Carey Price matures, takes his responsibility as Montreal's #1 goalie seriously

careyprice4.jpgBeing the starting goalie for the Montreal Canadiens could be viewed as one of the toughest jobs in the NHL. There’s pressure to be the absolute best in the world game in and game out or else you’ll be run out of town like a witch would in Colonial America.

For a guy like Carey Price, the hill to climb to be appreciated fully is even steeper after being relegated to the bench last year by Jaroslav Halak’s stellar play and still dealing with the scornful eye of some fans for an image that was perceived to be that of a carousing playboy not taking his job seriously.

With Halak out of town, Montreal is Price’s town to make it or break it and according to Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette, his playboy partying days may be out of the headlines for good as he’s matured into taking his job seriously now.

In Kelowna, B.C., Price spent part of the summer working with Canadiens goaltending coach Pierre Groulx. Last season, Groulx’s first with the club, was a feeling-out process for both men. This year, Price said, “we’re going to be a lot more detailed.”

“We worked on a lot of technical aspects we wanted to bang out,” he explained of their summer sessions. “This season, we’re going to be more thorough with things.”

There was no need for either to dwell on last season’s statistics. Price was 13-20-5 with a pedestrian save percentage of .912, a spectator in 13 of the Canadiens’ final 15 regular-season games and a participant in only four of their 19 playoff matches, three times appearing only in relief.

The running gag last season at head coach Jacques Martin’s media briefings was the question, “Who’s in net tomorrow night?” to which Martin would reply he’d sleep on it, since he believed he had two No. 1 goalies.

“It’s a different scenario this year,” Martin said yesterday through a smile. “Carey is our No. 1 and Alex Auld is going to support him. It’s the situation we’re confident with entering the season.”

It’s encouraging to see Price buckling down and taking his job more serious. His first season in the NHL was brilliant and to see him struggle the way he did the last two years was startling. After all, seeing goalies arrive on the scene hot only to fizzle out shortly thereafter isn’t uncommon in the NHL. To see it happen in Montreal would over-dramatize the situation and turn it into a provincial catastrophe in Quebec.

After all, we’ve seen what happened when photos of Price out drinking and partying did to Montreal, having him burnout completely would only make things seem even more insane than they already are in the hockey-mad city. If Price can ultimately revive his career in the city that’s re-embracing him as their star, it’d make for one heck of a movie script. Playing in Jacques Martin’s defense-centric system can only serve to benefit all the more, but it’s up to Price to determine how bad he wants it.

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    Canucks president doesn’t rule out acquiring a player with Evander Kane’s type of history

    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 01: Evander Kane #9 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up to play the Edmonton Oilers at First Niagara Center on March 1, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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    Trevor Linden didn’t mention Evander Kane by name, because, well, you know…

    But yesterday on the radio, the Vancouver Canucks’ president of hockey operations sure didn’t close the door on acquiring a player with Kane’s type of history.

    You can listen to the audio of Linden’s interview with TSN 1040 here. (The Kane discussion starts at around the 3:10 mark.)

    The main takeaway is that Linden refused to say that a player with a history of getting into trouble with the police would absolutely not be welcome on the Canucks.

    “I think with any situation, they’re all unique to themselves,” Linden said, before warning against the temptation to jump to conclusions prior to knowing all the facts.

    “Ultimately we’d prefer not to have that situation arise, certainly with our own players,” he added. “It’s a big world out there. Obviously, the challenges are significant for young guys who make a lot of money and get themselves into spots that they make mistakes.”

    The Kane speculation has been kicked into overdrive in Vancouver (where Kane was born and raised and played his junior hockey), despite the absence of any hard evidence that the Canucks are talking seriously with Buffalo about a deal.

    It’s been reported that the Sabres’ ability to sign Jimmy Vesey could impact their willingness to trade Kane. Vesey can’t make his decision until Aug. 15, so perhaps we’ll have to wait until then.

    But according to Canucks beat writer Jason Botchford (The Province), Kane is definitely on Vancouver’s radar.

    “There’s no doubt about it, the Vancouver Canucks are going to be in on Evander Kane,” Botchford told TSN 1040 radio. “Ownership loves Kane. Jim Benning really likes Kane. Trevor? He’s maybe a little bit ambivalent, but he could be won over. They’re going to be in on Evander Kane.”

    Related: Canucks made Jets ‘fair offer’ for Kane

    Preds sign Jarnkrok for six years, with a cap hit of just $2 million

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 09:  Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Predators defeated the Avalanche 3-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    Nashville’s momentous offseason continued today with the signing of forward Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12 million contract.

    That’s a cap hit of just $2 million, all the way through 2021-22.

    Suffice to say, it’s not often that a player signs such a long deal, for such a modest cap hit. Jarnkrok notched career highs in goals (16) and assists (14) in 81 games last season for the Preds. He kills penalties, too.

    At the very least, the 24-year-old has some financial security now. But for Nashville, as long as his production doesn’t fall off a cliff, he could end up being a great bargain.

    Jarnkrok had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4.

    Related: Preds avoid arbitration with Petter Granberg — two years, $1.225 million

    Red Wings re-sign Mrazek to two-year, $8 million deal

    Detroit Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek (34) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning center Valtteri Filppula (51) in the first period of Game 3 in a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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    The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.

    The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.

    Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.

    “It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.

    Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.

    If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.

    Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.

    Tavares ‘would love’ to spend his entire career with Isles

    John Tavares
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    With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.

    Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.

    Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.

    But what about Tavares? What does he think?

    “I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”

    As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?

    “I would not count on that,” he said.

    So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.

    Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?