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Canadiens 'in really good shape' to contend for Cup in short, long term

Eye return to playoffs after near miss last season

by Sean Farrell / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

LAVAL-SUR-LE-LAC, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens believe they can compete for the Stanley Cup in the future, though goalie Carey Price said he hopes their time for success is now.

"We've got a lot of years left, but in reality it's not that many years when you think about it," the 32-year-old said prior to Montreal's golf tournament Monday. "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 and, you know, it's going to be a process, we know that right from camp. You know, just try and lay it all out there all season long."

Price and 34-year-old defenseman Shea Weber are part of Montreal's veteran core. A promising group of young talent is led by 19-year-old forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi, the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft who had 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 79 games last season as a rookie. More will be expected from 24-year-old forward Jonathan Drouin, who had 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) to match his NHL career high set with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016-17, but three points (one goal, two assists) in his final 18 games of last season. Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki, two 20-year-old forwards, are among the prospects who will try to earn roster spots in training camp.

"If you look back a year ago when I'm standing here, there were a lot of question marks about this team," Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said. "I think a year forward this team is in really good shape not only short term but long term, and that's what I have to say about the Montreal Canadiens' future."

Video: Carey Price occupies the No. 4 spot on the list

The Canadiens signed free agent defenseman Ben Chiarot to a three-year contract and goalie Keith Kinkaid to a one-year contract, hoping to improve a team that finished two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference despite improving by 25 points from 2017-18. Brendan Gallagher scored an NHL career-high 33 goals, and forwards Max Domi (72 points) and Tomas Tatar (58 points), and defenseman Jeff Petry (46 points), each had his most productive NHL season.

"Last year was a step in the right direction, but at the same time we've all got to realize it wasn't good enough," Gallagher said. "And for us to really be true to ourselves, our goal when we sat and talked to you last year at this time was to make the playoffs, so you know we failed in that last season.

"This is a year to kind of make up for that. … And we feel like we have a group that's willing to take another stride forward, willing to take a step in the right direction. If we do that, hopefully we can find ourselves one of those teams that's competing for the Stanley Cup."

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