Francis Bouillon, a small but tough and dependable defenceman who played 14 NHL seasons, has retired.

The 39-year-old unrestricted free agent made the announcement Friday after failing to catch on with an NHL club.

The five-foot-eight, 200-pound Bouillon spent 11 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens and had two stints with the Nashville Predators. He had 32 goals and 149 points in 776 NHL games.

Born in New York of a Haitian father and French-Canadian mother, he moved to Quebec City when he was three but retained his U.S. citizenship. He played for the American team at the 2003 IIHF World Championship.

Bouillon was a favourite of coach Michel Therrien, who had him as his captain with the 1996 Memorial Cup champion Granby Predators.

Passed over in the NHL draft, Bouillon played a year with Wheeling in the ECHL and another with the defunct Quebec Rafales in the IHL before signing with Montreal in 1998, when he was reunited with Therrien on the Fredericton Canadiens of the American Hockey League.

He made the jump to the NHL in 1999-00, a year before Therrien was promoted to his first stint as coach of the Canadiens.

He was not signed after the 2008-09 campaign but inked a deal after a tryout with Nashville, where he spent the next three seasons. He also played four games for the Preds in 2002-03 before being traded back to Montreal.

Bouillon returned to the Canadiens for two seasons in 2012, again with Therrien as coach.

The stocky defenceman played a calm and efficient game, but could also move the puck well and make plays from the blue line. Opposing forwards were sometimes surprised by his strength and fearlessness.

Left unsigned after the 2013-14 campaign, he played one last season for Ambri-Piotti in the Swiss league.

Bouillon won the Jacques Beauchamp Molson Trophy in 2003-04 as the Canadiens' unsung hero and took the Jean Beliveau Award in 2006-07 for his work in the community.

He is to remain in the Canadiens organization as a member of the board of directors of the team's alumni association.