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Martin Biron, Dan Ellis, even Patrick Lalime. Those were among the handful of names being tossed around as Carey Price’s potential backup.
Alex Auld was an afterthought in those conversations, yet here he is now, signed to be the No. 2 guy. And when General Manager Pierre Gauthier came calling, Auld knew it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“I’m really excited to join such a prestigious team in a true hockey market. I wasn’t expecting this,” he said via conference call one day after inking a one-year, $1 million deal. “The offer came early in the day and I was so excited, we said yes right away. It’s a great organization and I’m really proud to be a part of its history, to be on the list of goaltenders to have worn a Canadiens sweater.”
It will be the eighth NHL jersey the journeyman netminder will pull over his head, after stops in Vancouver, Florida, Phoenix, Boston, Ottawa, Dallas and New York (Rangers). Auld appeared in a career high 67 games with the Canucks in 2005-06; his next highest total was 43 games with the Senators in 2008-09.
Despite having spent much of his career sitting at the end of the bench, the 29-year-old has still been around enough to understand his role.
“You can contribute in different ways, like bringing experience and leadership. I don’t have to always be the one on the ice,” admitted Auld.
And it’s not expected he will be. While anywhere from 20 to 30 starts should potentially come his way, he’s fully aware that Price is “the guy” and will do what he can to support him.
“I don’t know Carey personally but I’ve played against him a few times and know he’s got an incredible talent,” said the fellow Western Canada native (Cold Lake, Alberta). “I’m there if he wants to talk but I won’t pretend to know all the answers. If I can help him and be a good partner for him, I’ll be happy.”
Auld has connection with Canadiens coaching staff
While he’ll get to know his new creasemate, he’s well-acquainted with members of the coaching staff. Bench boss Jacques Martin and goalie coach Pierre Groulx were with the Panthers in Auld’s lone season with the club in 2006-07.
“That was a big part of the equation. Pierre Gauthier told me that Jacques and Pierre believed in me as a person as well as a goalie,” he acknowledged. “It’s good to be in familiar territory. They know who I am, what I can offer and especially what kind of teammate I am.”
It’s certainly a more comfortable situation than he had when the trio were in southern Florida. Coming off a solid season in Vancouver, he was a part of the deal that sent Roberto Luongo west. But when he arrived in Sunrise, Ed Belfour was the top Cat and overall, the team just wasn’t very good.
The club had a goaltending consultant that made sporadic visits and Belfour’s age limited his practice time. As a result, Auld spent much of his time working with Groulx, who was actually the video coach at the time.
As for Martin, the netminder lays no blame at his coach’s feet for the tough situation. Instead, he offered praise, noting that “Jacques is a guy who puts a good system in place, who doesn’t get carried away by his emotions, and believes in using his two goaltenders.”
Now that he’s found his latest home, Auld certainly wants to make the most of it…and hopefully make it last.
“Goaltending is a unique position – so many candidates, so few spots available,” he pointed out. “Certainly I’d like to spend a few years in one city but I don’t regret the experiences I’ve had so far; it’s part of the job. Of course, I wouldn’t mind settling down in Montreal.”
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