Carey Price will be away from the Montreal Canadiens while voluntarily taking part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
The 34-year-old goalie was not going to be ready to play the season opener at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 13. Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said Wednesday that Price, who was working out individually to return from knee surgery, had yet to recover from a non-COVID-19 illness that has kept him off the ice the past few days.
Price’s wife, Angela, shared a message on Instagram shortly after the NHL announced Price had entered the program.
“Part of the privilege of being in the position our family is in, is that we also get a public platform to show how there is and can be a path to light for anyone who is struggling,” she wrote. “No matter what is on the line, we hope we can communicate the importance of putting your mental health first not just by saying it, but by showing up and doing the work to get better.
“Carey’s showing up for himself and our family and making the absolute best decision possible for us. I will continue to show up for him and our kids and seek out the support that I may need on any given day. And it’s incredibly important to us to show our kids that asking for help and letting yourself being supported by other is not just OK, but encouraged — anytime, and under any circumstance.”
General manager Marc Bergevin said the concern is for Price, not the Canadiens.
“Going for help shows a lot of courage,” Bergevin said. “I believe that eventually everything will return to normal. Obviously, there is still concern, but I am confident we’ll see him again this year.
“Today, I’m not thinking of Carey Price the Montreal Canadiens goalie, but Carey Price the human being.”
Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin took a leave of absence for anxiety April 28 and was placed on long-term injured reserve, telling RDS on Sept. 20 that he’s had anxiety problems for many years and insomnia problems related to it. He had two assists in a 5-2 preseason win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sept. 27, his first game since stepping away.
“The elephant in the room, sometimes … we don’t say anything and it’s very personal,” Bergevin said. “But I salute [them] and I’m glad they did. If there are other players in the NHL who have different issues, whatever that is, I think the NHL and the NHLPA are really looking at the well-being of the players and I commend them [for] doing that. I think every general manager is very sensitive to that, and we are here in Montreal and for [Drouin] and Carey and his family … he’s got kids, three kids and his wife, so I think we need to support them. We need to respect their privacy and wish him the best. I believe better days are ahead for Carey and his family.”
Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said, “It’s a courageous thing and definitely was a tough decision for him to make. He definitely has our full support not as teammates but as friends and people that have looked up to him like myself. I’ve learned so much from him and will continue to learn from him.
“He’s a role model … and I’m sure that extends throughout the League. When you look at him, anytime they do those player polls, you see the amount of respect he has from around the League and what he’s accomplished on the ice, but off the ice, what he’s meant to this community here in Montreal as well. He’s a special person, he’s a special friend, he’s doing the right thing and he’s going to come back a better man.”
Price had arthroscopic surgery in New York on July 22 to repair a torn meniscus, with the Canadiens saying at the time his full recovery would take 10-12 weeks. He resumed skating Sept. 16 and told NHL.com he was in the Canadiens gym and medical clinic almost every day getting back into shape.
“I’ve been playing with that for a little while now,” Price said Sept. 13. “We wanted to take care of it and now I’m just trying to get back to health again. I feel pretty good … I’m just doing my rehab and making sure that I’m ready. With any type of rehabilitation, you’re never quite sure how long it’s going to take. It’s a process that you take day by day.”
Price was 13-9 with a 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, helping the Canadiens reach the Final for the first time since winning the Cup in 1993. They lost the best-of-7 series in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Montreal then left Price exposed in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft one day before his surgery, but he was not selected by the Seattle Kraken.
“At the time, when we decided that was the course to take, we didn’t have much concern about moving,” Price said. “Then all the buzz around the draft makes you question that. But we knew that we wanted to stay in Montreal and whatever was going to happen would happen. We knew if it were to happen and we went to Seattle, we would have been close to our family. But we’re thankful to be back here [and] at the end of the day, we’re going to be a Montreal Canadien for the rest of our career.”
Since being selected by Montreal with the No. 5 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, Price is 360-257-79 with a 2.50 GAA, .917 save percentage and 49 shutouts in 707 regular-season games (695 starts). His 360 wins are the most in Canadiens history.
In 2014-15, he won the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL, the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL, and the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the most outstanding player in the League as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association.
Price has five seasons remaining on an eight-year contract he signed with Montreal on July 2, 2017.
Jake Allen is now expected to begin the season as the No. 1 goalie for the Canadiens. Sam Montembeault, who was claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers on Oct. 2, and Cayden Primeau, a 22-year-old with six games of NHL experience, are also on the roster.
“Picking up Samuel off waivers gives us today a safety valve,” Bergevin said. “I’m glad we did … other teams would have seen the need. I don’t think anybody’s moving goaltenders to replace Carey Price, but we feel with Jake, who has done a tremendous job last year, and Sam came to camp, at least for now until [Price] is back, I think I feel comfortable to be able to start the season with these guys on our roster.”
NHL.com columnist Dave Stubbs and independent correspondent Sean Farrell contributed to this report