What the Puck: Keeping Carey Price a mixed blessing for Habs fans

What the Puck: Keeping Carey Price a mixed blessing for Habs fans thumbnail

Canadiens goaltender is beloved by fans, but there are many who feel his best playing days are behind him and he’s overpaid.

Author of the article:

Brendan Kelly  •  Montreal Gazette

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was so spectacular in Montreal's run to the Stanley Cup that it's easy to forget he had another forgettable regular season, Brendan Kelly writes.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was so spectacular in Montreal’s run to the Stanley Cup that it’s easy to forget he had another forgettable regular season, Brendan Kelly writes. Photo by John Mahoney /Montreal Gazette

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The Seattle Kraken not selecting Carey Price is a good news/bad news scenario for Habs fans. The good news is he’s staying in Montreal. The bad news is he’s staying in Montreal.

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It’s good news because there’s no shortage of Canadiens fans who love the taciturn fellow who wears No. 31 for the bleu blanc et rouge. Price is coming off the greatest playoff run of his career and anyone who paid any attention to this post-season knows that the Habs would never have made it to the Stanley Cup final for the first time in 28 years if it wasn’t for Saint Carey’s heroics.

It’s bad news in the eyes of many because there are also plenty of Habs fans who feel Price’s best days are behind him and that it doesn’t make sense to spend that much money on a guy who has had some of the worst stats of any goalie in the National Hockey League over the past few seasons. Price was so spectacular in these playoffs that it’s all too easy to forget that he had another forgettable regular season.

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He was injured, as he’s often been in recent years, and when he was playing, he was often not that impressive. Sadly, he was more Bad Carey than Saint Carey.

The news broke early on Wednesday via the usual Twitter hockey pundits that the Kraken would not be selecting Price and instead would be going for 22-year-old defenceman Cale Fleury. On the televised broadcast Wednesday night of the expansion draft, Kraken general manager Ron Francis made it official.

In an unusual move, Francis was asked to comment on the fact that they didn’t decide to pick one of the most famous goalies of the past 15 years in the NHL.

“I think any time you see a name like Carey Price available you have to consider it,” said Francis. “Certainly we did that. We had a lot of discussions and, at the end of the day, we made the decision we did to go in a different direction.”

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Many of the hockey talking heads were saying that the reason Francis didn’t take Price was his health issues. Maybe. The reality is we don’t know what’s going on with Price’s health. He is reportedly going to New York Thursday to consult with specialists about both his knee and his hip. There is talk he might need knee surgery, but it is all pure speculation at this point.

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The Canadiens, as usual, have provided absolutely no information about Price’s injuries, so your guess is as good as mine. I heard Stéphane Waite, Price’s former coach, earlier this week on 98.5 FM and he was saying that he thought Price was doing just fine health-wise. Watching him in the playoffs, he certainly didn’t look like a guy who was in need of surgery.

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I think Francis didn’t pick Price for the very good reason that no one in their right mind would want to spend US$10.5 million out of their US$81.5-million salary cap to pay their goalie. It just doesn’t make any sense in the 2021 NHL.

Worse, it’s clear that at this point that Price can’t play a 60-game season. Chances are you’ll get 45 games out of him and that’s exactly why Montreal GM Marc Bergevin had to go out and pick up Jake Allen last season. Allen is costing the Habs US$2.875 million over the next two seasons, meaning the team has US$13.4 million tied up in their two goalies. That’s nuts.

But let’s give credit where credit is due. Bergevin rolled the dice and won big time. He left Price unprotected because he wanted to protect Allen and you’re only allowed to protect one goalie. It was a calculated risk. If Seattle had taken Price, Bergevin could have lived with it, but he didn’t want that to happen. He gambled and he read Francis just right. He figured the price for Price was too high.

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Berg wanted to keep Price and that’s what happened. But is that the best thing for the team? I’m not convinced. Ideally, you want to pay about US$4 million to US$5 million for a very good netminder who can play the majority of your games. If the Canadiens make another great run next year, then keeping Price was the right call.

But it’s not likely to happen. The more probable scenario is that good things start happening again in two or three years, powered by the youth brigade of Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Alexander Romanov. And Price won’t be part of those runs.

But hey, Bergevin seems to have the hot hand here. So maybe he’ll just keep rolling and winning.

  1. Defenceman Mark Giordano, who won the Norris Trophy in 2019, is one of the few premier names the Seattle Kraken reportedly took in the NHL expansion draft on Wednesday.

    Kraken leaves Price, Tarasenko and other household names on the cutting room floor

  2. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price manages to stop Lightning's Nikita Kucherov as Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber looks on during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final earlier this month at the Bell Centre.

    Stu Cowan: Canadiens can move forward with Carey Price and Jake Allen

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