Canadiens Commit to Allen, Rebuild with Two-Year Extension

Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen’s new two-year extension is more of an exclamation point on the team’s rebuild, when just a period would have been sufficient. It’s more brute force than pinpoint precision, but it will do.

Related: 5 Signs Canadiens Are in Fact Still Rebuilding in 2022-23

Starting next season once the extension comes into effect, Allen’s cap hit is increasing to $3.85 million (from $2.875 million), which is fine. The problem is he hasn’t really done much to warrant a raise. Complete with a modified no-trade clause (NTC), the extension is far from perfect as a result.

To Trade or to Trade Allen

Thankfully, Allen’s NTC is fairly limited in the second season of his deal. Per CapFriendly, Allen’s entitled to a three-team no-trade list, which is manageable for a player the Canadiens would presumably like to trade eventually. After all, interest in Allen was reportedly high around the league this summer, heading into the last season of his current two-year extension.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen – (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Obviously, “eventually” isn’t likely anytime soon, though. Why would it be, with the Canadiens having put Carey Price on long-term injured reserve, potentially never to return? The Habs lack a No. 1 goalie and arguably a legitimate NHL backup, with Samuel Montembeault still having a lot to prove in that regard.

In other words, the Canadiens need goaltending depth in the worst way. In the immediate future, it lets them give Cayden Primeau more time to develop with the Laval Rocket, as the Habs’ top goaltending prospect. Come next season, once Allen’s new extension kicks in, it still gives them a competent body in net, one who’s proven capable of stopping the puck with some consistency.

Allen Is Not Price

That consistency simply isn’t high enough to warrant the modest raise Allen just got, though. When he won the Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy as the Canadiens’ top unsung hero in 2020-21, his stats were mediocre with an 11-12-5 record, 2.68 goals-against average (GAA) and .907 save percentage (SV%). That’s all right, though. Despite the Stanley Cup Final appearance, the regular season was a struggle just to get to the finish line, with the Habs barely making the playoffs in the end.

Last season, Allen went 9-20-4 with a 3.30 GAA and .905 SV%, which are obviously even worse numbers. Again though, considering the record-setting number of man-games lost the Canadiens sustained (including a fair amount to Allen himself) and the eventual last-place finish, little to none of that is on the 32-year-old goalie.

However, the age is an important factor to consider. Based on the quality of the inexperienced defense in front of him for 2022-23 during what is projected to be another losing season, Allen isn’t exactly likely to return anywhere close to the career-best numbers he put up in 2019-20 (as a backup, remember). The likelihood he does with each passing season decreases as he enters his mid-30s. His numbers are likely to get even worse, in other words.

Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

Allen is not Price, who is now 35, the age Allen will be set to hit once his latest deal expires in 2025. At least no one should expect him to be. He’s not a game-breaking goalie based on his career up to this point, so the Canadiens aren’t re-signing him to steal games with any kind of regularity. However, the fact that they’re giving him a raise in the process is a sign they expect more out of him in some respect.

Still No No. 1 Goalie in Canadiens’ System

According to general manager Kent Hughes himself, there’s a distinct lack of a No. 1 goalie in the system (see above tweet), which is a generalization that extends to Allen. The Canadiens simply can’t realistically expect Allen to become a legitimate 1A all of a sudden, when all he’s been through the prime years of his career is a 1B at best. Nevertheless, they’re giving him a raise to effectively be a starter in name only, out of a current lack of alternatives. That’s the only logical conclusion.

Kent Hughes, Montreal Canadiens GM
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes – (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

However, because the Canadiens are rebuilding, their needs for a legitimate starter aren’t exactly immediate in nature. Their biggest need is someone who fits in, who wants to be here, even under dire circumstances. Allen’s entering Year 3 as a Hab. Check. As someone from (relatively) nearby Fredericton, New Brunswick (check), who played junior hockey in Montreal (check), he’s clearly comfortable staying (check), even if it means giving up a shot at another Cup (2019 with the St. Louis Blues) for the next few seasons. Again, hence the raise.

Ultimately, it’s a good fit, but one that’s far from perfect based on the extension itself. It’s as if Hughes kind of forcefully pushed in a puzzle piece instead of seamlessly sliding it in like one would hope. No one should blame him though. At this point, little on the ice is going to be pretty for some time. It makes sense the same would be true of goings-on in the boardroom.

The Allen extension had been rumored for weeks. The reports had been generally welcome, considering the team’s present needs. Even if it’s a little distorted with a misshapen puzzle piece figuring in, the big picture is still what matters. As long as Hughes and company don’t lose sight of it, everything should turn out all right. One less-than-ideal contract won’t make or break it, as long as the player himself is what the Canadiens need. Allen is.

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