Carey Price (Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire)

by Mathieu Chagnon, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

A few months ago, the Canadiens decided to make Carey Price the highest paid player in Canadiens history and the highest paid goalie in the NHL. His contract will carry $10.5 million annual average value over the next eight years, beginning next season.

I did not support the decision to award him such a contract even though I can agree that Price is an amazing goaltender and that he deserves it. There are plenty of arguments in favor of both claims.

Over the last five years, Price collected an Olympic gold medal, a World Cup gold medal, the Lou Marsh Trophy, the Vezina Trophy, the Jennings Trophy, the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Trophy.

However, even more important and impressive, Price has consistently demonstrated the best cumulative save percentage among his peers since 2010. Here are the top three goalies of each of the seven different years span to now:

  • From 2015 to 2017: Price .9249, Murray .9246, Holtby .923 (minimum 50 games played)
  • From 2014 to 2017: Price .929, Dubnyk .923, Holtby .923 (min. 100 GP)
  • From 2013 to 2017: Price .928, Talbot .922, Bobrovsky .922 (min. 150 GP)
  • From 2012 to 2017: Price .925, Bobrovsky .923, Rask .922 (min. 200 GP)
  • From 2011 to 2017: Price .923, Schneider .922, Rask .922 (min. 250 GP)
  • From 2010 to 2017: Price .923, Schneider .9226, Holtby .922 (min. 300 GP)
  • From 2009 to 2017: Rask .923, Price .922, Lundqvist .921 (min. 350 GP)

Therefore, there is no debate that Carey Price deserved his contract or not. He is the best player with the Canadiens and one of the best players between the pipes in the NHL. Even if his current statistics don’t show it, it will be only a matter of time they return to normal once Price returns from his injury.

My reason for questioning the contract stems from the opinion that I don’t think this approach by Marc Bergevin is best way to manage the salary cap in the current NHL. Without a salary cap, there would be no reason to write this article.

In their last playoff run, even with the best goaltender, the Canadiens had tough time scoring goals when facing the Rangers. This was the cause of their playoff exit at the hands of the Blueshirts.

As of right now, Price’s salary can be considered a ‘bargain’ at only $6.5 million AAV. Next season, the Canadiens will have to invest another $4 million on their star goaltender.

Obviously, this will eat a substantial chunk of the total salary pie. Looking at past cap increases, it is estimated that the salary cap could rise to approximately $76.8 million in 2018-19. Price’s salary would represent 13.7 per cent of the Canadiens cap.

Add to this the salary of Al Montoya still under contract for 2018-19 at $1.062 million. The combined total is 15.1 per cent of the cap just for the goalies. In my opinion, this is way too much, and cuts into the organizational options for forwards.

Since 2011, no Stanley Cup champion came close to spend that much money on the goaltending position:

Season Team Forwards Defense Goaltenders
2011 Boston 58.8% 31.9% 10.5%
2012 Los Angeles 59.8% 34.4% 4.8%
2013 Chicago 55.7% 35.6% 5.6%
 2014 Los Angeles 54.8% 35.7% 10.1%
2015 Chicago 58.6% 34.5% 9.8%
2016 Pittsburgh 68.8% 24.6% 9.3%
2017 Pittsburgh 62.4% 28.9% 9.3%

*It should be noted that some percentages total higher than 100% due to bonuses.

The 2017-18 edition of the Canadiens are build in a way that they will invest 49.4 per cent on their forwards, 32.2 per cent on their defense and 10.9 per cent on their goaltenders.

Goalkeeping is a critical position. If your player doesn’t perform, it will result in goals against since there’s rarely anyone else who can correct the mistakes. Therefore, if you have 13.7 per cent of your money invested in that one basket, it could become a nightmare.

Putting that same amount on a forward who may be struggling means that it is easier to compensate with eleven other forwards and six defensemen.

The Canadiens currently have a lot of goaltending depth with Charlie Lindgren, Michael McNiven and Zachary Fucale.

In his second stint in the big club due to Price’s injury, Charlie Lindgren is proving he can have success, collecting three wins so far this season. Lindgren’s record is 3-2-1 with a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .938.

This should give a pleasant headache to the Canadiens management. If Price was on the trade market, many teams would be knocking on the door for sure. He still has an excellent value that could bring many assets to the organization and easily fill the Canadiens needs up front.

On the other hand, trading away a young goalie who doesn’t have a lot of experience under his belt rarely returns fair value.

For example, Martin Jones, who was the backup of Jonathan Quick with the Los Angeles Kings, was traded to the Boston Bruins along with defensemen Colin Miller and a first-round pick for Milan Lucic, who had only one season left to his contract. Jones was then traded four days later to the Sharks for a first-round pick and the rights to Sean Kuraly.

The same off-season, Cam Talbot, the Rangers backup of Henrik Lundqvist, was traded along with a seventh-round pick to the Oilers for a second, a third and a seventh-round pick.

The main problem is that the Canadiens will have to work with Carey Price to make a trade. Bergevin tied his own hands in the negotiation of the last contract, modifying the last year of his current contract to a full no-movement clause. 

This could become the same awkward situation that happened in Pittsburgh with the duo Marc-André Fleury and Matt Murray. The difference is that the Canadiens are not too close to the cap ceiling and Fleury was on the downside of his career.

A decision regarding their goaltenders will likely be made by the Canadiens over the next two seasons. Either they take a straight-forward approach by dealing Charlie Lindgren or Bergevin adds another blockbuster trade to his resume by moving their superstar, Carey Price. One thing is certain to me: Bergevin must at least explore the latter option and the rewards it could yield.

  • Bay_Bye

    trading Price will solve nothing..the main problem i think is lack of confidence in the defense in front of him…they don’t cover right,they don’t tie up sticks,they can’t clear the zone.they can’t backcheck. they are too slow….a few years ago with a total defense he shone…Weber is slowing down and the rest combined are not at todays NHL level….