Carey Price was pretty excited when he signed his first NHL contract worth $850,000 per year back in April 2007. Now over five years and two contracts later, the feeling is the same even if his price tag is far from it.
“I was pretty pumped then and I’m pretty pumped now,” he said on a conference call from Williams Lake, B.C.
General manager Marc Bergevin announced on Monday that the Canadiens had re-signed their franchise goaltender to a six-year deal, worth a reported $39 million. The contract averages out to a $6.5 million annual cap hit, putting Price third among NHL netminders in that category.
“It’s nice to see that they have a lot of confidence in me and now I have to go out there and prove them right,” he said.
Price, who turns 25 in August, has experienced more in his first five NHL seasons than most will likely experience in a career. There have been the highs of his stellar rookie year and a bounce-back campaign in 2010-11 to go with the lows of the two seasons in between. The 2009-10 season has been lowest to date, as his struggles led to former creasemate Jaroslav Halak seizing the starter’s role, leaving Price to watch from the end of the bench.
He’s dealt with it all under the spotlight that comes with playing for the Canadiens. And while he now has a top-level contract added on, that won’t change a thing.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on us no matter what you make,” Price noted. “Yeah, it might make you a target a little bit more but being a goaltender, I’m used to that anyways.
“It’s an honour to put on the Habs uniform and to have the opportunity to play here for a lot longer now,” he added. “Now I can just focus on the goal of winning a Stanley Cup. I don’t have to worry about re-signing every other year. I’m looking forward to working toward that goal.”
Negotiations took some time and the Canadiens opted to file for arbitration with as a preventative measure against potential offer sheets. But that didn’t stop the two sides from progressing with what Bergevin said were “healthy” discussions the whole way through.
In the end, the Habs GM is just as happy with the result.
“Carey brings what we need moving forward – a top goalie in the league, a young goalie,” Bergevin said. “Having him in our net the next six years gives us a chance to be competitive. Moving forward it was key for us to have Carey in Montreal.”
New teammates, same goalie coach
His new deal comes a day after the team added three free agents to the fold. Price said he has yet to meet Brandon Prust but has heard good things about him. He has crossed paths with Colby Armstrong and obviously knows Francis Bouillon well, and says he’s “really happy to have him back. I always thought he was really solid in front of me.”
He will also be reunited with goalie coach Pierre Groulx, who survived the front office and coaching staff overhaul.
“He’s just been awesome. Over the course of the time he’s been here, he’s grown to learn my game and we’ve gotten a lot closer not only as coach-player but as friends,” Price said. “He really understands my game not only on the ice but he understands me pretty well off the ice, too. He really knows when to push me and when to lay off. We have a really good working relationship.”
The goaltender likes what his team has done so far and likes the long-term commitments management has made, citing the importance of chemistry in a team’s success. With his current deal, he’ll next be due for a new one when he’s 30, at which point he hopes to “have a couple of Stanley Cups.”
But are the Canadiens close to getting there?
“You never really know, to be honest,” Price said. “You take a look at how L.A. performed this past season; you never really know how close you are to a Stanley Cup. That’s the beauty behind playing hockey – this could happen any time.”