Carey Price’s uncertain injury status complicates Kraken’s decision

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Some quickie reaction to a wild weekend of off-ice action:

CAREY PRICE, MONTREAL & SEATTLE

One expansion draft I remember is Major League Baseball’s in 1993.

The California Angels had a terrific closer named Bryan Harvey. Two years earlier, he was an All-Star, fifth in Cy Young voting and the league-leader in saves, with 46. In August 1992, he had arthroscopic elbow surgery and the Angels thought he’d never be the same. He was to make $4.225 million the next season, 33rd in the majors (source: baseballnexus). So, they left him unprotected.

The expansion Florida Marlins took a look at his medicals, got the thumbs up from their doctors and selected him. One of the reasons: they were drafting a young team, and thought it would benefit those players if they weren’t constantly demoralized by losing tight games late.

In Florida’s first season, the 30-year-old saved 45 of the team’s 64 wins. He finished eighth in Cy Young voting, 14th for the MVP. To them, he was worth every penny. Harvey was red-hot to start 1994, with six saves in the opening month before the elbow gave out on April 25. That was it. There were five more appearances before he had to give up.

That brings us to Carey Price.

Price is coming off a brilliant post-season run — after a challenging, injury-plagued regular season. Price was bothered by something well before he missed 19 of the last 21 games with a lower-body injury, then a concussion.

Sunday night, approximately 24 hours after news got out that Price was unprotected, reports surfaced he could need surgery to his hips and/or knees. As a couple of sources indicated, the goaltender is dealing with multiple issues that need clarity and it is possible he could be out into the 2021-22 season.

Price has five more seasons at a $10.5 million cap hit ($44 million in actual cash). Question him at your own peril, but he’ll be 34 in August. When the CBA was amended prior to the 2020 bubble playoffs, players gained control over their no-move and no-trade clauses. If Price goes to Seattle, he can lock it back in and keep control of his future.

Whether or not the Kraken should take him is a sports radio/twitter debate dream. Hours of airtime and kajillions of Al Gore internet bandwidth are going to be wasted with this over the next 72 hours. No hot take will go unexplored.

The facts are this: it is absolutely impossible for Seattle not to seriously consider this. There are extremely legitimate on- and off-ice reasons to select Price. He could be Seattle’s closer, and the Marc-Andre Fleury standard-bearer for the franchise. He played junior hockey in the state, wife Angela is from Washington.

And, word is they are seriously considering it.

This is where it gets tricky.

To this point, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has not commented on either Price’s situation or Shea Weber’s. That’s not unusual for him. In my experience, when asked about injuries, Bergevin won’t comment until he has clarity, and he prefers to do it in either a media conference or on the Canadiens’ social platforms. It’s happened a few times, and he’s consistent with that.

However, the Kraken have to submit their picks by Wednesday morning, to be revealed that night. (If it’s true some of the players are going to be unveiled by disembarking from float planes, I can’t wait to see it.) Price is not expected to see doctors until after that deadline.

Because Seattle is supposed to get a full medical picture of all exposed players, this isn’t going over well. Other teams are boiling, complaining the Canadiens are using Price and Weber to make a mockery of the expansion process.

On Friday’s podcast, co-host Jeff Marek said he heard the Kraken were asking for first- and third-round picks as payment for not taking anyone left unprotected; no one really disputed that. The cost was steep. Bergevin didn’t want to pay that to preserve Jake Allen, and despite considering trading Allen in the last week, his heart really wasn’t into it.

Bergevin knew he’d need Allen (or something better) next season. Even if Price wasn’t injured, the era of playing 65 games is over. He knows it too, which is why he agreed to do it. Some teams believe Bergevin told Seattle he’d protect Allen if the Kraken didn’t budge on their demands, but they refused to back down.

Section 50 of the CBA makes it very clear a team cannot re-acquire a player on a retained-salary transaction for one year after losing him, so forget that idea. (Montreal could, however, reacquire him at full cost.)

There are other good goalie options for the Kraken. Intriguingly, Price is represented by the same agent (Gerry Johansson) as Florida’s Chris Driedger. It’s been rumoured for a while now Seattle will take (and sign) Driedger. There are other mid-20s possibilities (Kaapo Kahkonen, Vitek Vanacek). There are veterans on short term: Ben Bishop (although he is injured), Braden Holtby and Jonathan Quick. These are players the Kraken could keep — or flip for further assets.

So, here we are…Sammy Farha versus Chris Moneymaker at the 2003 World Series of Poker. (If you’re not familiar, google “Bluff of the Century.”)

SHEA WEBER

We may not get clarity on Weber until training camp medicals. The league will see what doctors determine then. There was some interesting feedback on his situation. No one questioned his integrity or his injuries, but don’t like the timing because of the expansion draft and the fact he played so well in the post-season. (Only Victor Hedman and Ben Chiarot played more minutes.) One GM added he felt Nashville shouldn’t face a possible cap recapture penalty in case of retirement, because the Predators matched an offer sheet instead of writing that contract.

OTHER SEATTLE STUFF

• Non-Price question asked most on Sunday: “Do you think Seattle will try to re-unite Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde?”

• Pittsburgh and Toronto suspected Seattle liked both Alex Kerfoot and Jared McCann. Now the Kraken can only get one.

• I think Philadelphia suspected the Kraken would take Nicolas Aube-Kubel

• The Kraken could put together a pretty good team. Now, the biggest question becomes: who do other clubs want? They can do three retained-salary transactions. St. Louis wasn’t crazy about what they were offered to keep salary on Vladimir Tarasenko, but how will Seattle feel? What about Mark Giordano? Those calls started on Sunday.

• This would depend on Seth Jones, but if he was interested in Seattle long-term, they could already put together a pretty good package for him.

ELSEWHERE

• Does Patrik Laine accept his qualifying offer ($7.5 million) to play in Columbus next season? Nice and easy for everyone, if so.

• This wasn’t the first time Vegas tried hard to get Nolan Patrick. There’s the WHL Brandon connection with GM Kelly McCrimmon, and they made no secret of their interest.

• What is next for Nashville? GM David Poile swings for the fences. Suddenly, he’s got some room.

• Lots of expectation Boston going hard for Ryan Suter. One source called him “the Corey Perry of 2021-22.”

• Big victory for Dallas getting Miro Heiskanen signed long-term. As a couple of teams pointed out, $8.45 million in no state-tax Texas is above nine elsewhere.

• One situation to watch: Pavel Buchnevich, Rangers. Arbitration eligible. UFA next summer. Too expensive to keep? Other teams like him.

VACCINATIONS

• The NHL and NHLPA are working on next season’s protocols. The Canadian government indicated fully vaccinated travellers from all countries could be allowed by September, enormous for the upcoming season. However, what happens if someone isn’t vaccinated? One possibility is that players who can’t cross the border won’t be paid for games they miss. We’ll see if that becomes canon, but teams and players have been made aware of that discussion.

MAUREEN SPERO

A couple of days ago, there was awful news about fatalities in a boat crash on Lake Rosseau in Ontario. One was 51-year-old Maureen Spero. I went to university with Maureen, who played guard for Western’s basketball team. She was very fast, very aggressive defensively. One of the toughest places to play away from London was Lakehead, because that was the Thunder Bay school’s biggest varsity sport and the crowd supported them like no one else in the province. She came off the bench during a game there, and turned a loss into a win. That’s what came to mind when I heard the news. I’ve lost touch with the players from that era, but many of them remain close and get together often. All the best to them and her family during such a painful time.

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