The low-down on Carey Price's contract talks in Montreal

careyprice2.jpgWhen a restricted free agent is slow in working out a contract with their team in the NHL, this is about the time of year where regular hockey fans will start to get a little bit antsy to get something done. Picture then, if you will, what it’s like for fans of the Montreal Canadiens to sit around and wait for news, any news at all, on what’s going on with restricted free agent and prospective starting goalie Carey Price.

There hasn’t been any news at all on what’s going on with Price and with Stanley Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi back on the market as an unrestricted free agent, some fans are getting a little bit worked up about things. Thankfully, Dave Stubbs of Habs Inside/Out is here to settle everyone down.

Gerry Johannson, Price’s agent, says that the two sides “are not necessarily close, but it’s not that we’re not close in a bad way. We’re having good conversations and we both are commited to getting things done.” Johannson says the slow pace of talks is “relatively normal” and that his hope is to have a deal done by the end of this month or early next month.

The agent says he’s seeking a shorter-term deal, which would likely translate to a year or two.

It’s an unusual summer, of course, with the number of goaltenders changing address and teams’ rosters still taking shape. The Chicago Blackhawks’ decision to walk away this week from the Antti Niemi arbritration ruling has begun rumours in Montreal that the Canadiens would go after the goalie who led the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup since 1961. But Johannson has been told by Habs GM Pierre Gauthier that “this is 100 per cent not the case.”

All right Habs fans, get off the ledge and everything will be OK. This is just business as usual. As for speculation about what Price will get contract-wise, consider these facts. Price was, for all intents and purposes, a backup goalie to Jaroslav Halak last year and Halak earned $3.75 million per year from the Blues after the Habs traded him to St. Louis. Antti Niemi was the starting goalie for the Stanley Cup champions after taking the starting job from former Habs goalie Cristobal Huet and won a $2.75 million award in arbitration.

Price should be asking for $3 million a year, but willing to settle for $2 million a year if the Habs are feeling generous like that. Let’s face it, the goalie market is bad and demanding a king’s ransom goes over about as well as losing a game in Montreal. What won’t help Price’s negotiations out is what Marty Turco signed for in Chicago as that will be viewed as the right way to settle a deal with a guy desperate for a job.

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    Gretzky returns to NHL fold as official ambassador of centennial celebration

    EDMONTON, AB - APRIL 6:  Former Edmonton Oilers forward Wayne Gretzky greets fans during the closing ceremonies at Rexall Place following the game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks on April 6, 2016 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The game was the final game the Oilers played at Rexall Place before moving to Rogers Place next season. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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    The National Hockey League was founded on November 26, 1917. Almost ninety-nine years later, the commissioner of the league, Gary Bettman, was in Toronto to announce that Wayne Gretzky, arguably its greatest player ever, would be the official ambassador of its centennial celebration.

    For Gretzky, whose relationship with the NHL was tested during the Phoenix Coyotes’ bankruptcy proceedings in 2009, it marks a return to representing the league in an official capacity. (In 2013, he was reportedly paid around $8 million in a settlement.)

    “It’s a tremendous honor,” Gretzky said in a statement. “I’ve said this a million times that everything I have in my life is because of hockey and because of the National Hockey League. I happen to think it’s the greatest game in the world. It was kind to me my whole life. The game just gets better every year, so for me to be involved in just trying to help promote and sell our sport even more it’s a great thrill for me and an honor to be part of it.”

    Watch the following video to see what the NHL has in store for 2017, starting on Jan. 1 with the Centennial Classic at BMO Field between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings:

     

    Report: Panarin wants six-year deal from ‘Hawks, at least $6M per season

    LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks poses after winning the Calder Trophy named for the top rookie at the 2016 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Artemi Panarin is looking to cash in on his Calder-winning campaign.

    Chicago’s prized Russian sniper and the reigning rookie of the year, Panarin is reportedly seeking a six-year contract extension “worth more than $6 million per season,” per the Chicago Tribune.

    As the Tribune points out, that figure could be problematic. Nobody’s arguing that Panarin isn’t worth the money — he’s 24, and coming off a 30-goal, 77-point campaign — but people are wondering how the ‘Hawks can afford him. Eight players on the active roster are pulling in at least $4 million per season, which includes Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, they of the $10.5M cap hits.

    That said, it sure sounds like Panarin will get done.

    Reports last week said his agent and ‘Hawks GM Stan Bowman were well into extension talks, and Bowman seemed confident a deal would be inked.

    “I respect Tom [Lynn, Panarin’s agent], he’s a very knowledgeable guy and I know Artemi put a lot of faith in him,” Bowman said. “Tom and I will work to get something done.”

    Panarin’s heading into the last of a two-year, $6.775 million deal with a $3.387 AAV — a deal that gained plenty of notoriety as the season progressed. Since it was so performance-laden, Panarin cashed in a couple of times, including a $1.725 million bonus for finishing among the top-10 scorers in the NHL.

    That led to Bowman making some tough financial decisions this offseason, including the deal that sent Bryan Bickell — more specifically, Bryan Bickell’s contract — and Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina in exchange for draft picks.

    So, this latest situation isn’t anything new for the ‘Hawks GM. He’s been down the financial squeeze road before, and usually found a way to keep his core players in the mix.

    If Panarin is considered a core guy — and at this point, it sure sounds like he is — then finding common ground on an extension shouldn’t be too difficult.

    Gudbranson-Hutton pairing will be key for Canucks

    Vancouver Canucks' defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers in the off-season, answers questions during a news conference ahead of the NHL hockey team's training camp in Vancouver, British Columbia, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
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    There’s a long list of things that have to go right for the Vancouver Canucks if their playoff hopes are to be realized.

    One of the biggest is for new addition Erik Gudbranson to form a cohesive second pairing with sophomore Ben Hutton. If that happens, and if Alex Edler and Chris Tanev can stay healthy, the Canucks should have a reliable top-four defense, and that’s something they rarely, if ever, had last season.

    Gudbranson, a big stay-at-home type, and Hutton, a puck-mover, have been skating together at training camp. The Canucks believe the pairing has great potential, with each defenseman’s strengths complementing the other’s.

    “I want to get his feet moving and hit him in stride and get him up the ice with the puck as soon as possible,” Gudbranson said, per The Province. “I think we’re going to be a good partnership. We’re both on the same page. We’re both excited to play with each other and grow as a unit.”

    Vancouver’s third pairing remains to be seen. Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen is the most likely at this point, though Nikita Tryamkin and Andrey Pedan on the left side, and Alex Biega and Troy Stecher on the right, could make things interesting. Jordan Subban is another wild card. Olli Juolevi too, though he’s a long shot and will likely end up back in junior.

    The Canucks were decimated by injuries to their best defensemen last season. Edler only played 52 games, Dan Hamhuis 58, and Tanev 69. Other teams with more depth could survive that, but Vancouver floundered.

    That’s why health is another big thing that has to go right for the Canucks. Another injury-filled season and it’s hard to picture them staying in the playoff race.

    Vancouver opens its preseason schedule tonight in San Jose.

    Boedker to make Team Europe debut in World Cup final

    DENVER, CO - MARCH 09:  Mikkel Boedker #89 of the Colorado Avalanche controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center on March 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    Mikkel Boedker‘s first game for Team Europe will be a big one.

    Boedker, a healthy scratch throughout the World Cup, will make his European debut on Tuesday, replacing the injured Marian Gaborik (foot) in the first of the best-of-three final.

    Head coach Ralph Kreuger opted for Boedker rather than dressing Luca Sbisa as a seventh defenseman, and lamented losing Gaborik’s presence in the lineup.

    “We’re losing some leadership and smarts on the puck that were exemplary,” Krueger said, per the L.A. Times.

    What the Europeans will gain, however, is speed. Boedker’s one of the fastest skaters in the league and is coming off a good offensive campaign, tying a career-high with 51 points.

    The 26-year-old appeared in two of Europe’s exhibition games, both against Team North America. He received a ton of ice time in the first — 19:46 — but had that cut in half for the rematch, when he had 13 shifts for just 9:22 TOI.

    Related: Gaborik (foot) to miss eight weeks