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Canadiens sign first-round draft pick Filip Mesar to entry-level deal

It’s expected that the Slovakian forward will play next season for the AHL’s Laval Rocket or the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.

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The Canadiens now have both of their first-round picks from last week’s NHL Draft signed to entry-level contracts.

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GM Kent Hughes announced Thursday that forward Filip Mesar had agreed to terms on a three-year, entry-level deal after being selected with the No. 26 overall pick last Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

On Wednesday, Hughes announced that left-winger Juraj Slafkovsky, the No. 1 overall pick by the Canadiens at the draft, had agreed to a three-year, entry-level deal.

Mesar and Slafkovsky, both from Slovakia, have been close friends since childhood.

CapFriendly.com reported that Slafkovsky’s contract includes the maximum potential performance bonuses (up to $3.5 million each season), along with $1 million in Type A performance bonuses, $2.5 million in Type B performance bonuses and a $95,000 signing bonus each season to go along with a base salary of $855,000. His annual salary-cap hit will be $950,000.

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Mesar’s contract includes a US$95,000 signing bonus each season and a base salary of $855,000 with an annual salary-cap hit of $950,000.

During a video conference Thursday afternoon, Hughes was asked if the plan is for the 6-foot-3, 227-pound Slafkovsky to start next season with the Canadiens.

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“We’re going to take that week-by-week, month-by-month,” Hughes said. “I think the plan is for him to return (to Montreal) some point in early August and train here, skate here, work with the development group here and get to know the players on the team and just get kind of acclimatized with life in Montreal and North America.”

If Slafkovsky doesn’t start the season with the Canadiens, he is expected to play for the AHL’s Laval Rocket.

It’s more unlikely that Mesar would start the season with the Canadiens. Hughes said the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder could play for the Rocket or for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. Hughes added that he wants Mesar to play somewhere where he can continue to have success offensively and play on the power play.

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The Canadiens also announced Thursday the appointments of Philippe Desaulniers as head of hockey analytics technology and Miranda McMillan as hockey data analyst. They will work under the supervision of the director of hockey analytics, Christopher Boucher.

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Hughes said he will now focus on hiring an assistant coach to replace Luke Richardson, who was recently named head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks.

“That’s something that obviously needs to be in place before the season starts,” Hughes said. “We have to hire a couple of scouts on the pro side as well. As far as (hiring) assistant general managers, there’s no plan at the moment or need at the moment as far as we see it. But we’re going to continue to evaluate. I’m six months on the job and, albeit Jeff (Gorton, the executive director of hockey operations) and Sedgy (assistant GM John Sedgwick) have been here for some time, I want the opportunity to continue to operate and learn and evaluate, I guess, what I think would be helpful as opposed to just doing what other organizations do.

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“I want to kind of identify where I think maybe I need help or we need help rather than just assume we’re going to put somebody in with a title and have him kind of do the same thing that we’re already doing,” Hughes added. “So there is the possibility for more additions. I just don’t know that they’re on the front burner here because I want to learn more.”

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1

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