Carey Price opens up about desire to return, lingering health issues

Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes discusses what he considers a successful 2022-23 season, saying "we need to see growth in the collective, we want to see growth in culture, and we want an environment where players are pushing to get better."

It’s been five and a half months since Carey Price last manned the net for the Montreal Canadiens, a 37-save victory that wound up as the last of his five appearances for the club in 2021-22. Whether the former Hart Trophy winner is able to one day return for another one remains to be seen, but it seems he hasn’t yet given up hope.

“I still have a desire to play the game,” Price said in a recent interview with The Athletic’s Arpon Basu. “I go to training camp, right at the start of training camp, and I see all the kids, they’re getting ready. It’s like part of me is still … I still want to win, you know? So there’s a little bit of unfinished business there. 

“But I’m also looking at it, like, what kind of damage would I do to my knee if I didn’t do the surgery and I tried to play again? Well, I’ve been told that I can do some pretty serious damage to my knee if I were to do that. And I’m not really looking to have a knee replacement done in five years.”

The surgery the 35-year-old is facing is an osteochondral autograft transfer, according to Basu.

“I have a large hole in the cartilage of my knee, basically where my knee impinges,” Price explained. “They would basically take a plug of bone and cartilage out of a lower-wear area in my knee, and then place that plug into the damaged area in my knee. So, it’s pretty intrusive.”

The success rate of the autograft transfer has also given him pause. Price’s doctors have informed him there’s roughly a 75-per cent chance of the surgery working as intended. 

“It’s probably lower than that. That would be optimistic,” he told The Athletic. “And that’s just for a surgery for people that are just going about their day, for the surgery to be successful. I look at that more on the pessimistic side, like, what if it doesn’t work and I had this surgery and now I can’t walk up and down a hill or kneel down to play with my kids?

“…I feel like that’s a surgery I wouldn’t do unless I was in a certain amount of pain and really not living well, which is not the case.” 

Complicating the issue further are the other health concerns that stretch beyond his knee. 

“I have a hip issue and an ankle issue all down the same chain, so I kind of figured that would be a problem towards the end of my career. I have a back issue, too. So it’s not just my knee. It’s other parts of my body that are screaming at me too.”

If he doesn’t get another chance to suit up in a Canadiens sweater, Price will leave the game as a pivotal figure in the team's history, an all-time great for an organization not short on them. The 15-year vet has logged 712 games in the big leagues up to this point, all for Montreal, stringing together a 361-261-79 record, a career .917 save percentage, and 49 career shutouts.

For now, though, it seems No. 31’s focus is on getting back to normal off the ice, before his attention returns to life on it.

“I’m just kind of taking it step-by-step, really,” Price told Basu. “Again, my knee still isn’t doing great. Like, I’m still not walking up a set of stairs pain-free yet. I still don’t feel like my knee’s in a place where I’m going to be able to play hockey. I still am getting swelling in my knee, even in my day-to-day living. It’s not a great-looking outlook as far as a hockey career when you’re struggling to get up and down stairs. 

“So, I’m just trying to stay positive, and just trying to get my body to a place where I’m healthy enough to be pain-free in my day-to-day. That’s kind of my main priority right now.”

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