Mark Recchi of the Montreal Canadiens received the highest arbitration award in NHL history Monday, getting a one-year deal worth $4.5 million.
The right wing, who had been seeking $24 million over four years from the team, will become an unrestricted free agent after the season unless the two sides finally agree to a long-term deal.
Recchi becomes the highest-paid player in Montreal history, surpassing team captain Vincent Damphousse, who signed a one-year deal worth $3.275 million on July 31. Damphousse will also become an unrestricted free agent after the 1998-99 season.
Recchi, who had 32 goals and 42 assists last season, made $2.75 million last season in the fifth year of a deal originally signed with Philadelphia. The contract contained an option for a sixth year at roughly the same salary, but there was also a clause allowing Recchi to negotiate a new deal or go to arbitration after five years.
General manager Rejean Houle was unable to sign Recchi to a long-term deal despite a last-ditch attempt before Friday's arbitration hearing.
Houle still has plenty of work ahead of him this month. Other restricted free agents remaining to be signed include defensemen Vladimir Malakhov and Patrice Brisebois, and forwards Saku Koivu, Brian Savage and Martin Rucinsky.
Recchi was acquired from the Flyers in February 1995 with a third-round draft pick in exchange for John LeClair, Gilbert Dionne and Eric Desjardins.
In 710 career games, the 30-year-old Recchi has 317 goals and 472 assists.
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