BROSSARD, Que. – Enduring a season filled with losses and disappointment did nothing to diminish Carey Price's desire to remain the starting goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.
Goalie - MTL
GAA: 2.43 | SVP: 0.916
And after signing a six-year, $39 million contract Monday, Price now is focused on making sure the future will be far brighter than the season he and the Canadiens just endured.
"It's an honor to put on the Habs uniform and I'll hopefully have the opportunity to play there for a lot longer now," Price said in a conference call with reporters Monday evening. "Now I can just focus on the goal of winning a Stanley Cup. I don't have to worry about re-signing every other year. So I'm looking forward to working towards our goal."
It was a bold signing for new Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, who announced the news exactly two months after he was hired.
"I'm very happy," he said, just minutes after finalizing details of the contract. "I think Carey brings what we need moving forward. He's a top, young goalie in the League. Having him in net for the next six years gives us a chance to be competitive."
Price, 24, became a restricted free agent Sunday, but one day later he had a new deal. If $39 million is the true total amount of the deal, his $6.5 million annual average value would be third among goalies, trailing Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne ($7 million) and Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875 million).
The deal is the richest ever handed out by the Canadiens, trumping the five-year, $30 million contract signed by Michael Cammalleri on July 1, 2009. But Price said he doesn't feel the pressure on him will be any greater because of the money he's being paid, largely because it would be difficult for there to be any more pressure than already there on the starting goaltender for the Canadiens.
"To be honest, I don't think so," Price said. "There's a tremendous amount of pressure on us no matter what you're making. It might make you a target a little bit more, but being a goaltender you're a target anyway."
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Price often has said that NHL goaltenders don't hit their prime until the age of 30, which is the age he will be when this contract expires.
"I'm hoping by then to have a couple of Stanley Cups and have a good renegotiation when I'm 30," Price said.
In spite of his young age, Price already has played 271 NHL games and experienced just about the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows that come with playing goal in Montreal. He was anointed the team's goalie of the future as a rookie in 2007-08, then had his starting job taken from him by Jaroslav Halak in 2009-10, and was booed in the team's preseason home opener in 2010-11 before going on to the finest season of his young career with a 38-28-6 record, eight shutouts, a .923 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. He tied for the League lead in wins, was third in shutouts and his GAA and save percentage ranked in the top 10.
He was just as good in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, posting a 2.11 GAA in seven games in a first-round series loss to the eventual Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Last season, Price took a minor step back with a 26-28-11 record, .916 save percentage and 2.43 GAA playing for a team that finished 15th in the Eastern Conference. However, his standing as a top goalie in the League never wavered
"This is huge for me," Price said. "It's an honor to come back and to have the vote of confidence from the organization. It's nice to see them show so much confidence in me, and now it's up to me to prove them right."
Bergevin held off addressing the media after signing Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon to free-agent contracts Sunday, saying the reason for that was he wanted to be able to announce the Price contract along with them. He said the details were finalized just minutes before he addressed reporters Monday.
As for his free-agent shopping, Bergevin said he was pleased with the grit he added to the lineup and decided that the higher-skill players on the market were too expensive and demanding too many years for him to be interested.
"I like these guys, they bring character, they bring sandpaper, they bring personality to our club, which I feel was missing last year," Bergevin said. "From Day One I wanted to build this team around character guys who put the team first, and that's what I think we did."
Bergevin acknowledged that the club had reached out to free-agent forwards PA Parenteau, Jaromir Jagr and Alexander Semin, but ultimately he felt the cost was too high and he didn't make any offers to them.
"You have to think about the term and what you have coming," Bergevin said. "We're a team that's trying to develop our young players to be able to play in Montreal and be successful, so that comes into play when some older players want to sign in Montreal."
There was another factor playing against the Canadiens in their hunt for free-agent talent, and that was their last-place finish in the conference last season.
"Players can choose where they want to go, and you have to remember our team finished 15th in the conference last year," Bergevin said. "Players sometimes don't feel they are in the right spot, so hopefully in time we will have a team where players will want to come to Montreal. Every player wants to win. Money, money, money [but] at the end of the day I feel hockey players want to win. Maybe some didn't want to come here because they didn't feel we're close to winning."
Bergevin has another big restricted free agent contract to negotiate, with defenseman P.K. Subban, and he said those talks were suspended because of the opening of free agency.
"We have talked on a few occasions," Bergevin said. "But since the draft, I know Donnie [Meehan, Subban's agent] has been busy with July 1 and other things. But we're communicating, but it will probably start again real soon."