Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes is staring at an extensive to-do list this offseason. There are lots of holes to fill in the lineup at virtually every position. One aspect of the depth chart he doesn’t need to tweak, at least not this summer, is goaltending.
Considering they are in the early stages of their roster transformation, the Habs should roll with the same goalies in 2022-23 who were between the pipes this season, both in Montreal and with the Rocket in Laval, regardless of Carey Price’s status going forward.
Allen and Montembeault Can Do the Job
While Price’s precarious future creates obvious salary cap headaches that will keep Hughes up at night because it will impact the flexibility he has to improve the team in other areas, if his franchise player is unable to play next season for extended periods, Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault can form an adequate duo in net for a Habs team that has no intentions of contending just yet.
After missing significant time this year due to injuries, Allen’s health will be of great importance if he will be relied upon to make a difference and assume the number one role next season. Many think the Canadiens should put Allen on the trade market in the offseason given how many teams will be looking for goaltending help. Unless they get an offer they can’t refuse, he is more valuable to them as a member of the organization right now. If they are out of the playoff picture at the Trade Deadline, they can explore moving the pending unrestricted free agent for future assets, especially if he rediscovers his form.
Montembeault has earned another contract with Montreal after being claimed off waivers this season and he’ll provide some needed depth at the goalie position on a low cap hit if Price is sidelined. He can backup Allen or help Cayden Primeau carry the load in Laval. Given Primeau’s stellar performance in the Calder Cup playoffs, he’s on the cusp of seeing more steady NHL action soon even if more seasoning in Laval remains ideal for his development.
Head coach Martin St. Louis and his staff will have the summer to implement an improved defensive structure which was a significant liability in 2021-22. It will help ease the burden for the goaltenders who faced high danger chances and were left to fend for themselves far too often this year.
External Options Are Limited
It’s premature to identify potential long-term replacements for Price and who will be the next one to take over the net in Montreal. There are too many questions that need answers before the Habs can invest in their goalie of the future and it’s highly likely he comes from the draft anyway.
Whether it’s a young promising netminder or a veteran, the pool of available goalies is thin this offseason on both the trade market and in free agency. Plus, with Allen already in the fold as a leader and a big contributor to the team’s culture, a veteran isn’t needed. It’s even plausible that the 31-year-old is brought back beyond next season to help with the transition in net.
Since the Canadiens appear content to be on the outside looking in at the playoff picture again next year, spending assets or precious cap space on goaltending when they already have perfectly capable pieces in place shouldn’t be a priority.
The ideal scenario of course sees a healthier Price return to his rightful place between the pipes for a good chunk of games next season, but even if he doesn’t play regularly, the Habs can be comfortable with Allen and Montembeault as their goalie tandem.
There’s no doubt that a cloud of uncertainty looms large over the Canadiens’ goaltending situation with no resolution in sight. In the face of the unknown, it’s best to lean on the status quo even if it probably won’t move the needle in a meaningful way when it comes to wins and losses.
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Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.