Carey Price will earn $39-million over six years on the contract extension he signed with the Montreal Canadiens Monday, but maybe the biggest news of all was that his health has improved to the point where he’s ready to get back on the ice by next week.
Price missed the final three games of the 2011-12 season, after suffering a concussion when teammate David Desharnais fell on him during practice. The accident occurred at the same time as team president Geoff Molson was firing general manager Pierre Gauthier, and it put a premature end to a disappointing season for both Price and the Canadiens, who bottomed out as the 15th place team in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
Since then, the Canadiens have a new general manager in Marc Bergevin, a new/old coach in Michel Therrien and now a goalie who says he’s feeling “really well” these days.
And that was even before he signed the rich new deal, which puts his average earnings at $6.5-million a year, or a little more than what Jonathan Quick will make on the 10-year, $58-million contract he signed with the Los Angeles Kings.
Price or Quick? Quick or Price?
They are roughly comparable in terms of age and experience and even if Price’s pedigree is better - he was picked fifth overall in 2005, Quick 72nd that same year - the latter does have that Stanley Cup on his resume now.
Asked how close the Canadiens might be to winning a Stanley Cup of their own, Price cited the Kings as an example - of an eighth seed with 95 regular-season points that caught fire at the right time in the playoffs.
“You never know how close you are,” said Price, who noted that by the time this contract expires, he’ll be 30. “I’m hoping by then to have a couple of Stanley Cups and a have a good renegotiation,” he said.
That’s part of Price’s charm - and why he doesn’t mind the pressure and scrutiny of playing in Montreal. Not everyone deals with it as well as Price, who embraces it. Remember, a few years back, when he was booed off the ice in a preseason game and advised the fans just to chill? He responded with his best year as a pro - 38-28-6, a 2.35 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage.
Price said he didn’t think the pressure of signing a contract extension could be any worse than was he has been subject to already, a point that would be difficult to dispute “There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on us, no matter what you make,” said Price.
In signing Price, the Canadiens locked up the most important player on their team and sent a clear signal that he will man the crease for the foreseeable future on a team in the midst of a rebuild under Bergevin.
Bergevin is a busy man these days. Thus far, in the past 48 hours, in addition to re-signing his franchise cornerstone, Bergevin added three players via free agency (forwards Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong and defenceman Francois Bouillon). Prust and Armstrong add some needed grit to the Habs’ line-up, and Bouillon has been a useful support player for years with the Nashville Predators.
Price played with Bouillon in his first two seasons with Montreal and knows Armstrong from his Canadian junior days. With the moves they’ve made, and the return to health of a couple of key players, Price believes the Canadiens are on the road back.
“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “We have a lot of the right pieces already. I’m pretty excited to get the season started.”
Price’s win/loss record was not great last season - 26-28-11 - in part because he played for the last place team in the Eastern Conference. But his 2.43 goals-against average ranked him 18th out of the 45 goaltenders who had enough appearances to qualify for the final NHL stats package and his save percentage was a wholly respectable .916 If the Canadiens are a little healthier on defence next year, those numbers will likely improve.
The 24-year-old Price is five seasons into his NHL career and has played in three All-Star Games, probably a far better barometer of where he stands in the pantheon on NHL goaltenders than pure statistics alone.
“It’s an honour to come back and to have them show that confidence in me,” said Price, of signing back on with the Canadiens. “Now, I have to go out there and prove them right.”