Even in these days of COVID-19 and the suspension of NHL regular-season games, there’s still Montreal Canadiens news and rumors to report. However, that news doesn’t happen on the ice but instead includes player signings and off-ice news. In this post, I’d like to help Canadiens’ fans stay more up-to-date with what’s happening with the team.
Item One: Carey Price Is Selected Best Goalie in NHLPA Poll
I simply missed reporting this news in my last news and rumors report, which because I’m such a huge Carey Price fan seems almost unforgivable. However, here it is – a month late but still important to share.
The most recent National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) poll (reported early in April) asked NHL players to pick the best of their peers, and they overwhelmingly chose Price as the best goalie in the NHL. When I say the vote for Price was overwhelming, it was. He received almost half of the vote (41.55 percent) over other players.
The second best NHL goalie, according to players, was the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (at 17.09 percent). Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights came in third (8.93%) and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers came in fourth (5.63%).
This is the second-consecutive season Price has earned the award as the NHL’s best goalie in the eyes of the players he regularly battles on the ice. The Hockey Writers congratulates the 32-year-old Price for this honor. He deserves it: he’s poised, consistent, works hard, and is simply an all-round good guy and a presence in the community.
Item Two: Ex-Montreal Canadiens’ Georges Laraque Recovering From COVID-19
In some good news out of Montreal, hometown former Canadiens’ player Georges Laraque returned home three days ago after spending a weekend in the hospital recovering from a bout with COVID-19. Yesterday, he tweeted about his ordeal.
Laraque, who’s now 43 years old, looks as tough as ever except for the tubes in his face. He battled for 13 NHL seasons, spending 8 with the Oilers (1997-2006), moving to the Phoenix Coyotes in 2006-07, to the Pittsburgh Penguins (2006-08), and finishing his career with his Canadiens (2008-10).
Because Laraque is asthmatic, COVID-19 could have been life-threatening by triggering an asthma attack, causing pneumonia, or bringing on another respiratory problem. Although the virus wasn’t an easy battle for the former NHL pugilist, he beat the illness.
Laraque was interviewed by TSN this week and talked about his battle: “I was really struggling but just the fact that since yesterday I didn’t need extra oxygen to breathe it was really encouraging because you know, gasping for air is one of the worst feelings when you can’t breathe.”
Related: Top 3 All-Time Canadiens Goalies
As was typical in his NHL career, Laraque believes he contracted the disease by picking up groceries for elderly people in the Montreal area because, as he said, they’re the most at-risk demographic.
Always the protector of others, he said, “Elderly people don’t want to go out of the house to get groceries so I volunteered for them and I did that for them because it was advised for them to stay at home. So I just took their list of groceries and went to a couple different grocery stores to pick up stuff for them. And when I did that, you know how contagious this thing is, you could be picking up a product, touch your face after and that’s it.”
We wish you the best, Georges. Be well, and thanks for helping.
Item Three: Alexander Romanov Signs an Entry-Level Contract
Yesterday, on May 8, the NHL reported that Alexander Romanov had agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract with the Canadiens. The official starting date of the contract hasn’t been finalized because, should the NHL’s regular-season be reinstated, the team hopes he would be able to play for them in their remaining games.
Romanov’s a strong player who was chosen by the Canadiens in the second round (38th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The 20-year-old, 5-foot-11, 185-pound Moscow native hasn’t lit up the score sheet, but he’s a rock-solid defender with a great plus-37 differential in 86 career games with CSKA Moscow since his KHL debut in 2018-19. He also helped his team win the Gagarin Cup in 2018-19.
Romanov played international hockey for Russia in the 2018 U18 World Championship and both helped his 2019 Team Russia win the bronze medal at the World Junior Championship (WJC) and the 2020 silver medal. He made the WJC All-Star Team in both championships and was named the best defenseman of the 2019 tournament. One thing is certain, when Romanov finally lands in Montreal he’s likely to immediately be added to the 23-man roster.
Item Four: The Canadiens Sign Arsen Khisamutdinov and Vasili Demchenko
Last week the Canadiens signed Arsen Khisamutdinov to a two-year, entry-level contract. Khisamutdinov played in 31 KHL games with Neftekhimik Niznekamsk, recording a single goal and two assists. He also spent time in the VHL (which is Russia’s second-level league) as well. Given that he hasn’t yet been a full-time KHL player, the 22-year-old forward will likely spend the 2020-21 season learning to play the North American game in the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
Last week the Canadiens also signed goalie Vasili Demchenko to a one-year, entry-level contract. The plan is that he will join the organization prior to the 2020-21 campaign and compete for the job as Price’s backup. It seems that Demchenko’s biggest competition for number two will be Charlie Lindgren, also 26 years old, who split the 2019-20 season between the Canadiens and the Rocket.
In 36 games this season for two KHL teams (Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk), the 26-year-old Demchenko recorded a 9-11-1 record, with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
What’s Next for the Canadiens?
Similar to all NHL teams, the Canadiens are waiting for news about a return of play for the 2019-20 season or the season’s cancellation. Until that happens, the team will likely try to play both ends against the middle: that is, it will work to build both for next season and for this season – giving the team as much flexibility as possible.
Marc Bergevin’s been as active as any NHL general manager, and it seems as if he’s focusing both on seeking KHL talent and cementing the team’s young prospects with entry-level deals. We’ll see who’s next.