The Montreal Canadiens three-goalie strategy may pay off in the end, as the market is finally looks to be opening up.
It almost seemed like a laughable, unimaginable situation to start the season, but the Canadiens held strong and kept all three of Samuel Montembeault, Jake Allen and Cayden Primeau on the main roster to start the season.
The Montreal Canadiens owe much of their early season success to the strong work of their goaltending trio; especially Montembeault and Allen, who find themselves yet again surpassing expectations this season. It’s one of the main reasons why bookies like FanDuel and CasinosIN have had trouble pinning down their projections on the Canadiens all season, and it’s a good problem to have given the current goalie market.
It’s a goalie market that remained cold for much of the summer, but is finally starting to open up.
Canadiens Goaltender Strategy
With a handful of teams having already expressed trade interest in Cayden Primeau, Montreal Canadiens GM Kent Hughes was reluctant to place his young goaltender on waivers, as he would likely have lost him for nothing.
Losing Primeau for nothing would also prove problematic for the Canadiens, as Montembeault is on the final year of his contract. It may solve the logjam and free up a roster spot in the short term, but it would put Montreal in a peculiar negotiating position without a viable alternative for the club if they couldn’t reach a deal with Montembeault, giving the 27-year-old goaltender all the leverage he needed to make a deal.
Then there’s the case of Jake Allen who has also garnered interest from rival clubs, most notably in the Western Conference dating back to the summer, but his $3.85M may require some creativity to fit under a contender’s salary structure. With teams currently feeling out their goaltending duos, the Canadiens have the luxury of time to be able to figure out the process and make a deal where necessary.
However, playing three goalies at the NHL level for the next little while will only help to further showcase the Canadiens’ assets, while clubs like the Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild continue to be sunk by bad goaltending.
As we start to approach American Thanksgiving, there is an expectation that certain underwhelming clubs will look for quick upgrades in goal as they look to keep pace with a very unpredictable NHL standings race at the moment.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens seem hard at work in covering their own bases.
Covering Their Bases
When it comes to goaltending, handing out big contracts for small sample sizes have burned teams in the past; and it’s something the Canadiens said they weren’t willing to do.
Despite concerns regarding the lack of an extension for Samuel Montembeault, Canadiens management felt comfortable going into the season and gaining more data on Montembeault before formally starting contracts talks.
After a month of play it seems the Canadiens have been convinced and are looking to extend the Quebec native to an extension in the not-so-distant future. NHL insider Elliotte Friedman shed some light on the subject this past Saturday night, indicating that talks had begun between both camps.
“I do think Montreal is taking a real run at getting Samuel Montembeault signed,” said Friedman on Saturday evening. “He’s one of the best this year at goals saved above expected, according to Money Puck. I think they are trying to close something with him.”
Friedman went deeper into the subject on the most recent episode of 32 Thoughts, as he tied the potential for a Montembeault extension directly to the resolution in goal for the Canadiens.
“Montreal would like to solve this three-goalie issues. One of the ways they believe that they can proceed with solving it is Montembeault staying.” said Friedman. “It would provide them with more certainty because if they keep Montembeault, they can then decide what they want to do with the other two, whether they keep Primeau or Allen ”
Given Montembeault being on the last year of a deal worth $1M per annum, he would make an extremely interesting trade chip if ever he hit the market, but signing him also affords the Canadiens the assurances needed to either move Allen or Primeau if the offer is right.
It’s an interesting way to weigh the pros and cons of the market, as, if Montembeault’s salary demands are deemed to steep – which we have no reason to believe they are at this junction – then the club can always pivot and look to maximize his value before losing him for nothing to free agency.
Either way, what was once thought as a crutch for the Canadiens has quickly become a shrewd move.