MONTREAL - Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens certainly kept busy on the first day of free agency.

The club signed Tuesday free-agent forward Manny Malhotra to a one-year deal worth $850,000.

The 34-year-old, who has come back from a career-threatening eye injury suffered in 2011, recorded seven goals and six assists in 69 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season.

Meanwhile, free agent Thomas Vanek, who finished the 2013-2014 season with the Habs, is now a member of the Minnesota Wild.

Vanek, the best player available on the free-agent market, signed a US$19.5-million, three-year deal with the Wild.

The 30-year-old winger had 15 goals in 18 games since being traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the deadline, then five goals and five assists in the playoffs.

Vanek's wife is from Minnesota and the Austrian makes his off-season home there, making the Wild a preferred destination for him.

Bergevin signed coveted Czech prospect Jiri Sekac, acquired defenceman Tom Gilbert and re-signed free agent defenceman Mike Weaver.

Sekac was reportedly courted by 15 NHL teams and ended up choosing a two-year contract with Montreal. The left-shooting right winger had 11 goals and 17 assists in 47 games for Lev Prague in the KHL last season and added a goal and seven assists in 21 playoff games.

Gilbert agreed to a two-year agreement, while Weaver got one year.

The Canadiens also saw captain Brian Gionta leave as an unrestricted free agent for Buffalo on a three-year contract, and traded blue-liner Josh Gorges to Buffalo for a 2016 second-round draft pick.

Gorges, who rejected a deal that would have sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, had a list of 15 teams he would not accept a trade to.

Buffalo was not on that list, and the Habs found a taker for the final four years of his contract at a cap hit of US$3.9 million.

Gorges, a native of Kelowna, B.C., had a goal and 13 assists last season.

At an afternoon news conference, Bergevin acknowledged the team was losing two class acts.

“First of all, you are losing Gio and Josh and they're great people. They have been great for the Montreal Canadiens, he said

“We have to make tough decisions. It’s part of my job and sometimes you make decisions that aren't popular but I am not here to be popular. I'm here to make decisions. And sometimes it's hard.”

Bergevin also said he believes it’s time the team allows its younger players to take a greater role.

And the Habs also announced Tuesday the signing of forward Jeremy Gregoire to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Gregoire, an 18-year-old Sherbrooke native, spent last season in the QMJHL, where he tallied 35 goals and 34 assists.

-- with files from CTV Montreal