It was all there in the post-game presser. Most of us knew in our heart of hearts. Including Carey Price. After the Montreal Canadiens concluded their last-place 2021-22 season with a 10-2 victory over the Florida Panthers with Price in goal, he admitted to treating that night as if it might be his last in the NHL as a player. He described April 29 as an “A+ day” and added, “So if this is it, then that would be a great way to do it.”
His season ended on an uncertain note. A chronic knee injury threatened to end his career before his upcoming age-35 campaign. After several months of uncertainty over whether Price would be able to rehab an injury that cost him most of 2021-22, Habs GM Kent Hughes took no joy in delivering a sledgehammer Thursday afternoon: Price’s knee did not improve during the rehab process, the injury isn’t fixable without surgery, and Price is not expected back this season. He’ll be placed on LTIR, creating space for the cap hit of newly acquired center Sean Monahan.
And we must all accept the truth: barring a miracle, it’s the end for Price. That’s why he approached his final game of 2021-22 with a soak-it-in mentality.
It will feel like a career gone too soon. Yet it’s not like Price, the 2005 draft’s No. 5 overall pick, came and went like a supernova. He played 15 seasons in the NHL. The Canadiens are the sport’s most storied franchise, the club that berthed Jacques Plante and Bill Durnan and Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy, and it’s Price who leads the Habs in career games, wins, saves and minutes played. But it somehow still feels like he’ll leave us wanting more, doesn’t it? It’s not that he didn’t give the game enough. It’s that he had the talent to be unquestionably the best goaltender of a generation. Instead, he’ll “only” be heralded on a roughly equal plane with the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Marc-Andre Fleury and Tuukka Rask.
That will certainly put Price on a Hall of Fame track, perhaps even as a first-ballot selection. His 361 wins place him 21st all-time. Among the goalies with 350 or more victories, 18 have reached Hall of Fame eligibility, and 11 have been inducted. Price won the 2014-15 Vezina Trophy, was a two-time finalist and cracked the top five in voting four times. He was virtually invincible for Canada in the nation’s runs to 2014 Olympic Gold and the 2016 World Cup.