Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat. We’ve been against the New Jersey Devils trading for Carey Price in the past. His value was too high, he makes too much money, and there are signs he’s falling off at least a little bit. However, things have changed since then. A lot has changed, actually. Price carried a below-average Montreal Canadiens team all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last season. Then, he took this entire year off, possibly returning close to the end of the season.
Price is still a $10.5 million cap hit every season. He was once the best goalie in the league, and his .924 save percentage in last year’s playoffs shows he can still go on a run and carry a team on his back. Price was on the shelf as part of the league’s Player Assistance Program. It sounds like he could return to the lineup as early as today. It’s good he got the help he needs and he’s ready to play hockey again.
The Canadiens are looking to go in a different direction, and Price is only going to hurt that position for Montreal. With Ken Hughes and Marty St. Louis, the Canadiens want to focus on youth and opportunity. Price is a relic of what the Canadiens used to be. Shea Weber‘s career is likely also over, so moving Price could allow the young stars of this team to grow in a leadership role.
On top of all that, somehow the Canadiens have zero cap space next season. No for real, as bad as this season has gone, the Canadiens have less than $1 million in space. Sure, putting Weber on LTIR makes up a lot of space, but it’s not like the Devils who have $24 million in space. The Canadiens are going to purge this offseason, and Price seems like a likely candidate.
Almost every Devils fan is hating where this is going, but just wait until we lay it all out. The ideal scenario here is for the Canadiens to buy Price out and the Devils to sign him, but that’s nearly impossible. Price’s buyout saves them basically nothing next season, $1.4 million for the next three years, and then adds around $500,000 to the cap the next four years after that (all according to CapFriendly). With basically no savings on a $10.5 million contract, there’s no way they buy him out.
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So if the Canadiens are going to move past Price next season, it will have to be through a trade. Even then, a first-round pick wouldn’t convince a team to take on all of Price’s contract. Well, maybe the Arizona Coyotes would do it, but that seems like the only team that would. However, Price has a full no-move clause. Does he really want to go from Montreal to Arizona?
The same could be said for New Jersey, but the Devils can convince him they are just a goalie away. Price might be willing to waive his no-move clause to get on a team that’s on the upswing.
One reason the Devils might be interested in Price is everything we laid out. He still has the ability to go crazy for a stretch and win games by himself. As the Devils scoring numbers keep getting better (they are just over 3 goals per game), they really just need to learn how to keep the puck out of their own net (and a power play would be nice). Price can help that.
Price is no longer able to hit the peaks that he did five or more years ago, but when the team needs him he steps up. He has a minimum .919 save percentage in the past five playoff runs. All but one of them went past the first round. He did post a .901 save percentage in the regular season last year, but injuries and other issues might have pushed his play down. After basically a year off with minimal hockey, Price might be in the right place in his life to re-establish himself as one of the better goalies in the league.
So, how can the Devils make this deal work? For one, the Canadiens have to take half of Price’s salary. That still makes him too expensive for the Devils at $5.75 million over the next four seasons. Because of that contract, the Devils will ask for compensation to take on Price’s deal. What could that be worth? It all depends on what the Devils send the other way. Are they really looking to send Mackenzie Blackwood out the door after a tumultuous season? This could be the right place to do it. If that’s the case, the Devils could rightfully ask for a first-round pick in the deal. The Canadiens have two of them, and they have 14 picks total this season.
This is a long shot, and the Devils would have to do a lot to make it work, but it seems as likely now as it ever has. The Devils have a need, the Canadiens would be willing to take on a lot of that contract, and the Canadiens might be willing to pay to get the contract off the books (at least partially). It’s not the best move for the Devils, and others would be more desirable, but this is a possibility that’s out there that they need to consider.