Internal competition: Canadiens to fill out roster with young players
"We think the future looks bright,' says 8th-year NHL forward Tomas Tatar
The Montreal Canadiens' franchise player is ready to win now, even if many fans are looking toward the future.
"A lot of guys you see go through their whole careers and not get an opportunity. I don't want to be one of those guys. I want to get there," goaltender Carey Price said.
Price, along with other Habs players and management, met the media Monday morning in Laval Que., hours before they were set to tee off for their annual pre-training camp golf tournament at Club Laval-sur-le-Lac.
The team is looking to avoid missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, something that hasn't been done since a run from 1998 to 2001.
"It's going to be a process though, we know that," Price added. "Just try to lay it out there all season long."
No PTO contracts, says GM Bergevin
Many questions focus on whether young players from the Habs' much-hyped prospect pool, including forwards Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling, can crack the roster.
WATCH | Poehling powers Habs past Leafs:
Suzuki, a 2017 first-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, was traded to Montreal in a move sending former captain Max Pacioretty the other way. Poehling, 20, had fans salivating after scoring a hat trick and a shootout winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs in his NHL debut in last year's season finale.
Nothing better for our organization than to have a young player make our hockey club.— Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on the team's change in direction
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said that the team won't be signing any players to professional tryout contracts, veterans who would've otherwise pushed younger charges for jobs. That includes 40-year-old defenceman Andrei Markov, who had hoped to return to Montreal after spending the last two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.
"We have guys that are pushing, we have guys that are turning pro. We have guys like Ryan Poehling, he played one game last year," Bergevin said. "Overall, we have a lot of guys who are coming in, trying to prove and earn a job. Nothing better for our organization than to have a young player make our hockey club."
The Habs also lost out on defenceman Jake Gardiner to the 'Canes after he signed a four-year, $16.2-million US deal last week.
"We had interest. We made an offer," Bergevin said when asked about Gardiner. "It's a two-way street. If you're interested, the player also has to be interested. I can't comment on why he didn't. But, yes we did [make an offer]."
Regardless, the Habs feel confident they have a squad that can make the post-season.
"We all realize that after last season, how close we were, but at the same time it wasn't good enough," Habs forward Tomas Tatar said. "I think everybody worked hard. We think the future looks bright. We have some great players upcoming. It's going to be up to us to have a good camp, have focus, and be ready."
The Canadiens' prospects will play a game against U Sports players on Tuesday, two days before their training camp is scheduled to begin.