The Montreal Canadiens, with Carey Price being the consensus MVP, got within three games of winning the Stanley Cup.
A few months later, the Montreal Canadiens, WITHOUT Carey Price, sit in 31st place in the standings.
It seems to me that Price is a pretty important part of the Canadiens having any success in the foreseeable future, so why do so many folks want him to be traded?
In two words…Connor Bedard. Millions of Canadians saw the 16-year-old score four goals in a game last week, and Habs fans are still cleaning the drool off of their couches.
I get it. Somehow ending up with Bedard would be exciting for a franchise that hasn’t had a superstar forward since Lafleur.
The thought that you have to be really bad to get really good isn’t one without merit. When you weigh all of the pros and cons, however, I still keep coming to the conclusion that keeping Price is the better option, and the recent stretch where the Canadiens had to call up several prospects to fill in while injuries and COVID have stuck hard only strengthen my belief that Price would be best served staying in Montreal.
I do not buy the argument that sending Price to Edmonton is doing him a great favour because it will undoubtedly lead to a championship. Montreal won more playoff series last season than Edmonton has in 14 years.
Edmonton has made only six top-60 picks in the past four drafts, and at least one of them would likely have to go Montreal’s way in a deal for Price. The Oilers would then have more than $40M in salary cap space dedicated to four players, a dilemma quite similar to what the Toronto Maple Leafs have faced the past couple of years. How has that turned out for Toronto so far?
Much like Toronto in recent times, Edmonton would be going into next season with approximately half their cap available for the other 19 roster players if they picked up Price, and very few ELC contracts coming in to help balance the cap space because they haven’t been making many top-60 picks in recent years. So there are no guarantees that Price going to Edmonton will mean any type of success. Having Price doesn’t turn Duncan Keith into the 28-year-old version of himself….the issues on defence would remain, and with little cap space available to fix it.
This is where Montreal differs from Edmonton. I do not see a club that will face cap issues in the upcoming seasons. Even with Price, Montreal’s top-four salaries next season are not likely to total more than $30M, and as we saw in recent weeks with all of the callups due to COVID issues, there are several players on ELC contracts ready to step into Montreal’s lineup very soon, and with a few more to come. The Canadiens have had 14 top-70 picks in the past four drafts, and they’ll likely have at least six more in 2022 even without dealing Price. Two of those 14 picks are NHL regulars at this point, so there is a ton of talent coming over the next few years. Price is a far better fit for Montreal than Edmonton over the next few seasons when it comes to the salary cap.
Not one of the players called up from Laval has truly looked out of place at the NHL level, which tells me that there are some decent prospects already playing pro, and that J-F Houle is already doing a good job of developing players.
I keep hearing and reading that Montreal needs to rebuild. What folks appear to be missing is that they HAVE been rebuilding for the past four years. A trip to the Stanley Cup finals makes it look like they haven’t but there are only a couple of teams that have drafted more often in the top three rounds since 2018, and after this next draft, there may only be one team that has had more high picks, and that is Detroit.
NHL teams only have 50 NHL contracts…so it stands to reason that you have to limit how many draft picks you can make each year. Otherwise, you start to waste picks, as less than half will be signed. When the Canadiens deal several veterans at the deadline, they will have plenty of high picks for one more draft, and at that point, it makes sense for the club to refortify as opposed to continuing to accumulate draft picks year after year.
Who would be around to mentor the young players? You need SOME leaders in the dressing room, and none is more important in that regard than Price now that Weber is apparently done. He’s won Olympic and World Cup gold, a WJC championship and a Calder Cup, then carried the club on his back to the Cup finals. Why would you not want that to continue? We’ve seen first-hand what the lack of veteran leadership has done in the room and on the ice this season…do we want more of that for the next few years a la Buffalo? What if it turns into a decade or more of ineptitude just like in Buffalo, or in Montreal after Roy departed?
Next season with Edmundson and Price back in the lineup, better health, and a bunch of promising young prospects vying for spots, the Canadiens will not be a bottom feeder. In a league with unprecedented parity, it is not improbable to look at the Canadiens as a club that can contend for the playoffs again next season. The Canadiens lead the league in man-games lost this season even if you don’t include Price, and it is the main reason why the club is struggling mightily. I really don’t see them being near the bottom next season with or without Price. The new GM that Jeff Gorton hires is not going to try to worsen the club in the offseason, he will try to improve it.
Am I being irrationally optimistic in thinking the Canadiens bounce back next season? Not more than ten months ago, there was a journalist I deeply respect suggesting that the club trade Price at the deadline because if they made the playoffs, there was zero chance that they would beat the Leafs. Well…the Habs did just that, and then beat Winnipeg and Vegas as well. The main reason for that was Carey Price; a player who, in goalie years, is in his prime, and destined to remain there for at least another five years given the history of other elite goalies.
Patrick Roy, Marty Brodeur, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek won Cups and/or took their teams to the Cup finals over the past 22 years, and all were older than Price at the time. Dwayne Roloson led Edmonton to the Cup finals at the age of 36, so the thought that Price only has a year or two left to win a Cup for me is presumptuous. I think he remains elite for at least five more years. If Roloson can be an NHL regular until the age of 40, I don’t see why Price couldn’t play at a high level until at least that age.
Buffalo and Edmonton have had countless top-ten picks in the past 14 years, but between them, won one playoff series. Why? The main reason is they haven’t had a Carey Price. So should the Habs deal Price to try to tank to get an offensive superstar, then spend a decade looking for a Price?
I see the Canadiens drafting an elite forward in 2022 with a top-five pick who will be playing within a year, and then adding a top-four puck-moving defenceman in the offseason. I also see at least two of Norlinder, Guhle and Harris becoming top-four defencemen within the next two seasons to join Romanov, an offseason pickup and Edmundson/Petry in a very solid top six, with Struble/Maillloux/Fairbrother etc. knocking on the door.
I picture Caufield bouncing back strongly next season and Ylonen earning a regular spot. I also envision Poehling and Suzuki continuing to improve and being part of a solid top-three down the middle along with Dvorak, who was just starting to find his way with the Canadiens when he got injured. Suzuki needs regular wingers that he can find chemistry with, and I expect him to be a 70+-point scorer starting next season.
This is not the optimum time to be trying to deal Price and his $10.5M salary. As the old saying goes – you try to trade from a position of strength, and right now, the Canadiens are hardly in that position, languishing 31st overall in the standings, and with Price on the shelf.
Price had knee surgery and then had to take time off for off-ice issues. He hasn’t played a game all season, so just how much of a return could they reasonably expect? Seattle wouldn’t take him for free in the expansion draft but now teams are supposedly going to line up with blue-chip prospects and multiple firsts.
It’s not like there aren’t other trade options. Deal away Chiarot, Kulak, Hoffman, Armia and Byron between now and the trade deadline. If the right deals come along for Gallagher, Drouin, Toffoli, Lehkonen Anderson or Petry; deal one or more of them as well. Perhaps even look at trading Allen if the right offer comes along. That will leave the club with plenty of top-90 picks in the 2022 draft, and perhaps even a couple more top-90 picks for 2023.
That’s not a future bottom-three team with or without Price in my opinion. The young talent on this club and on the way up is just too good to have that happen no matter how many veterans are cast off. You can only find so many buyers at the deadline, and you have to reach the cap limit – Montreal will be holding on to 10-12 veterans regardless, and they may as well be the better ones that aren’t going to free agency unless a great offer is received for the likes of Gallagher, Anderson and Petry.
Rejean Houle thought he could trade away a 30-something Patrick Roy and replace him with Jocelyn Thibault, who was a young former top-10 draft pick. How did that turn out? Montreal wasn’t able to adequately replace Roy until they used a top-five draft pick on…Carey Price.
I am not a believer in the “tank for multiple seasons” plan for the simple reason that it has shown not to work in recent times. The Sabres picked in the top eight each of the last nine drafts, and are no closer to making the playoffs than they were when they took Eichel second overall. They have never found a goalie capable of taking them over the hump.
Between 2009-19 the Oilers picked in the top ten all but one year, and chose first overall on four occasions. They have won one playoff series since 2009. The main reason? Once again; goaltending.
If the Canadiens trade away Price and a bunch of other vets, what are the odds that they even end up with Berard anyway? Let’s say they somehow manage to finish at the bottom of the standings below even Arizona, and with a 25 percent chance…miraculously end up with the top pick in the draft. Who is to even say that taking a Connor Bedard would be the answer to all of life’s problems? Will a 5-9 winger, albeit a most dynamic one, ultimately be a more valuable player to his NHL team than centerman McDavid, who also happens to have Leon Draisaitl backing him up? That dynamic duo has won one playoff series together.
The odds of ending up with Bedard are perilously low unless the club hires Jeff Gillooly to kneecap a bunch of young players in next autumn’s training camp. Montreal is not going to be horrid next season unless they have injury and COVID woes similar to what they’re going through this season, and that is a huge longshot at best.
Even more importantly, does the club want to breed a losing mentality into its young core?
Look at Buffalo the year that they tanked to try to get McDavid, and ultimately failed. Was losing at that outrageous clip good for its young talent? I would suggest that instead, it seriously hindered their development. Have any of Buffalo’s top draft picks from the past dozen years lived up to their potential?
I don’t see Romanov, Caufield and Suzuki being on board with trying to finish last next season. Does the GM go to them in training camp and tell them to “Take it easy so we can lose”? Of course not. You know they are going to try to win every night…same with every other player on the club. Imagine asking Pezzetta, Lehkonen and Gallagher to lollygag. Telling Romanov to stop hitting. Advising Allen to let in a few easy ones.
One dreadful season is plenty enough, thank you, unless you have a team that is devoid of talent. This team is not chock full of veterans on the decline with no young talent on the team or in the system. There will be a lot more talent on the club than in Arizona and several other teams next season.
It doesn’t take half a decade to turn things around in a parity-driven league, especially when you’re having a dreadful season predominantly because of injuries. The team with the second-worst record in the NHL last season was Anaheim. This year, the Ducks are sitting in second spot in the Pacific Division, very much in the playoff hunt. They turned it around in six months. The longstanding notion that the Canadiens can’t possibly be contenders was proven wrong last spring/summer. Yet here were are a few months later reading and hearing once again that they can’t possibly be good any time soon. Short memories.
Montreal went to the Cup final with no true puck-moving defencemen, much to the surprise of many. They have several very good ones on the way next season…but with Price they could not possibly be contenders again? I don’t buy it.
Look how quickly Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar and Adam Fox made impacts on their teams and the NHL. Montreal’s young blueline prospects arent quite that good, of course, but defencemen in today’s game are ready to make impacts in their early 20s as they train and prepare so much more thoroughly than they did in the 1970s. There’s no three-year wait on a good defence prospect once they make the jump to pro….we are seeing that already with Romanov at the age of 21, and he’s only going to be better next season. Guhle, in my opinion, can play in the NHL next season, and play well. The same goes for Harris if he signs, and Norlinder did not look out of place, either.
The Islanders came within one game of upsetting Tampa and making the Cup finals last year. This year, they sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. Are there calls from their fans to blow it up and do a serious rebuild? No…because their fans know that they can be right back in the thick of things as soon as next season in a league driven by parity. The Isles had an unfair schedule to start the season that they’ve never been able to recover from. That’s not an excuse…it’s fact.
Much like the Canadiens, it’s highly improbable that they get off to the same type of slow start next year as they did this season, because, just like the Canadiens, there is too much under-30 talent in the organization, and they won’t have the same hardships they endured this year in starting with 13 straight road games and then running into key injuries.
The other reason to keep Price is a legacy one. The last Montreal Canadiens player to spend his entire career with the club was Bob Gainey. Would it not be nice for future Hall of Famer Price to play his entire career with the Canadiens, and not be remembered for his play on another team? I do not have fond memories of Patrick Roy with the Avalanche – it didn’t give me the warm and fuzzies to see him hoist the Cup with Colorado.
As noted earlier, it’s not selfish to want him in Montreal more than in Edmonton as there is absolutely no guarantee that he would be any more successful. There is this popular misconception that the teams with the best players always win the Cup. Connor McDavid has failed to prove that he is more of a winner than Nick Suzuki, and until he does, I am not about to assume that McDavid goes from never being able to win in the playoffs to NHL champion with the addition of one player, no matter how important.
The best chance Montreal has of being contenders again in the next five years is with Price, and it can be within two years. I much prefer wanting the team to win every night than wanting them to tank; one season of that every half decade is plenty, thank you. Before last spring/summer, Canadiens’ fans had not experienced an exciting playoff ride since 1993, and most don’t care to have to wait another decade or more for it to happen again. The best chance for that is trying to win with Price between the pipes over the next five years.
Why trade a superstar in the most important position in hockey with the slim hopes of finding another superstar at forward, and then having a huge void in the net?
Montreal still had seven future Hall of Famers in the lineup in 1980 but do you know what they didn’t have? Ken Dryden. Even with a superstar forward in Lafleur they never came close to winning a Cup again until they found Dryden’s replacement in Patrick Roy seven years later. Price isn’t about to retire…so why lose him voluntarily?
Montreal’s track record after losing its elite goalies too early has not been good in the past four decades, and I suspect that wouldn’t change with the departure of Price. Gorton showed after three years of rebuilding in New York that he could add the right pieces and quickly turn a rebuilding team into a contender. After this draft, Montreal will be in a similar spot that New York was when Gorton went from rebuilding to trying to win. Dealing Price would delay that for several more years.
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