Forward Mathieu Darche signed a one year contract today and, at the age of 32, is getting ready to play in his only his third full season in the NHL. He joins the contracts signed by unrestricted free agent Hal Gill and RFA Andrei Kostitsyn over the last two weeks.
Darche has finally been rewarded for his commitment to the “team” concept of the game. He was given a 200-thousand dollar contract increase. The Canadiens were the first team in Darche’s career to give him a one-way contract when they signed him last July first at 500-thousand dollars as an unrestricted free agent. He had earlier played in the Columbus, Nashville, San Jose and Tampa Bay organizations.
Last season, Darche averaged eleven very tough minutes per game. (Fifteen minutes in the playoffs) He was plus-7, second only to Tomas Plekanec’ plus-8. Jacques Martin used him variously as a checker, top line leftwinger and a goalmouth presence on the power play. And, of course there’s the intangible dressing room presence and leadership, something recent versions of the Canadiens have been very conscious.
Darche was bothered by a suspected hernia problem in the latter stages of the season. He missed seventeen of nineteen games in February and March but came back to play the entire playoff series against Boston. He underwent abdominal surgery in mid-May and is expected to be ready for training camp in September.
The signing of Darche and the pressure of the Canadiens minor league system probably means UFA Jeff Halpern will be moving on. But don’t quote me on that.
From the Canadiens Publicity Department –
Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced today the signing of forward Mathieu Darche to a one-year contract (2011-12). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement with Mathieu Darche. Mathieu is a classy veteran player who displays great leadership and determination, and we strongly believe he can help us achieve our goals in the upcoming season,” said Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier.
Darche, 34, completed in 2010-11 his eighth season in the NHL. The left winger set personal-highs with 12 goals and 26 points in 59 games. Two of his goals were tallied on the powerplay. He served 10 penalty minutes, registered 90 shots on goals and maintained a +7 plus/minus differential, while averaging 11:16 seconds of ice time per game. Darche added two points (1 goal, 1 assist) in seven playoff games.
Since 2000-01, Darche has registered 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) in 189 NHL regular-season games.
The 6’1’’, 207 lbs forward has scored three of his goals on the powerplay, one shorthanded goal and four winning goals, while recording 40 penalty minutes. Darche has accumulated three points (1 goal, 2 assists) in 18 career NHL playoff contests.
Prior to joining the Canadiens, Darche had played with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning during his NHL career. A native of Montreal, he first signed with the Canadiens as a free agent on July 2, 2009.