The Montreal Canadiens’ star goaltender Carey Price traveled with the team for the first time this season. Speculation is high that he will play sometime within the week. With his pending return, there are also many rumours that management might want to move Price’s contract to free up needed cap space.
This offseason will be an interesting one when it comes to Price. It will all depend on whether or not Canadiens general manager (GM) Kent Hughes and vice president of hockey operations (VPHO) Jeff Gorton want to rebuild or have a fast turnaround. If Price is traded, that begs the question of who will be the Habs goaltender moving forward? Here’s a look at some goalies that could fill the void.
Jake Allen, of course, would be on this list; he is the primary backup and has one year left on his contract. Allen has been the starting goaltender for the Canadiens the past two seasons while Price has faced injury issues; however, Allen has dealt with a few injuries this season. One more year on his contract will give the organization enough time to evaluate prospect Cayden Primeau and give him another year with the Laval Rocket to better prepare him for the NHL. Primeau has had a rough go when playing in the NHL this season and might have lost some confidence.
Allen is the go-to guy, at least for the short term. Primeau will not be ready to step in next season, and Sam Montembault, who has played most of the games with Price and Allen injured this season, has been inconsistent at best and doesn’t look to be in the Canadiens’ future. Since Allen joined the Habs, he has played 64 games with a 20-32-9 recorded .906 save percentage (SV%) and a goals-against average (GAA) of 3.09. Nothing spectacular, but the Canadiens have been dismal this season until new coach Martin St. Louis was hired; they are better but still at the bottom of the league. If they plan to rebuild and need another year to do so, Allen is the best choice. If it’s longer, they could still sign him to a team-friendly deal, as he’s only 31, and two or three more years will give the prospects enough time to develop correctly.
There was a rumour around the trade deadline that the Canadiens were interested in Ilya Samsonov of the Washington Capitals. If this rumour has any legs, then Samsonov could be a great addition to the Canadiens and could easily be their number one guy for years to come. He is only 25 years old and currently makes only $2 million on an expiring restricted free agent (RFA) contract. Samsonov is 22-9-4 with three shutouts, a GAA of 2.93 and SV% of .899; the GAA and SV% are not that great, but they are still on par with the current Habs goaltending situation.
As a pending RFA, the Canadiens would have to trade for his rights or wait for the Capitals to sign him and try to make a trade then. Although his win-loss record is great, his underlying numbers are not, so if the Habs want to trade for him, they could get the best value now and hope that this was just a down season. At 25, he could help the Canadiens for numerous years and give goaltending prospects like Frederik Dichow and Jakob Dobes time to develop properly in the Canadiens’ system. Samsonov could also complement Cayden Primeau when he gets to the NHL, and the Habs can have two goalie tandem as Laval uses with Primeau and Kevin Poulin.
Marc-Andre Fleury is probably the top unrestricted free agent (UFA) next season. He is currently with the Minnesota Wild after starting the season with the Chicago Blackhawks and is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner for a top goalie in the NHL. Fleury has a history of winning and is one of the best goaltenders of this generation. If the Canadiens want to shed Price’s contract and still have a top-level goaltender, Fleury is the way to go. This will also depend on the organization’s direction in a rebuild or a quick turnaround. If it’s a rebuild, Fleury is not needed, but if they want to be a playoff team as soon as possible, he is the best choice.
Fleury would be a strange move because you already have a star goaltender in Price, so why bother? The easy answer is money: Fleury is 37 years old and would only need a two to three-year contract, and he currently makes $7 million. With a new contract at his age, the Canadiens could get him for $5 or $6 million, and they would save $4.5 to $5.5 million on goaltending. This, of course, is only if they can get a team to take Price and the entirety of his contract.
If not, Fleury would not even be worth getting, and they would be better off just keeping Price. Fleury is currently playing great for the Wild, as he is 4-1 with a .925 SV% and 2.44 GAA; his stats with the Blackhawks were 19-21-5 with a .908 SV% and 2.95 GAA. It would be interesting how he would do with the Canadiens. Would he be Chicago Fleury or Minnesota Fleury?
Ville Husso isn’t very well known outside of St.Louis. The young netminder has played his way into the starting role with the St.Louis Blues in only his second full season. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound goaltender is 27 years old and will become a UFA at the end of the season. He is considered a late bloomer, and last season’s numbers were nothing to write home about; he had nine wins and an SV% of .893 in 17 games while backing up Jordan Binnington. However, this season, he got the opportunity to play due to injuries to Bennington, and he took that chance and ran with it. Husso has 23 wins in 36 games with a .925 SV% and a 2.37 GAA, a huge difference from just a season ago and why he is now considered the number one guy in St. Louis.
Husso would be a great addition to the Canadiens’ lineup. Even if Price stays, it will make Allen expendable. The problem would be how much will Husso want on his next contract, especially after the season he’s had. The Habs will have to do their homework here to ensure that they are not overpaying for a one-year wonder; he currently makes $750,000 and will want a significant pay increase. That pay increase will still be a lot lower than Price’s contract, but if he reverts to his numbers from the previous season, anything too high would be an overpay. At 27, Husso will probably want a longer-term deal; he could be looking for up to $4 million and 5-7 years, which could be too high for the Canadiens based on one season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltending has been interesting to watch this season. At the start of the season, their number one netminder Jack Campbell was lights out, but he has been anything but lights out since Christmas. Campbell had a stretch of two months where he struggled mightily, which could be due to a rib injury he was trying to play through. Since his return, he has only been mediocre at best, leaving the Leafs wondering if they should’ve upgraded their goaltending for a long playoff push.
Campbell is a UFA at the end of the season, and it will be interesting to see what type of contract he receives. Before the All-Star game, his numbers were Vezina worthy, with 21 wins in 32 games, .925 SV%, and a GAA of 2.30. Since then, his 12 games have been awful, with an SV% of .878 and a GAA of 3.86. His slump started way before the all-star break. His lowest monthly GAA since December is 3.42, and his highest SV% is .894, both in February.
Now, this sounds like it would be an awful idea to sign Campbell, but you need to consider what direction the Canadiens are going. If they are rebuilding, Campbell could be a good fit, and if you get pre-Christmas Campbell, you hit the jackpot. If you get Campbell now, you lose nothing because your team isn’t contending for the playoffs anyway. Cambell would be a low-risk, high reward signing and much cheaper than Price.
Having said all this and given the top five candidates to replace Price in the offseason, you have to take into account the many factors of trading Price. Price has full control over whether he moves or not because of his no-move clause (NMC), so if he wants to stay, then he will stay. His contract also is a big thing to consider; if he does want to be moved, he will want to go top a contending team. Most contending teams don’t have the cap space for a $10.5 million goalie, so the Canadiens will have to retain some salary or take on a bad deal in his place.
If the Canadiens have to retain money, Fleury is out of the picture, and they might as well keep Price — unless it’s Price’s wish. If the Habs want to have a quick turnaround, they also might as well keep Price. He is only 35, and if he can play as well as he did in the playoff injured, imagine what he can do fully healed?
Trege Wilson has been a freelance content writer for the past four years and with the THW for the past year. He is the co-host of the popular Montreal Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered on IHeartRadio.com.Trege is very passionate about all things Canadiens and loves to provide his readers with great quality news, rumours and opinions on the Montreal Canadiens. Trege has also been featured on JblamSports and JDFSports Podcasts; for interviews and guest appearances, you can contact him at any of his social media accounts listed under his photo in such articles as this one.