Fans worried that Rinat Valiev would be heading overseas in 2018-19 have nothing to worry about anymore. The 22-year old defenseman has agreed to terms with the Montreal Canadiens on a one-year two-way contract that will pay him $650K at the NHL level. Valiev had been involved in KHL rumors for the last few weeks, but agent Dan Milstein even tweets that his client was never considering heading to Russia.
Valiev was acquired by the Canadiens earlier this season when they sent Tomas Plekanec and Kyle Baun to Toronto at the trade deadline. Though the deal was mostly about getting a second-round pick for a few months of Plekanec—the veteran center has been clear about his desire to return to Montreal this summer—Valiev and fellow prospect Kerby Rychel both could see time in Montreal next season.
The 23-year old defenseman was a third-round selection of the Maple Leafs back in 2014, but was given just 10 games in the NHL while with the Toronto organization. After being dealt to Montreal, Valiev suited up for two games at the end of the season and could be in line for a more prominent role next year. The Canadiens are desperately looking for help on their blue line, and a player like Valiev is handy depth to have sitting in the minor leagues. Should the team experience injuries or ineffectiveness like in this past season, they won’t hesitate to call-up their latest signing.
That said, Valiev is no long waiver-exempt and won’t be able to pop up and down like in previous years. It’s unlikely Montreal will want to expose him very often, meaning there is a chance he could break camp with the team as a sixth or seventh option. We’ll have to wait to see how it all shakes out, but currently there doesn’t seem to be room for him on the NHL roster.