Carey Price couldn’t imagine wearing anything but a Canadiens uniform, while Patrick Marleau agonized about trading in his Sharks jersey for a Maple Leafs one.
On Sunday, Price signed an $84 million eight-year extension that means he’ll likely finish his career in Montreal, Marleau left San Jose to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with Toronto, and longtime running mate Joe Thornton re-signed with the Sharks for one year and $8 million.
Meanwhile, the back-to-back Presidents’ Trophy winning Washington Capitals continued re-tooling by signing center Evgeny Kuznetsov for $62.4 million over eight years and trading forward Marcus Johansson to New Jersey for 2018 second- and third-round picks.
Marleau and Thornton were in contact throughout their respective free-agent processes but made different decisions. Toronto’s addition of Marleau gives rookie of the year Auston Matthews an experienced goal-scorer on his left wing.
The soon-to-be 38-year-old spent his first 19 seasons in San Jose and called it “extremely difficult” to pull the trigger and depart.
“I think I’ve worn out a few carpets pacing around the house trying to make this decision,” Marleau said. “The decision took me quite a while to come to, but I’ve made it and I’m happy with it.”
The Canadiens and Maple Leafs haven’t met in the playoffs since 1979. Moves made Sunday put them on a much more likely crash course in the next few years.
Price’s extension, which pays him $10.5 million a year from 2018-19 through 2025-26, solidifies the most important position in the sport long term in one of the league’s most fervent markets. Price won the Hart Trophy as MVP and Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in 2014-15 and has the third-best save percentage of any active goaltender since entering the league in 2007-08.
“I never thought about putting on another uniform,” Price said. “I just thought it’d be too weird, I guess.”
It was weird to ever imagine Marleau wearing another uniform other than the Sharks, but he decided to leave San Jose and take a deal with Toronto that counts $6.25 million against the cap through 2019-20 and includes a full no-movement clause.
“We won’t be able to do this in a year or so but we have the room and flexibility to do it and not interrupt the process that we have in place, understanding where our young players are and where they will be,” Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said
Once in the same youthful spot as the Maple Leafs, the Capitals are now in change mode after winning back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies and losing in the second round. They signed center Evgeny Kuznetsov to a $62.4 million, eight-year deal and cleared space by trading forward Marcus Johansson to the Devils for 2018 second- and third-round picks.
With Kuznetsov counting $7.8 million, right winger T.J. Oshie $5.75 million and defenseman Dmitry Orlov $5.1 million and more restricted free agents left to sign, the Capitals needed to shed salary and cleared about $4.58 million by trading Johansson.
“There’s a salary cap,” Devils GM Ray Shero said. “If there wasn’t, I’m pretty sure Marcus would still be in Washington.”
The Sharks have to work under a salary cap, as well, but they gave Thornton a raise on a one-year deal that he was comfortable with. More than half the league reached out to Thornton.
“There was a lot of interest - I was kind of shocked,” Thornton said. “Ultimately I wanted to stay in San Jose.”
Price wants free agents Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov back in Montreal, but that’s far from a guarantee.
“I spoke to both players and we made offers they chose not to take (in order to) to go on the free agent market,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said. “That’s their right, and I respect that. But at the end of the day, based on what they’re asking for, it would be impossible to bring back both of them.”
Jaromir Jagr, 45, and Jarome Iginla, 40, remain unsigned, while 40-year-olds Shane Doan and Matt Cullen are deciding whether to play another year.
The Florida Panthers already said they’re not bringing back Jagr. Ron Hextall on Sunday ruled out a Philadelphia reunion for the 45-year-old.
“That’s just not the direction we’re headed in right now,” Hextall said. “I’ve got a great deal of respect for his accomplishments and everything he’s done in the game, but it’s just not the direction we’re going in.”
The Vegas Golden Knights made another trade Sunday, acquiring center Marcus Kruger from the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations. Cap-strapped Chicago dumped Kruger’s salary of just over $3 million while giving up a useful player who contributed to winning the Stanley Cup twice.
“His work ethic, reliability and strength as a two-way player made him a valuable member of the organization,” GM Stan Bowman said. “We thank Marcus for his many contributions to our team.”
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