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Canadiens Analysis

The Montreal Canadiens Goaltending Situation In 2023-24



Montreal Canadiens prospect Cayden Primeau

The Montreal Canadiens were hoping to maximize potential returns by keeping three goaltenders on their roster heading into the 2023-24 season.

It was a sound strategy, at least on paper.

Given that he’s in the first year of a two-year contract extension that carries a $3.85 million salary cap hit, the assumption was that veteran goaltender Jake Allen would not garner very much interest around the league.

Samuel Montembeault, armed with a very reasonable $1 million cap hit, would perhaps lure some suitors, though his lack of success throughout his career raised several red flags.

And while Cayden Primeau’s potential would hopefully convince a team to send the Canadiens a trade proposal, it must be said that his stints in the NHL were far from successful.

In essence, Kent Hughes’ used goaltender lot had a few different models available, though they weren’t particularly enticing options for teams looking to improve their goaltending situation.

Fast forward to a month later, and things have changed considerably in terms of expectations versus results.

Updated Canadiens Goaltender Results

Allen hit the ground running, and though he still has the highest cap hit of the three goaltenders, he’s also sporting a very reasonable .910 save percentage.

It’s worth noting that prior to his difficult outing against the Tampa Bay Lightning, in which he allowed four goals on nine shots, he had a .929 save percentage. At the time, his 5.4 goals saved above expected places him third in the league, tied with Boston Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman.

With that in mind, even after the Lightning game, Allen still remains among the top 20 goaltenders in goals saved above expected.

His strong start led to a trade discussion between the Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers, but according to Elliotte Friedman, a deal between both clubs is not imminent.

Montembeault, on the other hand, seems to have found his rhythm after stumbling out of the blocks. He currently .902 save percentage, which is almost identical to the save percentage he produced last season, the best campaign of his young NHL career.

As for Primeau, he showed flashes of brilliance in his first start of the season, versus the high-flying New Jersey Devils.

It wasn’t an ideal situation for the young goaltender, but he did not shy away from the challenge.

“You gotta be ready for anything,” said Primeau. “And you want to play against the best, so it was a good challenge.”

Primeau would go on to earn his first win in almost two years in November when he made 29 saves on 31 shots to beat the Detroit Red Wings on November 9. It wasn’t a masterclass by the young goaltender, but it will surely serve as a much-needed confidence boost.

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Moving Forward

However, there’s one thing that did not change.

Despite several teams around the league losing goaltenders to injuries, including the Oilers, the Lightning, and the Carolina Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens still have three goaltenders in the NHL, creating a rather frustrating situation for all involved.

Goaltenders do not appreciate having to share their net with one colleague, let alone two.

By keeping a three-headed beast in the lineup, the Canadiens are also essentially pressing pause on Primeau’s long-term development, which has been questionable, to say the least.

In addition, it leaves Montembeault with fewer opportunities to prove his performance in 2022-23 was not a fluke.

No one will begrudge Allen for playing well, but from an asset management standpoint, unless Allen puts up Vezina-worthy numbers, it does little good for Kent Hughes in trade negotiations.

Despite his strong play, Allen’s contract remains an albatross that is unlikely to yield a solid return if a team were to seriously enquire as to the availability of the 33-year-old goaltender.

This is not the first time Hughes has painted himself into a corner by trying to maximize asset value on the trade market, and he’s shown a surprising amount of resolve which has led to a few interesting trades.

But in this case, finding a suitable dance partner around the NHL, one that will actually offer a reasonable return could end up being his biggest challenge yet.

All Montreal Canadiens salary cap information via PuckPedia.