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Ward to test free agent market

Former top pick one of five players not re-signed by the Canadiens

Monday, 01.08.2005 / 12:00 AM / News
Montreal Canadiens
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Ward to test free agent market
Jason Ward accomplished the rare feat of scoring his first career NHL goal on his first NHL shot in his first NHL shift against the Rangers' Mike Richter on December 3, 1999.
MONTREAL - With the free-agent frenzy set to begin on Monday afternoon, the Canadiens announced that five players, headlined by former top pick Jason Ward, will not be tendered qualifying offers.  The decision means all five players will become eligible to sign with the NHL team of their choice.

Ward, 26, was the team's first pick and 11th overall selection at the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. A late bloomer, Ward exploded back onto the Montreal organization's radar in 2002-03 by leading the AHL in scoring with the Hamilton Bulldogs and earning league MVP honors.  He spent all of the 2003-04 campaign with the Canadiens, amassing 12 points in 53 games and two points in five playoff games before suffering a shoulder injury against the Bruins in the clubs' opening-round postseason series.  In total, Ward had 20 points in 105 career games with Montreal, including 10 goals.

The four other players to part ways with the Canadiens have yet to taste NHL action at all.  Danny Stewart, picked 123rd overall by Montreal in 2003, spent the past three seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic.  He played on Sidney Crosby's line for most of the 2003-04 season, recording a career-high 67 points in 69 games.

Centerman Christian Larrivee, the Canadiens' sixth pick and the 114th overall selection in 2000, was a standout with Chicoutimi over four QMJHL seasons.  He enjoyed his best year in 2001-02, when he posted 48 goals and 100 points. The 23-year-old split last season between Hamilton and the ECHL, where he put up 29 points in 53 games for the Long Beach Ice Dogs.

Defenseman Matt Shasby was drafted 150th overall by the Canadiens in 1999 before going on to star for the University of Anchorage-Alaska for four years. The 25-year-old was held pointless in 11 games with Hamilton, but had 22 points in 40 games with the Ice Dogs.

Blue-liner Mark Flood was selected 188th overall by the Canadiens in 2003. The 20-year-old spent the past four seasons with the OHL's Peterborough Petes.

Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com