Which player is more valuable to his team, Alex Ovechkin or Carey Price?
Craig Custance: Wow. That's a tough one. These are two potential all-timers, two of the best at their positions among players of their generation. But I've seen how it plays out in Montreal without Price, and it's ugly. Last season was all I needed to see to answer this question. The bottom fell out for the Montreal Canadiens without Price. As good as Ovechkin is, it's easier to find ways to win without the star winger than without the franchise goalie. I look at the rest of the deep Washington Capitals lineup and believe a crew led by Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Braden Holtby would find ways to win consistently without Ovechkin in the lineup. The same can't be said for Montreal without Price.
Joe McDonald: The Canadiens have a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup with Price than the Capitals do with Ovechkin. A healthy Price is the key to Montreal's success. Ovechkin is an incredible talent, and I think we would all agree that we thought the Capitals would already have a Cup with No. 8 in the lineup. Of the six active players with 1,000 points or more, half -- Jaromir Jagr, Marian Hossa and Patrik Elias (currently an unrestricted free agent) -- have won a Cup. Ovechkin is one point shy of reaching that milestone. His career shouldn't be defined by whether or not he wins a Stanley Cup, but many will think that way. The Capitals have failed too many times with their best player leading the way. Craig's right. This is a tough one, but I have to go with Price being more valuable.
Pierre LeBrun: I'm surprised this is even a debate. Carey Price all day, all night. I mean, look at the Habs' performance the past three seasons when Price is in the lineup and when he isn't. No better evidence. Ovechkin has been a superstar in any way you want to describe one, but I will go to my grave saying that wingers just don't have the same impact on a game as a No. 1 center, a No. 1 defenseman or a top goalie. It's why I would always pick Sidney Crosby over Ovechkin, (or Auston Matthews over Patrik Laine, for that matter), but also Erik Karlsson/Brent Burns/Drew Doughty over Ovechkin, and certainly Price over Ovechkin. The better question might have been, who's more valuable to Washington itself: Ovechkin, John Carlson or Braden Holtby? Hmm ...
Scott Burnside: It's a bigger-picture view for me. First, Montreal isn't going to win a Stanley Cup, with or without Price. Sorry. They're, at best, the fifth-best team in the Eastern Conference. And to put it simply, the Washington Capitals would not exist without Ovechkin. Owner Ted Leonsis reminded me of that this week when he referred to a story I wrote shortly after the 2004-05 lockout that the Capitals should be contracted -- that's how miserable the Caps were. Today they are one of the best hockey markets in North America; grass-roots hockey has exploded there, both because of Ovechkin. Sure, they need a Stanley Cup to complete the circle of success. I've already predicted that that happens this season -- and it'll be No. 8 leading the way as he has for the past 11 seasons.
Matthew Coller: Looking at Ovechkin vs. Price in terms of how much they are worth to their teams above a replacement player, the Canadiens' goaltender has more value. Taking nothing away from the greatness of Ovi, Price's performance already has been worth 13 more goals saved than an average goaltender -- a great number for a full season. If the Capitals replaced Ovechkin with another top-line winger who also played the entire power play, that player wouldn't score 50-60 goals, but he also probably wouldn't be worth the 25-30 more goals by season's end that Price would be over an average netminder.
Corey Pronman: You could ask this question annually over the past few seasons and get different answers. Generally, I prefer the elite forward over the elite goalie any day of the week when we're talking MVP, given that the former is typically more consistent year to year and thus you have more confidence in the talent assessment. However, Ovi has dipped a bit. His shot rate has dropped off dramatically relative to his typical off-the-charts standards, and with that, his goal rate (although his assist rate is steady). His Corsi relative to his Capitals teammates is under his team's average for first time since 2013. I think you can reasonably argue that Ovechkin, who is now on the other side of 30, is not a top-three or a top-five forward in the league right now. You can't do that for Price in goal. For that reason, I prefer Price.