The Montreal Canadiens will be without Carey Price to start the 2021-22 NHL season after it was announced on Thursday morning that the netminder will be taking an indefinite leave of absence in order to enter the NHLPA Player Assistance Program.
No further details or timetable for his return have been revealed.
The Player Assistance Program was founded in 1996 as a resource for players and their families to seek help with issues such as substance abuse and mental health, providing them with access to counselors in each NHL city.
Price, who underwent knee surgery during the offseason to repair a torn meniscus, had been absent from all of training camp to this point due to what was reported on Wednesday as a non-COVID illness and was already expected to miss the start of the regular season.
In anticipation of this, the Canadiens claimed goaltender Sam Montembeault off waivers from the Florida Panthers on Sunday as a form of insurance, thrusting the 24-year-old directly into preseason action versus the Maple Leafs immediately the next day.
With Price now out for the foreseeable future, Montembeault may very be on the Canadiens’ roster opening night.
It hasn’t been an easy path for Price these past few seasons. The 34-year-old has been ravaged by injuries since 2015-16, starting just 25 games in 2021 while either playing through various ailments or missing time altogether on multiple occasions before. With him voluntarily entering the Player Assistance Program, however, there is clearly something more at play here. And out of respect to both Price and his family, it’s important not to speculate on what that is.
All the hockey world can do now is commend Price for his bravery to seek help for whatever ails him and wish him a speedy recovery.