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Montreal Canadiens Facing Goalie Conundrum This Offseason



The Montreal Canadiens are about to be facing a goalie conundrum. 

If Carey Price can return and prove he’s healthy and effective, what will that mean for the Canadiens’ immediate and not so distant future between the pipes? General manager Kent Hughes is still looking to gain some Salary Cap flexibility, and it’s simply unsustainable to have $14M or more locked up in goaltending. So what next?

Should Carey Price Be Asked To Waive His NMC?

On the most recent episode of the Montreal Hockey Now Podcast, RDS journalist Gagnon touched on the big question in the Montreal Canadiens’ immediate future: What do you do with Carey Price? It’s a very complicated question, given Price’s contract, injury history and the players’ own desire to play in Montreal on the long term. Gagnon believes the timing for the club’s young core and Price’s window to compete simply don’t line up.

“I don’t see the Canadiens being a Cup contender in the next two years, but they will get better. At some point, they’ll need the goaltender that Carey Price was and likely won’t be in three years, to get to the next level,” said Gagnon of Price.

Carey Price has been adamant about remaining a member of the Montreal Canadiens, making any potential move very difficult, as the veteran goaltender holds a full No-Movement Clause (NMC) in his contract.

“Being a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens has been my life for over a decade; it’s part of my identity,” explained Price during his most recent press conference on January 30. “Ending the season on such a disappointing note last year, I just want to get back in there and continue playing. And to be able to put that sweater on again is something that is keeping me motivated at this point.”

Once Price has returned to health and played some games, Hughes, Price and the rest of the management team will sit down and decide his future as the Canadiens continue their roster transformation.

Jake Allen Will Be Attractive Trade Piece

Jake Allen has been a serviceable backup who has been asked to be a No. 1 goaltender for over a year now. He’s performed admirably, but if the Canadiens are going to be looking to shed salary, and Price decides to stay, it may be wise to move Allen and replace him with a cheaper backup. 

The improved performances of Samuel Montembeault, who has been able to keep the Montreal Canadiens afloat during Allen’s absences, could certainly sway the decision. TSN Insider Darren Dreger confirmed on the Montreal Hockey Now Podcast that there is significant interest in Jake Allen across the league, and he was a highly sought-after asset leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline.

According to our friends at PuckPedia, Allen has one year left on his contract, valued at $2.875M annually, after this season and would be far easier to fit under a tight Salary Cap structure at this junction of the season than a comparable free-agent goalie. If the Canadiens feel Samuel Montembeault can perform to the same level as Jake Allen on an improved club, they may decide to take the cheaper route in nets at the backup role.

Samuel Montembeault Could Be A Cheap Alternative

Samuel Montembeault was tasked with the impossible this winter and came out of it looking like a winner. Despite playing being a very bad team, he battled every game and stole a few games for the Canadiens during the worst of times this season. With Carey Price set to return imminently, it’s worth pondering on what Montembeault’s future would be for the Montreal Canadiens. He’s more than earned himself another contract in the NHL, be it with the Canadiens or elsewhere, but Montreal would be wise to bring him back in the fold.

Montembeault would not likely command a major raise, if at all, from his current $750,00$ salary. Should the Canadiens keep Carey Price for next season, Montembeault could prove a better value to the Canadiens as a backup than Allen down the line. The 25-year-old has already expressed his desire to stay on with the Montreal Canadiens after his solid performance on Monday against the Winnipeg Jets.

“It’s been a rock and roll season this year. I’ve worked hard to improve, and I hope people across the league have noticed. If I had a choice, I’d prefer to stay here in Montreal” – Samuel Montembeault on his future after this season.

With Montembeault’s performances for the Canadiens of late, it’s certainly worth considering his retention as a backup goaltender. He would likely save the team about $2M in Cap Space if the Canadiens were to opt for him as their backup and seek to maximize Allen’s value on the open market.

The UFA Route For the Montreal Canadiens

If Carey Price is indeed moved this offseason, it would be very unlikely that the Montreal Canadiens would move ahead without a long-term plan. It doesn’t seem like they would return to an Allen-Montembeault tandem and could likely look to trade or UFA route to fill that gap on the long-term.

Ironically, more than one NHL scout has told MHN that there was some scuttlebutt leading into the NHL trade deadline that the when the Montreal Canadiens were scouting the St. Louis Blues and other teams, they weren’t just focused on trade targets but also potential unrestricted free agents. Well, the Blues have a certain goaltender headed for the UFA market that could certainly attract their attention.

St. Louis Blues goalie Ville Husso, who is putting up near Vezina numbers this season has yet to sign an extension with the Blue and talks between Blues general manager Doug Armstrong and the Husso camp have been lukewarm at best. With the Blues likely unable to move Jordan Binnington’s contract and make the necessary Cap moves to provide Husso with the contract he has earned himself this season, the 27-year-old could provide the Montreal Canadiens with a proper and winning stop-gap in net to give prospects Cayden Primeau, Jakub Dobes, Joe Vrbetic and any eventually drafted goaltender more time to develop.

This venture, of course, would be predicated on Husso not necessarily looking to break the bank. There is also Darcy Kuemper out in Colorado, who will be a free agent of interest, and at least 2-to-3 other options to play the #1 goaltender role, at least for the time being.

That being said, any movement in the goaltender depth chart will have to start with Carey Price. His health and decision to stay with the Canadiens or move on will dictate the goalie market and the Montreal Canadiens’ roster moves leading up to next season.