The Montreal Canadiens finally have their man.

Today, general manager Pierre Gauthier announced that the Habs and goalie Carey Price have agreed to a two-year contract worth a reported $5.5 million.  The deal ends months of speculation about the future of the future of this franchise — stemming back to the deal that sent Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues on June 17.

So, while Halak was busy packing his bags for Montreal and a stop at a suburban shopping mall for a charity fundraiser/autograph session this Saturday, Price was busy putting his name to a contract that will, on paper at least, keep him in a Canadiens uniform for the next two seasons.  The announcement also ensures that Price’s contract status does not overshadow the start of training camp, which is two weeks away.

Talk about distractions.

Interesting to hear Price on today’s conference call from Kelowna, B.C., where he has been skating with teammates Josh Gorges and Travis Moen. Price admitted that contract talks went longer than expected, but he’s glad both sides got the deal done.  And in a rather candid moment, he figured that there was a 50-50 chance that the Canadiens would opt to trade HIM and keep Halak.

He’s glad they didn’t. Trade him, that is.

Did the Canadiens make the right decision when they peddled Halak and kept Price?  Well, let me ask you this:  did the St. Louis Blues make the right decision when they locked Halak in with a four-year contract worth $15 million?

The answer to both questions:  only time will tell.

Personally, I’m very okay with the two-year investment the Canadiens have made in Price’s future.  That’s enough time to finally determine the calibre of goaltender they have on their hands.  I’m not convinced that Price was as bad as the numbers he put up last season: he had plenty of “help” from his friends. The same way that I’m not convinced that Halak is as good as the numbers he put up during the playoffs last season.

At the same time, the Canadiens last season gave Price ample opportunity to seize the day as the team’s number one goaltender, and he failed to respond to the challenge.  When given the same opportunity, Halak proved that he was up to the task.  And then some.  This  city was alive with playoff hockey well into the month of May, thanks to the scintillating performance of one player:  this unassuming young man from Bratislava, Slovakia.

If the Canadiens had hoped to lock in Price, long-term, I’m glad they didn’t.  Sure, it could end up costing them $$$ in the end, should he finally live up to his press clippings by the time his two-year deal is over. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take (although that’s easy to do, because it’s not my money.)

In the meantime, as the Canadiens prepare to hit the ice at training camp, rarely, in recent seasons, have I seen hockey fans in this city so polarized.  On the one hand, you have Habs supporters who are still fuming at the way Halak, this team’s best player during the post-season, was summarily dispatched to St. Louis for a couple of “prospects.”  On the other hand, you have Canadiens fans convinced that Price is the future of this team in goal.

If Price thought the pressure was on him when the Canadiens made him the number 5 overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, he ain’t seen nothing yet.  One thing is clear, however.  It’s time for him to live up to that billing.

Or else.

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