To hold down the position of goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens is said to be the loneliest job in sports. Following the elimination from the Eastern Conference finals this week, the team has little time to decide who it wants to keep lonely and who it no longer wishes to employ.
That's because both Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak are set to become restricted free agents this summer, and with both showing the ability to be No. 1 netminders, the Habs likely won't have the luxury of having them both on their roster.
General manger Pierre Gauthier told TSN that he doesn't plan on losing either player to another team's offer sheet.
Yet even if the team could somehow manage the finances, it would be too difficult to juggle the playing time of two guys who want to start. Manning the crease is hard enough in Montreal without having to look over your shoulder after every goal.
"Every option is open when it comes to our goaltenders," Gauthier told TSN.
The decision won't be easy. Price is just 22 years old, and his goals-against average and save percentage this season were actually better than those of last year. They weren't better, however, than those of Halak, who turned 25 years old this month and won the starting job over Price this year.
It's clear neither wants to see a lot of the bench next season.
"I feel like I can play and I know Jaro definitely feels the same way. It's a tough situation for both of us," Price told TSN.
Price has been good for the Canadiens, but it's always seemed as if the fan base wanted more out of him. That's part of the reason that the transition to Halak this season lacked the controversy (agents aside) that would seem inherent in such a situation in Montreal. It also might help ease the transition of Price out of town, as he likely won't be forgetting last spring's mock cheer from the home crowd any time soon.
Still, Price is Montreal's product, and in the game of hockey, he is very much still a kid. To cut ties after just three seasons with a player who was deemed the future of the franchise would seem reckless on the part of the Canadiens, especially considering the team made the playoffs in all three of those seasons.
Of course, for the Canadiens, it's a good problem to have. It is, nevertheless, a problem, and the outcome will have a significant effect on the franchise for years to come.