The Montreal Canadiens have been blessed over the past decade or so to employ the best goaltender, if not the best hockey player on the face of the planet. Carey Price has carried the CH on his back since breaking into the league and has developed into the franchise netminder that every team in the NHL covets. Price is talked about in the same breath as Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Jacques Plante as one of the best to ever stop pucks for the bleu, blanc et rouge.
His contract expires after next season and Canadiens fans are already in a frenzy in anticipation of what should be a historical extension. Price is ineligible to sign an extension until July 1, 2017, but both he and the Canadiens have expressed a desire to try and get something done sooner rather than later.
Many Habs fans and hockey followers believe that there is a possibility that Price will either be traded before his contract expires or walk away from the team in free agency, but I don’t buy that for a second. Price is a franchise player and those types of players rarely leave or get traded in today’s NHL.
Steven Stamkos is a perfect example in this situation; for almost two years the NHL world was rampant with rumors of Stamkos leaving Tampa Bay to play in Toronto, and he ultimately took a serious discount to remain there.
Some would argue that an $8.5 million cap hit is hardly a discount, but when you compare his contract to other elite centers in the league (Jonathan Toews, $10.5 million; Anze Kopitar, $10 million; Evgeni Malkin, $9.5 million), it’s easy to see that Stamkos is a veritable bargain for what he brings to the table.
Price, like Stamkos, is loyal to the team who drafted him and to the fans who have basically turned him into a God and for that reason I fully expect him to re-sign with the Canadiens for under market value.
Yes, Wayne Gretzky was traded. So was Patrick Roy, but the NHL is a totally different monster in the salary cap era. Price, like Stamkos, is loyal to the team who drafted him and to the fans who have basically turned him into a God and for that reason I fully expect him to re-sign with the Canadiens for under market value.
So while we wait for the inevitable, what kind of contract should we be expecting?
The Man Can Play
Drafted fifth overall in 2005, Price split time with Cristobal Huet in 2007-08 and then with Jaroslav Halak through the 2009-10 season after which Halak was dealt to the St. Louis Blues. His first season as Montreal’s full-time starter in 2010-11 was proof that trading Halak was the right decision, as he played 72 games going 38-28-6 with a .923 save percentage, a 2.35 goals-against average and eight shutouts.
Since, and including that season, amongst goalies who have played 70 games or more, Price ranks fourth in wins (210), sixth in GAA (2.29), is tied for first in save percentage (.923) and is third in shutouts (35). He was able to accomplish this despite missing all but 12 games in 2015-16.
In 2014-15, Price put up legendary numbers with 44 wins, a .933 SV%, 1.96 GAA and nine shutouts which led to Vezina, Hart, Jennings and Ted Lindsay trophies. He was once again nominated for the Vezina Trophy and placed third in voting this past season.
|Carey Price Career Stats|
It’s been established that Price has been one of the best to ever play the position, so his contract situation is nearly unprecedented. We know that Montreal is going to back the truck up to pay the man, but what can we reasonably expect Price to command and ultimately settle for?
Top 10 Highest Paid Goalies in the NHL
|1. Henrik Lundqvist||NYR||35||31||20||2||2.74||0.910||$9,500,000||$8,500,000|
|2. Sergei Bobrovsky||CBJ||28||41||17||7||2.06||0.931||$8,500,000||$7,425,000|
|3. Pekka Rinne||NSH||34||31||19||3||2.42||0.918||$7,000,000||$7,000,000|
|4. Tuukka Rask||BOS||30||37||20||8||2.23||0.915||$7,500,000||$7,000,000|
|5. Carey Price||MTL||29||37||20||3||2.23||0.923||$7,000,000||$6,500,000|
|6. Braden Holtby||WSH||27||42||13||9||2.07||0.925||$7,000,000||$6,100,000|
|7. Corey Crawford||CHI||32||32||18||2||2.55||0.918||$6,000,000||$6,000,000|
|8. Ryan Miller*||VAN||36||18||29||3||2.80||0.914||$6,000,000||$6,000,000|
|9. Cory Schneider||NJD||31||20||27||2||2.82||0.908||$6,000,000||$6,000,000|
|10. Ben Bishop||DAL||30||18||15||1||2.54||0.910||$5,950,000||$5,950,000|
*Currently an unrestricted free agent
Price’s cap hit is currently fifth among all goalies, and it’s expected that his new deal will make him the highest paid netminder in the NHL, an honor which currently belongs to New York Rangers legend Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist has a cap hit of $8.5 million per season which runs through the 2020-21 season.
Nobody is debating that Price is invaluable to his club, but would he really take advantage of that and handcuff Montreal’s future? The maximum contract any player can sign under the current CBA is 20 percent of a team’s total salary cap. If we assume the NHL’s 2018-19 salary cap will be close to next season’s $75 million, then the maximum annual salary per season would be $15 million.
While you could argue a case for Price to command a maximum contract, it is highly unrealistic to expect him to actually ask for that much. Whether he re-signs in Montreal He knows that cap space is critical to an NHL franchise’s long-term success and can look at the Chicago Blackhawks as an example of what can happen when franchise players sign lucrative contracts.
Every season since Patrick Kane and Toews signed their twin eight-year, $84 million contracts, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman has had to trade an integral part of his team’s core. Among players to fall victim to Chicago’s salary cap issues since July 9, 2014, are Antti Raanta, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Brian Bickell, Andrew Shaw and most recently, Scott Darling.
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) June 21, 2017
If Montreal is to have success in the postseason past the next two or three years, Price is going to have to take a hometown discount. Shea Weber, Jeff Petry and Jonathan Drouin are all locked in at $5.5 million or higher for at least the next four seasons and Max Pacioretty will need a new contract after the 2018-19 season. Additionally, Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov both remain unsigned right now, with the latter reportedly seeking a six-year deal worth an average of $7 million per season.
Assuming Galchenyuk and Radulov take up $12-13 million collectively and Pacioretty comes in around $7 million per season, that would leave Montreal with approximately $17 million in cap space for the 2018-19 season with only 23 players signed through that season. Furthermore, on the back end only Weber, Petry and Jordie Benn are signed through 2018-19, so Montreal will need to add at least one top-4 defenseman as well as trying to get Price under the cap.
It’s safe to assume that Price will try to get the best deal he can for himself while simultaneously leaving enough cap space to help fill out a competitive roster, so I can see Price and the Canadiens agreeing on a seven-year deal worth an average of $9.5 million per season.
Price will be 37 years old at the end of a seven-year deal and with his injury history, coupled with the fact that goaltenders rarely play into their late 30s, it would probably be wise for the Canadiens to do their best to avoid the maximum term.
If we take $9.5 million away from the estimated $17 million in cap space mentioned earlier, that leaves $7.5 million for Montreal to add a top four defenseman and add some depth forwards. A top four defenseman could cost anywhere between $3-4 million, which would leave $2.5-3 million to fill out the bottom six forward group; a difficult but not altogether impossible feat.
If Bergevin can keep Price’s next contract under double-digits, that should leave the Canadiens enough wiggle room to keep their current core intact and fill out the roster to continue challenging for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future.