Here is your chance to shine, for those of you who believe Carey Price is a spoiled brat who hasn't deserved anything he's received as an NHL goalie.
The news Thursday afternoon that Price had signed a two-year deal worth $5.5 million is bound to make many among you scream bloody murder. Not because Price is grossly overpaid with that contract, but rather because it comes one day after the Stanley Cup winning goalie signed a deal that was far less generous.
Many looked at Antti Niemi signing a one-year deal for $2 million with the San Jose Sharks as a clear sign that Price cannot possibly ask for any more than that, and should even receive considerably less. But the differences between the two don't begin and end with the number of Cup rings on their fingers (actually, seeing as Niemi hasn't yet received his ring, they do in fact have the same number. But you get my point).
Niemi's regular season numbers in 39 games played last season were a 26-7-4 record, 2.27 GAA and .912 save percentage. On the surface, that looks miles ahead of Price's numbers of 13-20-5, 2.77 and, curiously, a .912 save percentage in 41 games played. I think it's pretty widely accepted that save percentage is the most accurate statistic to determine a goaltender's performance, so how is it that Niemi's and Price's other numbers are so vastly different?
Allow me to demonstrate.
First of all, and perhaps most obviously, Niemi was playing behind the best defensive team in the league, allowing an NHL-low 25.1 shots per game. For Niemi that number was even lower, as he saw only 24 shots per game during the regular season. Price, in only two more games played than Niemi, saw 308 more shots on goal over the course of the season, or 6.3 per game.
I'll be curious to see how Niemi does playing for a team that allowed 31.4 shots per game last season, 20th in the league.
Then there's the age and experience factor. Niemi was playing his first full season and he's already 27 years old, while Price just completed his third season and just turned 23.
But before you start screaming about how it's all about winning and that their won-loss records are practically polar opposites of each other, consider one other factor in your judgment: goal support.
I went into much greater detail a couple of months ago about how little of it Price received last season, but I think this comparison makes it even clearer.
Only Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov of the high-scoring Washington Capitals received more even strength goal support than Niemi did last season, as his teammates scored 3.04 goals for every 60 minutes he was on the ice. Even during the playoffs, Niemi's Hawks scored 3.54 goals per game, tops in the league. Price? He got 1.87 goals for per 60 minutes, better than only three other regular goalies in the whole league.
So what's the point of this exercise? I guess I'm trying to make a counter to an argument I anticipate hearing ad nauseum over the next few days. But really, I'm trying to show that a $2.75 million cap hit over the next two years is a good deal for both Price and the Canadiens. It gives both sides a good window to see what will become of this talented young man who clearly lost his way at last year's All-Star break, but who hasn't necessarily lost it altogether. For Price, he makes a very decent wage and has two years to prove himself. For the Canadiens, should Price completely flop his contract is not an albatross and is only on the books for two years.
Could Gauthier have waited it out for a lower cap figure? Probably. Could Price have threatened to hold out from camp to get $3 million? Also probably. But neither of those moves would be beneficial to this relationship, one I believe the player and the franchise hope lasts for several more contracts after this one.
Price said all the right things in his conversation with the Montreal media this afternoon, as he has pretty much ever since he lost his starting job to Jaroslav Halak last season. He twice repeated that a starting job "is not given, it's earned," noting he learned that the hard way last year. I've gone on record as believing last season taught Price an enormous lesson and knocked him off the pedestal he was on after being voted as a starting goalie in the All-Star game. Many brought up his petulant behaviour in his lone playoff start against the Washington Capitals as a sign that he hadn't grown up at all, and that may very well be true.
But I'm still willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt because the risk/reward ship has already sailed for him. Halak is gone, that decision's been made, so Price had better fulfill some of that tremendous potential.
Personally, I believe he will.