Carey Price will be taking time away from the Canadiens, the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association announced Thursday. He will voluntarily take part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
“Today, I’m not thinking about Carey Price the goaltender,” general manager Marc Bergevin said. “I’m thinking about Carey Price the human being.”
Bergevin, who found out the news Wednesday — which he mentioned caught him off guard — was overcome with emotion during his news conference.
“It’s … It’s hard,” he said, fighting through tears when asked about what Price has meant to him over the past nine years together before motioning for the next question.
What is the player assistance program?
The program was created in 1996 and assists players and their families with mental health, substance abuse and other problems.
Posted by Carey Price’s wife Angela on IG. Credit to them for trying to help others by sharing their story. Here’s hoping Carey gets the help he needs. pic.twitter.com/WLnKSCwqZk
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 7, 2021
“[It’s] the elephant in the room. Sometimes we don’t say anything and it’s very personal but I salute [them] and glad they did,” Bergevin said when asked about the courage Price and Jonathan Drouin, who stepped away during the 2021 season because of anxiety and insomnia, by seeking help and making it public.
Bergevin stressed the need for players to ask for help because hockey careers only last so long.
“It was always there but I think now guys are more willing,” Bergevin said when asked about the evolution of players asking for help compared with his playing days from 1985 to 2004. “Maybe back then, you would have been seen as being weak — which was wrong — but it was probably the way we were built and now it’s more in the open. I think it’s going to be better for everybody.”
When will Carey Price return?
Price missed training camp while recovering from knee surgery (meniscus) in July. He hadn’t practiced with the team but had reportedly skated, per the Montreal Gazette’s Stu Cowan. He was expected to return for the start of the season when the surgery was announced; however, in the past few days that was becoming less clear. On Wednesday, coach Dominique Ducharme said he was recovering from a non-COVID-19 illness and was “not doing well.”
Bergevin said Price will be out a minimum 30 days but “could be longer.” He does expect him to be back with the team at some point this season.
The Canadiens netminder went 12-7-5 with a .901 save percentage in 25 games in 2021. He missed time at the end of the season after going into concussion protocol. When he returned, Price led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final with a .924 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average.
Over the course of 14 seasons, all with the Canadiens, the 2015 Hart and Vezina Trophy winner has a 360-257-79 record with a career .917 save percentage and 49 shutouts.
What it means for the Canadiens on the ice?
There is nothing more important than the health and wellbeing of Price. Having said that, his loss between the pipes is someting that will affect the Canadiens on the ice. As Ducharme said, everyone will need to step up as “not one guy will replace Carey Price.”
Jake Allen is expected to take on the responsibilities of the No. 1 spot. A 2019 Stanley Cup champion, Allen played in 29 games in 2021 as Price’s backup, going 11-12-5 with a .907 save percentage.
On Saturday, the Canadiens claimed Samuel Montembeault off waivers from the Panthers before they learned of Price’s leave of absence.
“I think by picking up Samuel on waivers gives us today a safety valve that I’m glad we did,” Bergevin said.
2017 seventh-round pick Cayden Primeau is also still in camp with the team. Montreal’s season begins Tuesday against the Maple Leafs.