Free agent Preds defenseman follows familiar path out of town

Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 3:45pm

Francis Bouillon never stays gone for long.

The undersized defenseman has switched teams four times in an NHL career that began in 1999-00. His latest move came Sunday, the first day of the current free agent signing period, when he agreed to a one-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens for a reported $1.5 million, according to Canada's TSN.ca.

His travels, though, simply have taken him back and forth between two franchises — Montreal and Nashville.

Bouillon, 36, spent all or parts of his first three seasons with the Canadiens. The Predators claimed him off waivers in December 2002, but he appeared in just four games before they put him back on waivers and Montreal reclaimed him. He then signed as a free agent with Nashville prior to 2009-10 and remained with the franchise for the past three seasons.

He was one of nine players who officially became free agents when the 2011-12 contract year expired, although one of those nine was center Paul Gaustad.

TSN reported Saturday night that the Predators and Gaustad agreed to a four-year, $13 million contract, and the 30-year-old conformed the deal in published reports. Predators’ officials, though, had not formally announced the pact as of Sunday afternoon.

Also among Nashville’s free agents were defenseman Ryan Suter, one of the top players available at any position, right wing and fan favorite Jordin Tootoo and tough guy Brian McGrattan.

In his two stints with Nashville, the 5-foot-8 Bouillon played 195 games and had nine goals with 26 assists. He tied his career-high with five goals last season and had a career-best plus-5 rating in 2009-10.

A concussion caused him to miss nearly all of the second half of the 2009-10 season as well as the start of 2011-12.