Many would like to see the Montreal Canadiens trade for another goaltender this summer, but moving a goalie first might be the better move.
General manager Kent Hughes has been outspoken about the play of Samuel Montembeault and his place in the long-term plans for the Canadiens.
After Montembeault put on an impressive performance for the team in the second half of the season and stood out in a big way at the IIHF World Championships, the club could want to evaluate what they truly have before looking elsewhere.
With one year left on his deal, the 26-year-old will look to prove that he can be the team’s No.1 goaltender of the future. Meanwhile, the Canadiens now also have Jake Allen, Cayden Primeau and Jakub Dobes signed for next season, adding to the puzzle for next season.
Goaltenders are expected to be a hot commodity again this offseason, as teams like the L.A. Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs, amongst others, will look to shore up the vital position to help them find more success in the spring.
The market and the Canadiens’ current contractual situation present the club with an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone.
Two Birds One Stone
After four seasons of being able to freely move Cayden Primeau up and down between the NHL and AHL, he will effectively become waiver-eligible next season.
That means that, if the Montreal Canadiens do decide to go into next season with their current goaltending depth chart, there’s a good chance they could lose Primeau for nothing next fall.
With the lack of young goaltenders across the league, a player like Primeau could be snatched up by one of the Habs’ rivals through waivers; leaving the Canadiens with 21-year-old Jakub Dobes as reinforcements.
If the Canadiens were to run into injury trouble yet again next season, could they truly risk putting their farm team and themselves at risk at such a vital position?
After what they experienced over the last two years, it would be very unlikely.
With Kent Hughes confirming the organization’s desire to uncover the lengths of Montembeault’s potential, it would be safe to assume that the 26-year-old isn’t going anywhere.
That then leaves the team with the choice of Jake Allen, whose new two-year, $3.875M contract kicks in this summer.
The NHL is slowly moving toward a 1A/1B set-up in net to help provide clubs with options in the post-season; as we’ve seen with the likes of the Vegas Golden Knights, Carolina Hurricanes and more.
Having a player like Jake Allen under $4M for two season could be an attractive option for a prospective club; as the veteran goaltender was in high demand last summer.
His play, despite the Canadiens’ young defence, was relatively solid throughout this season until he ran into injury troubles to finish out the year. He and Montembeault were two of the top-15 goaltenders in goals saved above expectation up until February last season, showing that he could be a clutch performing for a more seasoned defence corps.
But Then What?
But if the Montreal Canadiens decide to move Allen, won’t they still be thin at the goaltending position?
Yes, for the moment it would look like that, but it also opens the door for the Canadiens to take on a goaltender from a club desperate to unload a contract in the short-term, akin to what the Philadelphia Flyers did with the L.A. Kings in acquiring Cal Peterson.
Options could be goaltenders like Chris Driedger (Seattle), Matt Murray (Toronto), Marc-André Fleury (Minnesota) who have all fallen out of favour as starting goaltenders and could need to be moved to make additional cap space for their respective clubs.
The clubs would likely offer a sweetener to take on these contracts, which all have a year left on their deals, that could help the Canadiens in their rebuild.
The added benefit here is the added flexibility the Habs would have in putting one of these goaltenders on waivers at the start of the season without having them get claimed (with the exception of Fleury, who is good enough to be claimed, but likely wouldn’t out of respect.).
It would then allow the Canadiens to retain Montembeault and Primeau in the NHL if need be, while keeping one the above goaltenders in Laval with the young Jakub Dobes to help mentor him in his first season in the AHL.
It could be a two-birds-one-stone scenario that could be just the type of move that Kent Hughes could look to maximize his assets and cap space before the start of the season.