What the Puck: Time for Canadiens to clear air surrounding Carey Price

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What the Puck: Time for Canadiens to clear air surrounding Carey Price
© Provided by The Gazette Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price watches puck slice through the air next to him, during third period against the Calgary Flames in Montreal on Jan. 28, 2021.

What about Carey?

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That’s the multimillion-dollar question. When former Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin signed Carey Price to an eight-year, US$84-million contract in 2017, I thought it was an insane thing to do and I feel the same way today.

Price has not had a great season since then. Of course, he was spectacular during the improbable Canadiens Stanley Cup run last spring that now seems like a mirage, but a month of great hockey doesn’t justify 84 million bucks. No one builds their entire team around the goalie in today’s National Hockey League and especially not at such a ludicrous price, pun intended.

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Price hasn’t played a game this season. He checked into the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program in October to deal with a substance-use issue and was in it for 30 days. He then rejoined the Canadiens at the start of November and since then it’s been crickets.

So strange. Team president Geoff Molson recently fired communications boss Paul Wilson and replaced him with well-liked former RDS journalist Chantal Machabée and, for the umpteenth time in recent years, the Habs’ brass has promised to try to be more transparent with the media and, by extension, with the public. So what’s going on with Price?

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That’s exactly what Tout le monde en parle host Guy A. Lepage asked Machabée when she was on the top-rated Radio-Canada gab fest on Sunday night. Here’s what she said:

“He’s receiving treatments in Brossard,” said Machabée. “And I definitely want to work on this file. It’s been a long time since Carey spoke to the media. The last time he spoke to the media was just after the elimination of the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup finals. We know a bit of the history of Carey. … He had personal issues to resolve. I want to talk to his doctors. I want to talk to Carey. I want to talk to the general manager. It’s a decision everyone is going to take together. The general manager hasn’t been picked yet. So I can’t go and say: ‘OK, Carey is going to speak to the media.’ So we’ll do this once the general manager is named. We’ll do this by committee. But, yes, I want Carey to speak to the media, if he feels up to it. I respect him, just like I respect all athletes, and we know it’s been difficult in his personal life. I talked to him a bit last week and he was in a very good mood. So I think it’s coming.”

I also have nothing but respect for Machabée. But what an organization! The Kremlin during the 1950s was less secretive than this. So you need to hire a new general manager before the Habs committee can give Price the green light to step in front of a microphone? Why is the Canadiens’ brass always so terrified of the media?

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I find it outrageous that Price hasn’t said a word to journalists since July. If it’s the matter of his substance-use issue, you could even come out and say he’ll be speaking with us about everything except that. Price has been the face of the franchise for well over a decade. That he and the Habs’ management think it’s normal that he’s not communicating with the public during a six-month period is uncool.

Then again, this is the same team that saw its captain walk away after the Cup final and also has not spoken to the media since. Bergevin said Shea Weber probably would never play again, yet Weber never confirmed or denied this. What the puck!

This month, head coach Dominique Ducharme said he doesn’t know the timeline regarding Price’s recovery from knee surgery during the summer to repair a torn meniscus.

“No one had indicated to me that Carey will not play this season so, like we discussed from the start, he has a number of steps to go through.”

In short, it’s as clear as mud when, if ever, Price will once again be between the pipes for the Habs. And we haven’t even got to the issue of what his future is with the team. Most figure new big Habs hockey boss Jeff Gorton is going to do a rebuild and, if that’s the case, then presumably Price doesn’t have a future with the team.

Can Price be traded? He has to waive his no-movement clause, but he probably would because he did it last summer, leaving him open to be picked by the Seattle Kraken. Seattle didn’t take Price, even though the team wouldn’t have to give up anything to get him. Other words, that contract is toxic.

We also haven’t got to Price’s wife’s controversial blog post from last week that touched on her husband’s mental issues and then made it sound a lot like she hasn’t taken a COVID-19 vaccine. Angela Price wrote: “Mostly, I think this topic is being used by people in authority to turn us against each other and it is encouraging division in a time when we desperately need to come together. I refuse to play that game. So, I will leave it at this: I will NEVER support division, hate, bullying, shaming, or guilting another individual for what they choose to do with their bodies.”

The bottom line is it’s time to hear from Carey Price.

bkelly@postmedia.com

twitter.com/brendanshowbiz

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