There’s no denying that medicine is not a perfect science and doctors can only do so much. It is also true that two people with a similar injury will heal at a different rate, in their own way. Some people’s pain tolerance will also be higher than others. Those are all factors making it difficult to predict when a player will be able to return to play, for doctors to provide an accurate prognosis. But why is it that in Montreal, players often seem to take longer than anticipated to return into the line-up?
And that’s where Jeff Gorton’s comments from his first press conference become interesting. While he did mention that they want to better support their players on the emotional side, he also talked about revamping the team’s medical and training department. Just this season, three players are taking longer than originally anticipated to return to play: Carey Price, Joel Edmundson and, possibly, Paul Byron. And that’s not counting Shea Weber who is banged up enough to be out all season, possibly having to call it a career.
For the second time of his career, Carey Price’s health is in question. We will remember when, in 2012, he played 12 games before taking some time off due to an injury. At first, he was supposed to be off a few games but his return kept getting pushed, raising questions about the Canadiens’ transparency when it came to injuries. After his return getting pushed week to week many times, it took months before the team finally announced that the goaltender wouldn’t return to play that season.
Carey has yet to suit up for the Canadiens since their amazing march all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. At first, it was an injury that was supposed to keep him out a couple of weeks. He then entered the NHL and NHLPA’s Players Assistance Program for a month. Surprisingly (or not), his injury is still keeping him off regular practices as he’s skating in a track suit… in December, with almost a third of the season gone.
I am NOT questioning Price. He’s a gamer, a competitor and I’m convinced that he wants to be on the ice helping his teammates getting out of that funk they’re in. But I’m questioning the people giving diagnosis and prognosis for those players and that’s where Gorton has to find a way to get more qualified people in those positions. It seems like when other teams announce that a player will be out for any period of time, they do return on time for the most part.
Future in question
It’s no surprise, Carey Price, like many of his teammates, had a great relationship with former GM Marc Bergevin. A relationship that went well beyond the ice. Like him or not, Bergevin wore his heart on his sleeve and he truly cared about his players… and players liked that.
With new management coming into place, they don’t know the players and they certainly don’t “owe” them anything. There’s no emotional attachment from one side or the other and that creates some serious instability in the dressing room. Players have a different set of eyes on them, even when they’re not playing like it’s the case with Price. For those reasons, Price’s future has been questioned in the media and on the internet.
Many discussions surround the tradability of Price, due to his age (34), his injuries and his contract, which carries four more years after this season with a cap hit of $10.5 million. He is however getting paid less than that in actual dollars.
It is unlikely that teams would want to take on the entire contract, so the Canadiens, if they wished to trade him, would likely have to eat up part of his cap hit. Unless his injury is more serious than originally thought, Price still has at least 3 more good seasons in him, based on what he has shown in the last playoffs. And that’s not counting his leadership, well documented in Montreal. He would be worth his salary for any taker.
Price does, however, have a full No Movement Clause attached to his contract, which means that he won’t be traded if he doesn’t want to, and ultimately will decide which team(s) he would accept to be moved to, if indeed he chooses so. He controls his own destiny.
When trying to consider where, logically, Price would accept to go to, you have to take two things into considerations. He will likely move for one of two reasons:
- To win a Stanley Cup, and/or;
- To get closer to family.
Being the competitor that he is, one would think that winning a Cup is his goal. But I can see him preferring a mix of both above-mentioned reasons. Price originates from Anahim Lake, BC, a northwestern town in British Columbia. He and his wife Angela reside in Kelowna, in the BC interior, during the off-season, along with good friends Josh Gorges and Shea Weber. Angela’s family is in the Seattle region, in the Pacific Northwest.
For teams aspiring to the Stanley Cup, I can see two teams being ahead in the runnings.
The Oilers are stacked on offense and while they carry a reputation of not having a good defensive core, that has been fixed since. Right now, they’re suffering through injuries on defense as they are without Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith and Oscar Klefbom. Veteran goaltender Mike Smith has been sidelined since October 18th and while Mikko Koskinen has performed relatively well, he is terribly inconsistent. That’s the position of weakness for the Oilers, in net. Yet, they are in a battle with the Calgary Flames for top spot in the Pacific Division and many observers feel like with better goaltending, they could win the Stanley Cup.
Potential Target: Evan Bouchard (RD)
The Avalanche are in a dog fight to make the playoffs. Only two points separate St. Louis, Nashville, Colorado, Dallas and Winnipeg in the Central Division, with Minnesota holding top spot with a seven points lead. So far in December, they have allowed 15 goals in three games, which includes a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. They surrendered eight goals to the Leafs and six to the Senators, both on home ice! Darcy Kuemper is their best goalie with a 2.84 GAA and a .903 Sv% this season. Potent offense, depth and quality on defense, goaltending is their Achilles.
Potential Target: Justin Barron (RD)
Price was made available for the expansion draft and Ron Francis thought long and hard about claiming him. Ultimately, he backed out, preferring to save some cap space for his team but he wanted the Canadiens’ goaltender. Carey might lift his clause to be close to Angela’s family, and closer to his own family as well. If you’ve ever been to Seattle, you will know that it’s a beautiful place to be.
That’s the obvious option, isn’t it? Vancouver is a short flight away from Kelowna and Williams Lake (near Anahim Lake), Carey’s home province. But they already have Thatcher Demko, a 25 year-old promising goaltender, signed until 2025-26 with a $5 million cap hit. Ironically, guess who is the backup in Vancouver this season? None other than… Jaroslav Halak!
So there you have it folks. Jeff Gorton told Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports that he spoke to Price and they will talk more. In fact, Gorton wants to talk to all his veteran players to find out what they want to do if the Canadiens chose to rebuild (or reset again). His decisions will then be based on the answers provided by those players and his own evaluation. But first, let’s look for a General Manager, shall we?