By Bob Trask – Carey Price controls his own destiny and he has earned that right. As outside observers we can only guess what his mindset is at the moment or how that may change over the summer. One thing that we can be sure of is that he will be in deep discussions with management and the coaching staff.
In the meantime, we can review his contract situation, the events that have occurred since last year’s playoffs and draw some conclusions.
The Lost Year
Between entering the player assistance program and rehabbing from a knee injury, Price has lost a year of play. As a result of not facing any competition, he hasn’t looked particularly sharp in his return – but we shouldn’t have expected him to. It was important to for him to get back before season end to test himself physically and mentally. If those are both good, the sharp play is sure to return.
The mental recovery might be more difficult than the physical. Only Price knows how much confidence and passion he will have going forward. Given his key role on the team, management and the coaching staff are sure to support him in an effort to keep his confidence and enthusiasm high.
The Contract Situation
There are a couple of ways of looking at this. Since Price is due over $40 million in salary over the next four years, retirement seems unlikely regardless of whether your passion and/or skills have diminished. It doesn’t matter who you are, that is a lot of money to walk away from.
If Price was open to a trade, which also seems unlikely at this point, the market for him will be limited. He would get to choose his destination and the team looking to acquire him would have to be willing to take on a big contract. After missing a year and not yet fully establishing himself on his return to the lineup, there are probably not a lot of teams willing to pay up for his contract even at 50% retained.
Having said all of that, it feels like Price, the team and the fans all want him back.
The Injury Situation
Price looks healthy even if the sharpness in his game has not yet returned, so we can rule out a Weber-like situation where the player is placed on LTIR. Without trying to sound morbid, more and more goaltenders seem to suffer career ending hip and knee injuries but Price doesn’t seem to be in that category.
Best Case Scenario
With a few games under his belt and a long summer to continue his recovery, there is a strong possibility that Price returns to a high level of play. He doesn’t have to be the number one goaltender in the league – if he was among the top dozen in the league it would be a great accomplishment and a huge boost for the team. That would mean a save percentage of around .915 and a goals against average of around 2.60 in about 50 games played.
The good news is the pressure on Price to carry to the team to the playoffs next year, never mind the Stanley Cup finals, is lower than it has been for a long time. Management has preached patience and fans seem to have accepted that the Habs are a team in transition. Next season should be a good one in which Price can work on regaining his form and for management to assess his progress while the team works to remake itself.
Carey Price will be back with the Canadiens next year. It is a non-critical year in terms of Stanley Cup aspirations and a perfect environment for him to try to re-establish himself. His performance next year will influence his decisions about his future.
Good luck Carey – Habs Nation is pulling for you!