The Montreal Canadiens' courtship of blueline prospect Alexei Yemelin could be coming to a productive conclusion that will see him playing in the NHL next season.
General Manager Pierre Gauthier is in Bratislava for the World Hockey Championship amid speculation that the team will finally sign their 2004 draft pick as early as next week.
Yemelin, who is playing for Russia at the Worlds, cannot negotiate an NHL contract until Russia is done at the tournament.
The expectation is that once the World Championship is over and Gauthier is back in Montreal, he will sit down with Yemelin's agent Don Meehan and finalize an entry-level agreement. Yemelin is regarded by the team as an NHL-ready player and is expected to be among their top six blueliners next season.
Yemelin, taken 84th overall by the Canadiens in 2004, spent the last four seasons playing with Ak-Bars Kazan of the Kontinental Hockey League. The 25-year-old had career highs this season with 11 goals and 26 points and was a plus-16 with 117 penalty minutes in 52 games.
- With files from TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie