Canadiens Set Stage for Rebuild with Reported Allen Extension

Arguably weakest in net on their depth chart, the Montreal Canadiens are taking steps to at least stabilize the position. It doesn’t necessarily mean an improvement though, unless you’re looking a few years down the road, past the point at which goalie Jake Allen’s reported future extension ends.

Obviously, nothing’s set in stone (or ink) yet, but even mere reports Allen could be signing an extension are more than a glimpse into general manager Kent Hughes’ head. With actual news that Carey Price was put on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) and suggestions his career can be over altogether, the Habs need to be thinking about the future in net. At 32 years old, Allen isn’t it.

Allen a 1B Goalie Not 1A

All due respect to the 2021 Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy winner, Allen wouldn’t necessarily qualify as a welcome starter in the present for most NHL teams. What Allen is, is a reliable backup, who was effectively brought on board to keep Price rested. If Price is out of the picture, all due respect to the face of the franchise’s legacy as the Habs goalie with the most career wins, Allen no longer fills that void.

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

However, there is obviously still a huge hole in that the Canadiens need a No. 1 goalie. Based on his history in the role with the St. Louis Blues, Allen won’t make an effective starter, as he historically struggled the more games he played… in his purported prime no less. There is a big “but,” though.

Sign up for our regular 'Habs Newsletter' for all the latest.

Because the Canadiens are rebuilding, the Habs just need a starter, not necessarily an effective one. Put simply, a playoff spot shouldn’t even rank on a list of the top keys to a successful 2022-23 Canadiens season. Even though the Canadiens are poised to roll four lines on offense, the defense is patchwork at best, largely made up of journeyman veterans and inexperienced rookies. So, whichever goalie is in net won’t get much help. That’s why extending Allen makes sense.

Related: Top Canadiens Keys to a Successful 2022-23 Season

Allen insulates the likes of, for example, prospect Cayden Primeau, who just signed an extension himself. It’s not exactly a stretch to say the Canadiens should hold Primeau in higher esteem than Allen, as he’s simply put more so the future of the Habs at 23 than Allen at the literal inverse age.

Canadiens Re-Sign Primeau

No one knows if Primeau pans out at this stage, as his time in the NHL has left something to be desired with a career .874 save percentage in 18 appearances. However, his recent three-round playoff run with the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League certainly is cause to be cautiously optimistic.

Cayden Primeau Gabriel Landeskog,
Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau – (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

All that to say, neither Primeau nor Samuel Montembeault, who still has a lot to prove himself in terms of whether he’s even an NHL-caliber backup, are going to be the solution in the foreseeable future. So, extending Allen to serve as a stop-gap as the Canadiens continue to rebuild is in some ways an ideal solution.

In fact of all the pending unrestricted free agents the Canadiens currently have on the roster, Allen is arguably the likeliest to re-sign. The only question is whether he’ll be comfortable helping to guide the team’s young goalies over what will likely be a hellish few seasons from a defensive and goaltending perspective. If the reports are accurate, he must be, having played junior hockey in Montreal, which is also relatively close to his Fredericton, New Brunswick hometown.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe

Again, if the reports are accurate, Allen would likely be the one playing the lion’s share of starts, which obviously isn’t why the Canadiens signed him to his first extension. Circumstances change, though. They can change again.

Canadiens Banking on Primeau, Allen

Now, there are no guarantees Price stays on LTIR. However, for the Canadiens to re-sign Allen with Primeau waiting in the wings (along with prospects like Frederik Dichow and Jakub Dobes), it speaks to how unlikely it is that Price is coming back in Hughes’ mind.

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

Why keep an aging backup in the fold when the realistic hope is Primeau will be NHL-ready at the 200-AHL-game mark, which he’s rapidly approaching (96 including the playoffs)? Remember, Primeau’s deal is one-way, meaning a) the Canadiens pay him the same salary in the AHL as in the NHL and b) they must envision him sticking with the Habs sooner rather than later as a result.

The only logical deduction is the Canadiens are still willing to bet on Primeau. By hypothetically extending Allen, they’re betting on him too, just in a different way. No on should reasonably expect Allen to be a difference-maker in net, but in the locker room, though?

After a last-place finish, the next few seasons won’t be won or lost in the standings or the crease for the Canadiens, They’re going to be won with how the Habs develop their young players and how they manage their roster and the cap with smart contracts. Obviously, the terms of any hypothetical Allen extension have yet to be determined, but, for what the Canadiens seem to be trying to accomplish, Allen may not be the guy, as he never really has been in his career, but he is the right guy. There is a difference. That’s the difference Allen makes.