Back in 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins made arguably the biggest mistake of the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft by exposing and ultimately giving up veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who went on to lead his new team to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final and just took home the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender for the 2020-21 season. This time around, with the Seattle Kraken set to select their first roster on Wednesday, the Montreal Canadiens could be next in line to lose their long-time starting goaltender via expansion draft.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli first broke news on Saturday that the Canadiens were considering leaving their starter of 14 years exposed to the Kraken, with the thought being Seattle won’t want to take on his contract which carries a $10.5 million cap hit for the next five seasons. Soon later, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun confirmed the shocking news; Price waived his no-movement clause to allow Montreal to protect backup goaltender Jake Allen, who initially appeared to be a sure-fire selection for the Kraken. Needless to say, Seattle general manager Ron Francis has a major decision on his hands with the option to select the 2021 Stanley Cup finalist goaltender as the first starter in franchise history. If we learned anything from the Golden Knights’ selection of Fleury four years ago, Price should be wearing a Kraken jersey next season.
The Kraken Have $81.5 Million in Cap Space to Plan for Price’s Contract
If any team can afford to overpay their starting goaltender, it’s the Kraken. With just one prospect signed to their organization at the moment, Seattle has the luxury of crafting their roster with $81.5 million in cap space. Bad contracts tend to be the worst when they are unplanned, but in this case, the Kraken have the ability to manage their cap ahead of time to ensure they are able to fit Price into their plans. With just five years left on his deal, it’s a risk I would be willing to take if I was Seattle’s GM. Proven franchise goaltenders are hard to come by in today’s NHL; the Kraken are being handed one on a silver platter and it would be a big mistake for them to get scared away by his cap hit when they have the ability to build around his contract.
If money is a concern for the organization, just think of the extra merchandise and ticket sales the team can make with a veteran goaltender like Price guarding the crease. An Olympic Games, World Cup of Hockey and IIHF World Junior Championship gold medalist, there is no goalie more qualified for Seattle to select. He has appeared in seven NHL All-Star Games over his career, including three of the past four (2017, 2018 and 2019), and is a former recipient of the Vezina Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and William M. Jennings Trophy.
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Not to mention, he has never once recorded a sub-.900 save percentage season in his 14 years with the Canadiens. His contract may be a bit high, but that wouldn’t deter me from locking up a potential Hockey Hall of Fame goalie in Price, who is only 33 years old with likely three to five more seasons of excellence to give.
Price Grew Up Nearby in British Columbia, Wife Is From Washington State
Price and his wife, Angela, have a deep-rooted history in the Pacific Northwest and Washington state. Growing up about a 12-hour drive north of Seattle, Price was born and raised in Anahim Lake, B.C. Angela, on the other hand, grew up in Washington state and attended Washington State University, majoring in marketing and minoring in finance. In 2013, the couple got married in Benton City, Washington, about a three-hour drive from Seattle. They also have two daughters and a son, and spend their summers in Kelowna, B.C., about five hours from Seattle.
It appears Price’s selection by the Kraken would be great for both sides; Seattle gets a highly marketable franchise goaltender, while Price gets to play close to his home and family with the opportunity to start fresh with a brand-new franchise after his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final this past season. It seems like a match made in heaven, so good that it makes me wonder if it was planned. It would be a shame if Francis decides to pass up on this incredible opportunity over money issues when he has the most money to spend of any GM in the league.
The 2021 Expansion Draft will take place on Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT. Until then, Kraken fans are left speculating who the first starting netminder in franchise history will be. If Seattle wants to replicate and exceed the instant success the expansion Golden Knights had in 2017, picking up Price would likely be a huge step in the right direction. It is very rare for goalies of Price’s caliber to become available, especially without having to give up any assets. The Kraken should capitalize on this opportunity and keep Price and his family in the Pacific Northwest year-round.
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers.