The Montreal Canadiens will be getting a familiar face back in their lineup Saturday as goaltender Carey Price is scheduled to get the start against the Buffalo Sabres. For the Canadiens, getting Price back is not only huge for their goaltending situation but also to deflect from the numerous (and that’s an understatement) rumors and reports that Price could be on his way out of Montreal.
The rumors really started when Norman Flynn mentioned on TSN 690 radio in Montreal that a trade involving Price wouldn’t surprise him at all. It was surprising to hear, especially when Flynn’s only reasoning was a gut feeling due to the Canadiens handling the situation so strangely.
Keeping a franchise goaltender out of the net and never being fully honest about the extent of the injury or the timetable for a return is sure to turn heads – especially when that goaltender’s last name is Price.
This was one of many examples of Price’s name floating around in trade talks, with Montreal Gazette writer Stu Cowan discussed the possibility of a trade with the Edmonton Oilers and Elliotte Friedman even mentioning the possibility of a trade coming. With so many established veterans in the industry making their thoughts on the matter known, a stir among fans was created that sparked the rampant flow of rumors across the internet.
The rumors got so popular that Angela Price, the wife of Carey, felt compelled to make a post on Instagram highlighting the fact that the couple was not looking to get divorced, nor was she looking to leave Montreal.
With Price getting the start against the Sabres on Saturday, all of these rumors and reports seem to hold a little less weight. Still, the phrase “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” exists for a reason. If so many reporters and insiders had a feeling that something could be amiss, it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation moving forward, especially if the Canadiens continue to struggle down the stretch. That extends beyond Price too as even captain Max Pacioretty’s name has been floated in trade reports as of late.
Crowded Crease in Montreal
Something important to note is the fact that prior to missing time with his injury, Price was off to an awful start to the 2017-18 season. Playing in 11 games, Price compiled a record of 3-7-1 due in large part to his 3.77 goals against average and .877 save percentage. In all fairness to the 30-year-old netminder, the product in front of him wasn’t much better with sloppy defense and an offense that simply wasn’t producing.
In Price’s place, rookie goaltender Charlie Lindgren has taken on the brunt of the load. Performing admirably, the 23-year-old goalie went 3-4-1 with a 2.43 goals against average but an impressive .924 save percentage. Those numbers are largely impacted by two of Lindgren’s last four games in the crease. Allowing 10 goals in those two games and recording a save percentage of only .830, Lindgren’s numbers have otherwise been stellar, allowing two goals or less in the remaining six games he’s played this season.
Omitting those two games from his season, Lindgren has posted a jaw-dropping 1.50 goals-against average and .952 save percentage. Still, as a rookie, it’s expected that a player will struggle at some point in the season. Lindgren managed to turn things around in his last game against the Dallas Stars despite taking the loss on the night and should still figure to be in the Canadiens long-term plans despite the presence of Antti Niemi on the roster. Whether that means he’ll remain with the big club for the time being or not is yet to be determined, however.
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) November 24, 2017
In the long-run, the Canadiens will have Price, Lindgren, Niemi, and Al Montoya who are all capable of playing in games at the NHL level. The former and the latter are the optimal choices for the Canadiens in net moving forward this season, but the situation won’t be quite so black and white. There’s always a grey area. Still, for now, the Canadiens will be happy to see their top star back on the ice and in uniform for the first time since Nov. 2 against the Minnesota Wild.
Price Returning Bodes Well for Canadiens
Despite how poorly his season started, Price remains one of the best goaltenders in the entire world and a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate. If anybody is going to turn a season around it would be him – regardless of the defense in front of him. For the Canadiens, Price performing well is a win-win situation for them. For starters, winning games leads to more fan interest and fan engagement which will obviously lead to a better atmosphere at games than what has been seen at the Bell Centre at various time this season. It goes beyond just the team’s present situation, however.
If all of the trade talk is to be believed to a certain extent, Price playing well helps those talks. No general manager in the NHL needs to be convinced that Price is a good goalie, but being reassured that the first 11 games Price played this year were the exception and not the new rule bodes well for Montreal in general. If Price is going to be traded, the return has to be huge. A struggling Price won’t command nearly as much as a lights-out, brick wall Price.
Whether the Habs plan on moving on from Price or not, they’ll be rooting for their star goalie one way or another. As for the rest of the league, the prospect of playing against Price is never a fun one, but seeing a star in net is easy to acknowledge and it’s good for the game of hockey in general when the best of the best play on a nightly basis.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.