Canadiens’ Offseason Dominos Can Fall Following Price’s Health Update

News and rumors always tend to start flowing freely as the NHL staffs descend into one location ahead of an NHL Draft, this year, the first in-person draft since 2019, is no exception. The latest information is that Carey Price is forecasted to be back on the ice with the Montreal Canadiens at the start of next season.

Canadiens’ Are Kneeling in Prayer

According to TSN 690’s Shaun Starr, Price had a “minor cleanup on his knee and is doing very well.”

Starr’s information is essentially the information Canadiens fans were hoping for, that Price will be healthy and is expected to start next season. It’s important to note that there is an expected maximum limit of games for Price now, and that is set at 50. In his last healthy season, in 2019-20, he started 58 games for a record of 27-25-6, with a goals-against average of 2.79 and a .909 save percentage.

That season, the Canadiens were the 24th seeded team in the Covid-19 play-in round that saw the Habs defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 in the best of five series, then fall to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. It was this team performance that led former general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin to go all-in for a chance at a deep Stanley Cup playoff run, which did lead to a 2021 Cup Final appearance. Since then, Price has only played five games.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The 2021-22 season saw Price face two major obstacles, his knee injury and mental health issues that led to him joining the NHL’s player assistance program. In November of 2021, Price said in a statement:

“Things had reached a point that I realized I needed to prioritize my health for both myself and for my family. Asking for help when you need it is what we encourage our kids to do. And it was what I needed to do.”

Carey Price

What this report from TSN’s Shawn Starr gives fans is hope that Price has conquered his demons and an expectation that he can play on his repaired knee. What this means to GM Kent Hughes, however, is he will need to be active leading into the NHL Draft being held in Montreal.

Domino Effect

This will lead to a domino effect. With a maximum of 50 games, that leaves 32 starts to the Habs’ backup goaltender. As of the writing of this article, that is Jake Allen, who is in the final year of his contract set to earn him $2.8 million. There had been speculation that he could be dealt with, however, with this revelation, it will be highly unlikely to occur as the hope is for the team to be competitive and entertaining, and having two solid goaltenders would go a long way in masking the constant errors that are almost guaranteed to happen all season long from a young team.

Related: Montreal Canadiens Would Benefit from a Josh Anderson Trade

Also, this will have salary cap implications. With Price set to earn $10.5 million on the cap for four more years, it leaves almost no room for Hughes to re-sign players or to add a supporting cast of veterans. This will lead to several deals being made in the offseason even if it is only to dump salary.

With Montreal’s cap sitting at $80.577 million, adding in a cap overage of $1.133 million, it leaves no room to re-sign restricted free agents such as Rem Pitlick or to add the salary of the 2022 first overall pick, if he were to make the club.

Rem Pitlick Montreal Canadiens
Rem Pitlick, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This will lead to several veterans that would be useful to the Habs not only on the ice but also in a leadership and mentoring capacity. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield would benefit from the play of Josh Anderson, but also from the example he sets in work-ethic and being accountable.

Jeff Petry would be an excellent mentor for Alexander Romanov, giving him an example of how to add more offense to his very physical and mobile style of play. Losing players of that ilk could hurt in the short term. Yet, Price’s return could fill some of that leadership and mentorship void as his experience being one of the world’s best goaltenders and the franchise cornerstone for several years provides another layer of support.

While there may be some who feel it is time for the Canadiens to move on from Carey Price and his contract to begin a new era in the Canadiens’ franchise, it is not a feeling shared by Price or the club itself. After nearly 15 years representing the Canadiens and winning every possible individual award, and becoming the winningest goaltender in franchise history he has earned the right to attempt to end his career on his terms, and if that means having to manage his health with modifications to his training and restrictions on his starts, then so be it.

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