, with 57 points last season. He will be a great replacement for the likes of Dustin Boyd who moved from the AHL to the KHL.

Blunden, 24, is an intriguing acquisition at a minimal cost (Russell had no future in Montreal) and on a 1-year, 2-way deal. A 2nd round pick in 2005, the 6'3", 207 lbs winger has 51 NHL games to his name between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets, but has shown little offensive upside at that level. Still, like Wilsie, he is productive in the American League and will add size and experience to a young Bulldogs team. Most notably, as a big body who can drop the gloves to defend teammates, Blunden fills a bigger organizational need than 5'10" Russell, providing fourth line depth in case of future injuries.

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