Mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the Montreal Canadiens are expected to be sellers at the March 21 trade deadline. While pending free agents like Ben Chiarot are likely to become trade candidates, some observers wonder if Carey Price could also be shopped.
Price, 34, remains sidelined recovering from off-season knee surgery. He also spent the opening month of the season in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.
Sportsnet's Eric Engels was asked in a recent mailbag segment about the possibility of moving Price before the deadline. He doesn't see that happening unless the former Vezina winner returns to action in the coming weeks and regains the form that carried the underdog Canadiens to last year's Stanley Cup Final.
Assuming Price doesn't want to stick around if the Canadiens rebuild, Engels cited his hefty contract ($10.5-million annually through 2025-26) and full no-movement clause as significant trade obstacles. He also suggested the Habs might have to retain as much as 50 percent of Price's cap hit if a cap-strapped playoff contender like the Colorado Avalanche or Edmonton Oilers came calling.
It's those factors that make moving Price before the trade deadline a long shot at best. Even if he returns to action in the coming weeks and plays well it could prove too complicated to ship him out by deadline day.
Another club could be brought in to act as a third-party broker with the Canadiens retaining half of Price's cap hit and the other two clubs splitting the remaining half. However, there are so many moving parts in that scenario that it might have to take place in the off-season to ensure each club involved in the deal has sufficient tradeable assets to make it work.