Carey Price hopes to stay with Canadiens
A free agent in 2018, goaltender wants to sign new contract to stay in Montreal
Carey Price has put to rest any concern about leaving the Montreal Canadiens.
The star goaltender can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the next season and there has been speculation the team may trade him if they can't work out a contract extension this summer.
And some wondered if Price wanted to stick with a team that had Stanley Cup aspirations but didn't have the offensive guns to get it done as they crashed out of the first round of playoffs in six games against the New York Rangers.
Price made it clear he has no desire to go.
"I want to stay here," Price said Monday as players met the media for the last time before the off-season break. "I know we'll figure out a way to make all the pieces fit and bring a championship here."
Asked about contract talks, which cannot begin until after July 1, he said "I don't have any worries about it. I'm sure it will all take care of itself."
General manager Marc Bergevin feels the same way, saying that he will do all he can to get Price's name on a new deal even though the 2015 hart and Vezina Trophy winner will likely command top dollar.
Asked if it is possible to win with a goalie as the highest paid player on the team was possible, Bergevin said "I hope so because he's not going anywhere."
The 29-year-old Price was solid in the post-season, allowing only 12 goals in six games, but the attack generated only 11 goals against the Rangers.
It will be up to Bergevin and his staff to find scoring help, but Price likes the team's chance and called it one of is most "fun" seasons.
"I feel we have a lot of the right pieces here," said the 2015 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner. "It's a tough job he's got.
"Whenever you don't win you want to take a step back and evaluate what you've got but I feel like we have a lot of really good pieces here. It would be great if we could score five goals every night, but in reality, it's a hard league to score goals in. A lot of teams play really well defensively. That's the nature of the game."
Whether they will keep those pieces in place is the big question of the off-season.
First up will be right-winger Alexander Radulov, who made a strong return to the NHL after a four-year absence on a one-year contract with Montreal. The Russian led the team with seven points in the playoffs, but can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
'They want to win'
Radulov said he'd like to stay and could even sign before July 1, but couldn't guarantee it.
"I want to play on a good team that has a chance to win," said Radulov. "Montreal is always putting that goal in front of them.
"Every time, they want to win. The whole city wants to win and next year won't be different. The team's still going to be battling for it and as soon as you make the playoffs, you never know. Hopefully it's going to be a good team, the guys are going to be back and we're going to be good."
Radulov was part of last summer's upgrades, which included signing two-time Cup champion forward Andrew Shaw and a blockbuster trade that sent P.K. Subban to Nashville for veteran rearguard Shea Weber.
Weber brought a needed physical element to the defence as well as a rocket shot on the power play, but it was Subban who advanced to the second round of playoffs with the Predators.
The 31-year-old Weber, who has eight years left on his contract, could be key in signing both Price and Radulov. He is one of Price's best friends and he put in a good word to Bergevin about signing his former Nashville teammate Radulov last summer. Weber hopes to use is influence again, starting with Price.
"I've got a job this summer — him and Rads," said Weber. "For sure, we'll discuss it.
"We haven't yet, but we talk a lot. You want the best players, and [Price] is our best player. So I don't see any reason why I wouldn't want to play with him. Let's sign him for eight years, too."
Decision looms on Markov
A decision also looms on Weber's power play defence partner Andrei Markov, whose three-year contract is about to expire. The 37-year-old has earned the same salary of $5.75 million US per season for 10 years and hopes to add at least one more year. And why not at the same pay?
"I'd like to sign for the rest of my life but I can't do that right?" the Russian said with a grin. "So, well see.
"We didn't talk about the contract situation yet, so we'll see what's going to happen. I'm not thinking about finishing my career yet. I'm looking forward to next season. I'm going to get some rest and prepare myself for next season."
The Canadiens also need to sign enigmatic forward Alex Galchenyuk, who can become a restricted free agent. The third-overall pick in the 2012 draft has superior skill but battles with consistency and has had trouble finding a permanent position.
He started the season as the top-line centre and got nearly a point per game before missing a long stretch with an injury. He struggled on his return and started the playoffs as the fourth line left-winger, before working his way back to top-line minutes.
But Galchenyuk, like captain Max Pacioretty, didn't score a goal in the playoffs.
"He's a really good hockey player," Price said of Galchenyuk. "He's got all the tools and he's still gaining experience."
If Galchenyuk can make the next step and become a full-time centre it could help solve some of the team's scoring woes. There is already optimism that left-winger Artturi Lehkonen will build on his 18-goal rookie campaign.