Inside the NHL
Now that the Kraken has its own star goaltender in Philipp Grubauer, let’s take one more trip down memory lane, to two weeks ago when it seemed another elite netminder might be playing here instead.
I’m talking, of course, about former Tri-City Americans goalie Carey Price, who you’ll remember waived his no-movement clause days ahead of the expansion draft. That set off continentwide speculation about what it all meant and whether the Kraken might pick him.
Well, it turns out the Price household was doing a fair bit of speculating as well and was on pins and needles like the rest of us until the morning of the draft. That’s at least according to Price’s wife, Angela, a Kennewick native who updated her “By Angela” blog this week to include a segment on her husband’s playoff run with Montreal and the ensuing expansion-draft chaos.
I’ll skip her recap on Price taking his upstart Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Tampa Bay in five games. What happened next, according to Angela Price’s entry titled “Life Update” was the goalie decided to have arthroscopic surgery to “clean up” his knee and figured it safe to be exposed in the expansion draft so the Canadiens could protect backup netminder Jake Allen from the Kraken.
“Really, there was no other option,” she wrote. “With the unknown result of Carey’s surgery and recovery time we couldn’t risk losing Jake — the backup goalie, who Seattle would have taken, for sure. I was not stressed about it at all — because of Carey’s contract, his age and his injury Seattle wouldn’t even give him a second glance … or so we thought.”
There was a 24-hour delay between the announcement that her husband had been unprotected and the news that he would undergo knee surgery. That information void prompted a firestorm of speculation, that Carey Price wanted out of Montreal because of its intense hockey-media scrutiny.
Plus, his in-laws live in Washington and the couple has an offseason home in Kelowna, British Columbia. Angela Price found that interim period tough.
“His injury was the entire reason we had lifted his no trade and he was left unprotected,” she wrote. “It hurt my heart to read that people thought we wanted out of Montreal. I was so thankful when it came out the next day that Carey was going to need surgery, but at the same time Carey’s agent was calling to say that Seattle didn’t seem too concerned about his injury and him being picked up could really happen.”
And that’s where the frayed nerves truly began for the Price family. Just like the rest of us, they apparently felt he might be pulling on a Kraken jersey at Gas Works Park come July 21.
“So naturally, I spent the next couple of days living on Twitter, reading every little thing and over thinking it all,” Angela Price wrote.
There’s probably a joke in there someplace when a famous athlete and his family sift through Twitter gossip to make sense of a situation he created and easily could have avoided by leaving his no-movement clause intact. But as somebody also reduced during that Sunday-to-Wednesday saga to deciphering Twitter posts as part of a hockey-writing gig I’d thought was supposed to be serious, I can only sympathize and save my barbs for more-deserving social-media addicts.
Ultimately, the Price family wasn’t nearly as certain as some fans and pundits that he would be staying put.
“It definitely got to a point where I thought we were for sure headed to Seattle, so I let myself start mentally preparing for it and even talking about it,” she wrote. “Just in case it did happen. Of course, there were benefits to being only a 3-hour drive from home — I could be there for every single holiday and my parents could come up on the weekends. I have a lot of friends and family in Seattle, so that could be fun! … I was hyping it up in my head to a point where I began to think ‘heck, why wouldn’t we want to go to Seattle?’.’’
Price’s agent, Gerry Johannson, according to the post even phoned the night before the Wednesday draft to suggest they be ready to postpone the goalie’s Thursday surgery in New York and immediately fly to Seattle if needed.
“Carey’s agent called to tell Carey to keep his phone on him tomorrow morning,” she wrote. “If Seattle does take him, we will change our trip and head to Seattle, scheduling the surgery in New York for a later date. And that is when it hit me. I looked at Carey in shock and said you can’t go to the draft party and put on a Kraken jersey, parading around in front of everyone! How disrespectful to all the Habs fans and that franchise!
“We continued to discuss how, at the end of the day, it is a business and players get traded away all the time. I understood that, but it still didn’t feel right. I couldn’t wrap my mind around Carey doing that.”
After all, the Kraken is now taking a combined annual salary-cap hit of $9.4 million on goalie tandem Grubauer and Chris Driedger for at least three seasons. That’s not too far off an alternative $11.2 million combined hit on Price and going with young goalie Vitek Vanecek the first season, then roughly $14 million annually for keeping both around several years after that.
Or, the Kraken could have bit on $14 million annually right away the next three years by keeping Driedger — as it since has over Vanecek — to go with Price. Either way, it’s not a deal-breaking cap space gap between what’s here and what many envisioned.
But we no longer have to worry about it. Neither does Angela Price, who termed the experience “quite the mind(expletive)” and “a game of chicken” she hopes to never repeat again.
Amen to that.
Now, let’s just hope the Kraken doesn’t have any more accounting glitches lurking in Grubauer’s contract so we can all move on to discussing Kraken goalies — actual or envisioned — based on how often they stop pucks.