‘It’s a wheel that keeps turning’: Carey Price and his place on the NHL wheel are of utmost importance to the Canadiens

To understand how quickly the NHL can change on a player, just think of Mathieu Perreault.

He signed with the Canadiens as a free agent because it was a chance to play at home, but more importantly, it was a chance to play, period. Playing in the NHL, it is always said, is a privilege, and players will do whatever they can to enjoy that privilege for as long as they can.

But playing in the NHL is also a business, with each player having to behave, assimilate information and make decisions like a business with a single employee.

Think how much things have changed since Perreault made the business decision to sign with a team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals last season, a team that signed him because they had similar aspirations this season, a team that had to pivot from those aspirations. less than a month after the start of the season.

The general manager who signed it was fired. The coach who had trusted him at the start of the season was fired. He hurt himself. The priorities of the team he signed with changed drastically and he was no longer a priority. He ended up on waivers and seemingly permanently barred from training. It was not a good fiscal year for Mathieu Perreault, the company. Questions need to be asked. Self-reflection is necessary.

But Joel Armia was suddenly called home to Finland to deal with a family emergency, Jake Evans was ill and an opportunity to play in the NHL presented itself again.

“Honestly, I’m just happy to be playing tonight,” Perreault said Tuesday morning. “I will try to savor every moment. I don’t know when the next chance to play in the NHL will come. I got one today, I’m really happy and I’ll try to have fun.

It was Perreault’s seventh time playing for Martin St. Louis, and he never played more than 11 minutes in those games. It was no different on Tuesday, as Perreault went 9:42 in the Canadiens’ 2-0 loss to the Wild. But he played. Maybe for the last time in the NHL, maybe not. Nobody knows, let alone Perreault, who admitted before the game that he will have to have an honest conversation with his family after the season regarding what happens next, if playing in Europe might be something to consider, if the NHL is always an unlikely possibility in another city.

St. Louis has been through that experience, that of a proud player nearing the end of his career who needs to look inward and decide how ready you are to keep doing it. He respects Perreault’s game, but his job is to do what’s best for the organization and its future, and Perreault is not part of that future.

This is the reality of this work. It may be difficult, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

“When Mathieu came to the league, there were veterans who were dealing with this situation,” St. Louis said Tuesday morning.

“It’s a wheel that keeps turning. …”

St. Louis waved with his hand that at some point you are at the top of this wheel, waiting for it to start turning, but eventually you find yourself at the bottom as others take your place at the top and take their turn to have that wheel start spinning.

But when you watch that wheel turn while you’re still on it, that wheel can change so much.

Carey Price is approaching the bottom spin of this wheel. He knows it. He’s said it was the final nine of his career before, and what he’s been through in the past nine months puts that wheel in serious perspective.

Losing in his only Stanley Cup Final, having knee surgery, getting into the NHLPA/NHL Player Assistance Program, having that knee take a lot longer than expected to recover, always wanting to win a Stanley Cup and yet playing on a rebuilding team languishing near the bottom of the NHL standings is all a complicated mess for a proud player.

Perreault and Price are by no means the same, and yet they are. It’s every NHL player who sees the end in front of them, it’s just that one sees it that much closer than the other. Just as Perreault answered questions about his playing future Tuesday morning, Price answered similar questions after practice Monday. Perreault was born just under five months after Price. They’re at an age where those questions are inevitable, and while they’re vastly different in terms of NHL stature, that doesn’t make answering those questions any easier for either of them.

This wheel does not stop for anyone.

“I want to be able to finish playing, like I said in the last game, at an acceptable level,” Price said Monday. “I don’t know how long it’s been, but at the end of the day I want to be able to say that I left the game playing well and not being a burden.”

Take a moment to digest that, because it’s something we’ve never heard from Price. For Price to even think, let alone say, that he could one day become a burden is a remarkable development. It’s a public acknowledgment from Price of something he was surely aware of before, but never meant to say out loud. How his $10.5 million a year contract sets a high bar for him that doesn’t apply to Perreault or many other NHL players.

An acceptable level of play for Price is different from an acceptable level of play for someone like Perreault. It’s not just about surviving and being in alignment. It’s excellent. This makes his game worth the space on the salary cap that he occupies. This is what makes Perreault and Price so different, even though they are otherwise very similar. Price’s contract sets a standard he must live up to as the NHL’s wheel continues to turn.

After two games, Price’s game should be okay for him. Considering everything he’s been through, he’s played exceptionally well, especially as he rediscovers his game. His rebound control – previously his calling card – isn’t quite where he’d like whether.

But just playing right now is beneficial in ways most of us wouldn’t understand.

“It was a big part of coming back, being able to gain confidence and play in those last few games,” Price said. “There’s nothing that can duplicate reps like this, so being able to come back is a pleasure and beneficial to my game.”

But, just like Perreault, albeit in different ways, the future is something Price has in mind. How he doesn’t want to be a burden. How his game should be acceptable. But also, how badly he wants to win before he’s finished playing.

It’s hard to see a scenario in which Price would play at an acceptable level at a time when the Canadiens are able to ice a team that gives him a reasonable chance of winning. This is another reality that must enter into Price’s thinking. And yet, when asked about that conflict on Monday, when asked about being so close last season but being so far away right now, Price somewhat sidestepped the question.

“I think it’s something that even today is still hard to understand, you know?” I’m so close,” Price said. “I think any team that’s ever reached that point would say it probably took years to get over that unless you got the opportunity right away. Not having had that opportunity for 14 years , and then grabbing it, and then being so close and yet so far away is something I’m still working through. It definitely feels like a lost chance.

It’s a factor in Price’s wheel, something he wishes he had solved before that wheel stops spinning. Can this happen in Montreal? Price probably knows the answer to that question, but he clearly isn’t in a position to answer it publicly right now. It’s something that will need to be worked out in the offseason, and something that will hinge on whether other teams decide Price is worth the risk as the final missing piece.

Yet with every television timeout in the second period, Price skated towards his family sitting in the corner right against the glass, tickets given to them by minority Canadiens owner Michael Andlauer, and interacting with his children. During a TV break on Tuesday, Price managed to have a conversation with his middle child, daughter Millie. She wanted to know why they were shoveling the ice.

“It was different, it’s something that doesn’t usually happen in a hockey game,” Price said. “I don’t know if she will remember, but I hope she does.”

Price’s focus on winning has to be weighed against moments like this, moments he’s able to have because he’s playing in Montreal, his home away from home, where he grew up as a as a man and where his children were born and raised.

Much like Perreault and his considerations for the future, Price must keep his family in mind when deciding what is best for his future, if winning a Stanley Cup is more important to him than the environment in which he lives. raising his family, more important to him than starting and ending his career in a Canadiens uniform, cementing his legacy in the team’s rich and storied history.

It is a difficult decision to make. But Price has reached the point where this decision is needed.

Because the wheel of the NHL keeps turning, and it doesn’t stop for anyone.

(Photo: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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