Though he missed nearly the entirety of the 2015-16 NHL season, the general consensus that Carey Price is the best goaltender in the world seems to have remained so. The Canadiens missed him dearly last year, and they will undoubtedly be thrilled to have him back in the crease come October.
But when he is, it will be the beginning of his second-to-last contracted season with the club, and he will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2017-18 season. Because of what he brings to the team, it is not unfair to start considering options right now, because that July 1, 2018 date will eventually be rocketing towards us like a meteor.
In terms of options, it seems to me that there are several.
I know, better tread lightly here, Drake. Before I even get into this let me say that I am in vehement opposition to the idea in and of itself. They could probably get some very nice pieces in return for Price, but one thing they will never get is a replacement for him in the crease. As such, I hate the idea on the surface.
The thing is, it is not that crazy of an idea.
Price might not come back as strong as he ever was. He might not want to sign in Montreal again when his current deal is over. If he does, he might be too expensive for them. There are plenty of question marks, and plenty of teams around the league that could use an upgrade at that position.
It reads like a flat out rebuild move, though. Trading a franchise goaltender is more likely to net you a handful of picks, a roster player, and perhaps an attractive prospect. You're not getting a Crosby or an Ovechkin, so what you end up with is good for the future, and probably very bad for the present.
Again, they're not getting a replacement starter in a trade either, and they don't have a viable replacement for him on the roster. As such, this idea is a no for me. They're not in rebuild territory.
Sign him to an extension before 2017-18
We've seen Marc Bergevin do this before. He signed Alexei Emelin to a four-year deal without seeing him play in a single game after his knee injury. If he did that for the likes of Emelin, there is absolutely no reason why he wouldn't do it with Carey Price.
Unless, of course, he learned his lesson about doing that type of thing. In that case, maybe you let him play part of the year, use that time to evaluate, and then see if he's willing to negotiate before his contract year. It would probably cost less to do things sooner than later, because the next option will take things to a situation that I'm not sure anyone wants to see.
Wait it out
This is probably what they will do, as it figures to be the prudent course of action, but it is almost the scariest option. He might decide to test the market on July 1, 2018, which could be extremely lucrative for him. Even if he decides to re-sign with the Canadiens, it will only be more expensive with the threat of that open market looming.
Consider the most lucrative deals out there for Goaltenders right now.
|Player||Age||Cap hit||Years Left|
He will not be cheap if he gets all the way to the end of his contract. I also don't like the idea of going down to the wire and risking that he just decides to test the market. As mentioned, that market will be deep, and somebody might throw more money at him than he's willing to refuse.
I don't think many would argue that he isn't better than every name ahead him on the top-five list above. So what is a realistic price for him on the open market? I think that $9 million would be the floor, and it is probably something closer to $10 million.
In any case, if they go all the way to the bitter end, whether it is with Montreal or not, he would likely become the highest paid goaltender in the NHL. By a sight at that.
I am not naive enough to think that Canadiens management gives a flying you-know-what about my opinion on the matter, but I'm going to offer it up anyways. I would try to sign him to an extension next summer, once they've had a chance to evaluate his game shape following the recovery.
Why? I think this would be cheaper than what he'd get in a contract year, and it would secure the future of the Canadiens crease for presumably around four more years after 2017-18. Goaltenders of his calibre don't grow on trees, and seeing as he'll only be 30 when his deal ends, you could even comfortably give him another five or six years if necessary.
Only two goaltenders in Canadiens history have more wins than Price; Jacques Plante, and Patrick Roy. When his career ends, he could well be remembered as the best Habs goaltender of all-time. He is their best chance at winning a Stanley Cup in the foreseeable future. That is why they must figure out a way to hold on to Carey Price, or it will be rebuild time.