Montreal Canadiens Rumour: Could They Trade Carey Price To Colorado?

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens tends the net against the Washington Capitals during the third period at Capital One Arena on February 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: Carey Price #31 of the Montreal Canadiens tends the net against the Washington Capitals during the third period at Capital One Arena on February 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens are clearly sellers as the trade deadline approaches. There have been some murmurs that they are looking to sell a little more than just a few pending free agents.

The Montreal Canadiens have a long history of superstar goaltenders. Dating back over a hundred years ago they had Georges Vezina in goal. When they name the award for best goaltender in the league after you, you probably did something well while playing the position yourself.

After Vezina left town, George Hainsworth took over and won the first three Vezina’s. Not long after that Bill Durnan was in goal and he won four Vezina Trophy’s in a row, and six in seven years. Shortly after Durnan retired, Jacques Plante took over and won six out of seven Vezina Trophy’s himself.

Charlie Hodge, Gump Worsley and Rogie Vachon all won the award while playing for the Habs in the 1960’s. They were all sent packing when a big, young kid named Ken Dryden arrived on the scene and won five Vezina’s throughout the 1970’s.

The award hasn’t been owned by the Canadiens quite as frequently since then. Patrick Roy did win it three times during his stint with the Habs. Jose Theodore was named the league’s best goaltender after an incredible 2001-02 season carried the Canadiens into the postseason. Most recently, we saw Carey Price take home the hardware in 2015.

There was a time, before the 1980’s, when Vezina Trophy winning goaltenders either stayed in Montreal until they retired, or they were replaced by another Vezina Trophy wining goaltender.

That is, until Patrick Roy and Jose Theodore were both traded to the Colorado Avalanche a few years after winning the prestigious award. Patrick Roy won his last Vezina with the Canadiens in 1992. Four years later he was traded to the Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Ruinsky and Andrei Kovalenko. Theodore won his Vezina in 2002 and four years later he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche for David Aebischer.

Carey Price won his Vezina …. well, five years ago already but that’s pretty close to four.

More noteworthy than that odd symmetry is the fact that there are some murmurs the Canadiens could be looking to trade another former Vezina Trophy winner to the Colorado Avalanche. If you skip ahead to about the 2:15 mark in this video, Eric Francis of Sportsnet speaks about hearing there are talks going on between the Habs and Avs involving Price.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin was in Colorado earlier this week and took in games on Monday and Wednesday night. He claimed it was to visit his daughter who lives there, I speculated he could be looking at a young player with untapped potential like Tyson Jost. However, Francis claims he is hearing there is “serious talk” that the Avalanche are looking to acquire Price.

From an Avalanche perspective it certainly makes sense. They have an incredibly dangerous offensive team. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen combine to form two-thirds of one of the best lines in hockey no matter who is on left wing. They have received breakout seasons from Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichuskin who they picked up for relatively cheap. They are getting tremendous production out of rookie defenseman Cale Makar.

What they need is a more reliable goaltender. Pavel Francouz just signed a two-year extension and has been good, but he has 26 games of NHL experience. Phillip Grubauer has made the bulk of starts and has decent numbers with a 2.63 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. Grubauer was injured when a Los Angeles Kings player crashed into him during their outdoor game last weekend.

Even if Grubauer was healthy, I’m sure the Avalanche would feel more comfortable going into a playoff series with the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues if they had Price in goal instead of Grubauer.

From a Canadiens perspective, trading away a veteran player certainly makes sense. The team is struggling and won’t be in the playoffs so they will be sellers before Monday’s deadline. But Carey Price? He has been the face of the franchise for about a decade. He has set the all-time wins record in franchise history. He signed the biggest contract ever by a goaltender just two years ago.

That contract is what makes trading Price really difficult. He has six more years remaining after this season with a cap hit of $10.5 million. Trying to fit that contract in on another team is almost impossible – except for the Avalanche. Of all the teams with playoff hopes in the NHL, Colorado has by far the most cap space.

That is one thing that lends credence to these talks. Colorado has a great team with question marks in goal and have tons of cap space. Bergevin flew to Colorado and brought his assistant general manager, Scott Mellanby, with him to take in two Avalanche games. You don’t often see that from a general manager, especially just days before the trade deadline.

Initially, I believed this trip was innocent enough. I thought Bergevin just wanted a better look with his own eyes at a young player like Jost who hasn’t broken through at the NHL level yet. However, trying to find other teams sending their general manager and assistant general manager across the continent to watch two games in three days less than a week before the deadline has proven difficult.

There is something much bigger going on here. Bergevin doesn’t travel all the way to Denver to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders. He was clearly taking a longer look at some key pieces to a potential blockbuster trade. A trade that could involve Carey Price.

If the Habs were to trade Price, they would be moving out a ton of money off their cap. This would allow them to re-sign all of their key free agents in the next two summers including Phillip Danault, Max Domi, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry if they choose to do so.

It would also leave them without an NHL ready goaltender. You would have to think Grubauer would be part of the package coming back to Montreal. Colorado’s first round pick would need to be in the mix as well. There have been some rumours that Bergevin has his eye on Ryan Graves who is a big left defenseman that is playing huge minutes with Makar. He would be a great fit on the left side of the Habs blue line.

Bergevin probably wanted to watch Graves, but this trip was likely about some face time with Joe Sakic. Bergevin and Sakic are two old school types. Though Kyle Dubas and John Chayka would be fine talking trade over instagram over snapchat, Bergevin and Sakic likely wanted to meet face to face to try and hammer out the fine details of a huge trade.

Carey Price’s contract is going to make things difficult for the Habs in the future. If they have a chance to move it now, it makes sense to clear out the contract, even if it means moving Price. It would set the Avalanche up for a couple of runs at the Stanley Cup before they get into serious cap trouble down the road.

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There is no way Bergevin traveled to Denver to see the mountains and go skiing a few days before the trade deadline. There is something huge cooking here and if Eric Francis is correct, the Habs could soon be trading their third consecutive Vezina Trophy winner to the Colorado Avalanche in the coming days.