Today we look at the situation between the pipes. The Habs have two very good goalies. No, make that one outstanding goalie and another very good with a lot of promise. Both are young and restricted free agents this off-season.
As RFA's, the Habs could underpay them, offering them just enough to keep other teams at bay. Or the Habs could try to lock them up long term, beyond when they turn 27 and become eligible for UFA status. This would probably apply more to Halak (24 yrs old) than Price (22 yrs old).
But I don't think there will be any long term contracts for either, mostly because of rule changes next year. Goalie pads will now be regulated according to the size of the goalie. No more of those extra large pads that extend up to the goalie's waist.
The effect of those oversized pads was most noticeable with butterfly-style goalies. The pads closed up the five-hole, leaving the goalie free to use the paddle to cover up other areas.
One would think the rule change would affect Halak more than Price. After all, Price is a much bigger goalie than Halak, and covers up a lot of net with or without the large pads. But Halak showed a lot of mental toughness, especially during the playoffs.
Price hasn't shown that kind of toughness, given his propensity to let in a soft goal every so often. Still Price showed a lot of maturity in accepting his backup role, and could be seen encouraging Halak, practicing hard, and calling out teammates who didn't put in the necessary work. Even his two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in that one Washington game could be seen it this light. Sure he went a bit overboard with his team spirit, but knowing where the line is is something that comes with experience.
So while there is a lot of promise in their young netminders, there are a lot of question marks too. Bet on Gauthier offering a one or two year deal to Halak, in the $2M to $2.5M annual cap hit range. Price might get a longer contract, given his younger age, but at a lower annual cap hit. Maybe $1M to $1.5M?
These low amounts will also be necessary for Gauthier to re-sign most of his RFA's, as well as his important UFA's, none more important than Plekanec.
Up next: blue line changes.