In this week’s Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors rundown, we’ll break down the week that was for the Habs. Carey Price has been nominated for the Masterton Trophy – will it be his last NHL Award? Cayden Primeau has taken on the challenge of proving himself worthy of the title of starting goaltender. The debate over the first-overall pick rages on as only it would in Montreal. Will it be Shane Wright or not? That and much more below.
Price Masterton Finalist
Price joined Zdeno Chara and Kevin Hayes as a finalist for the Masterton Memorial Trophy, which honors a player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
After missing 74 games with a knee injury and spending time in the NHLPA Player Assistance Program, Price returned to play on April 15 to start five games this season. This may be the end for the Canadiens’ winningest goaltender in franchise history. When asked if the final game of the 2021-22 season that the Habs won 10-2 against the Florida Panthers may be his last, he stated:
“It was just an exceptional day for myself,” Price said. “I had a great sleep. It was just an A-plus day. If it is it, then that would be a great way to do it.”– Carey Price
While Price is considered an underdog to win the trophy and be the first Canadiens member to do so since Max Pacioretty in 2012, when he returned from a broken neck, at the very least this nomination acknowledges the difficult path he faced to return to the game for what could be the last time in his career. The league will announce the winner on June 3.
Kidney Joins AHL Playoffs
The day after Canadiens center prospect Riley Kidney’s Acadie-Bathurst Titans were eliminated from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) playoffs, the American Hockey League (AHL) Laval Rocket announced that he had been signed to an amateur tryout (ATO) contract.
Kidney completed a 100-point regular season and was a point-per-game player in the playoffs. He now is able to gain professional experience in the AHL. This was necessary due to the fact his entry-level contract (ELC) doesn’t take effect until the 2022-23 season.
Primeau Accepts Challenge
The Laval Rocket playoffs are in full swing. As of this writing, they hold a 1-0 series lead in the third round over the Rochester Americans.
A lot of this success comes from the excellent two-way play from the entire roster, but the level of goaltending cannot be ignored. During an interview with 91.9 FM, general manager Kent Hughes admitted (in French) that the Canadiens are without a number one goaltender.
“Until a goalie shows he’s a No. 1 in the NHL, you can never know if you have one. I think with goalies, it’s always difficult. We saw with Jake Allen that he was very, very good when he came back from injury. But we don’t have anyone yet among our goalies that have shown, year in and year out, that he is a number one.” – Kent Hughes
Related: Is it Time to Trade Jonathan Drouin?
Cayden Primeau seemed to take that as a challenge. After Game 1 in their first-round playoff series versus the Syracuse Crunch, when veteran Kevin Poulin lost his only start, Primeau took over the net. The 22-year-old has led his team to the franchise’s first playoff series victory and a victory in Game 1 of their second-round matchup versus the Rochester Americans. He now has a 4-1 record fueled by his 1.77 goals-against average (GAA) and .945 save percentage (SV%). Those numbers, if continued on a deep playoff run, could go a long way in renewing the fanbase’s hope for a homegrown starting goaltender in the near future.
Ryan Szporer posed an important question in a recent article, should the Canadiens tank next season?
“If you look at the last decade and a half of Stanley Cup champions though, it becomes clear that tanking certainly works well enough, with the most successful teams having suffered through similar extended stays at the bottom of the standings.”-Ryan Szporer
Ryan’s position makes sense. No player or coach will lose on purpose, yet the chaos from Hughes’ shift towards youth, especially, and the uncertainty surrounding Price’s future, the chances the Canadiens continue to play competitively but have a sub .500 record, as they did under Martin St. Louis, are very high. Hughes would only need to avoid the urge to add expensive veteran players to prop up the roster and allow the lineup as it is to play the season out.
Szporer is also correct in stating that being at the bottom of the standings doesn’t guarantee a win at the Draft Lottery for the second year in a row. However, having a shot at adding what could be a generational talent in Connor Bedard could give the Habs the piece it needs to become a Stanley Cup contender. At the very least, if they finish as part of the NHL’s bottom 10, they would still secure themselves another strong prospect.
Who’s on First
With players like Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley gaining momentum in the last few weeks leading up to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, Shane Wright’s grip on becoming the top pick has loosened. This has created a bit of controversy on social media as fans debate the merits of each player. Former NHL scout Grant McCagg has made the most waves as he made his pick at number one well known, selecting Slafkovsky as his favorite.
This position has generated thousands of comments and posts arguing for and against it. Marco D’amico teamed up with Mitch Brown and compiled a statistical comparison of all three players. In the end, they used advanced stats to show that Wright was the better shooter, had more controlled zone entry and exits, and was the one with the better defensive statistics.
This places Wright in favorable comparison to Canadiens center Nick Suzuki. Having two top-six, two-way centers who can play at that level would be a huge step forward for the Habs. Despite all the back and forth by media and fans alike, the final word in the debate will only be uttered by Hughes when he steps to the microphone and calls the name of the player the Habs consider worthy of the pick.
Even though it’s the end of the 2021-22 regular season, news about the Canadiens is ongoing — oh, and the NHL Playoffs are still a thing if you’re into that. Keep an eye on our THW Podcast Network for all your hockey needs, as well as THW’s affiliated podcast Habs Unfiltered for the latest Canadiens news, notes, and rumors.