When Sam Montembeault made his NHL debut in 2018-19, there was a lot of promise surrounding the then-22-year-old. He started 10 games down the stretch for the Florida Panthers, going 4-3-2 with a .894 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.04 goals-against average (GAA). He closed out the season with an overtime loss to the New York Islanders, making 35 saves and only allowing one goal.
While those numbers aren’t the greatest, he showed flashes of becoming a solid contributor at the NHL level throughout his first stint in the NHL. Now 24 years old, he finds himself stuck in the American Hockey League (AHL), which begs the question: what happened to Montembeault, and what’s next for him?
What Happened to Sam Montembeault?
The following season, Montembeault started the season as the Panthers’ backup goaltender behind Sergei Bobrovsky and went 5-5-1 with a 3.34 GAA and a .890 SV% before being sent down to the AHL in favor of Chris Driedger, who took the opportunity and ran with it. Going 7-2-1 with a .938 SV% and a 2.05 GAA, Driedger firmly secured himself as the backup goaltender, and the rest was history.
During the shortened 2020-21 season, he played 13 games with the Syracuse Crunch, sharing time with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goaltending depth due to the Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, opting out of the 2020-21 AHL season. He went 8-4-1 with a .898 SV% and a 2.86 GAA.
While he was in the AHL, Spencer Knight came over from Boston College following the conclusion of the NCAA season. He was dominant as soon as he entered the NHL, going 4-0-0 with a .919 SV% and a 2.32 GAA. When Bobrovsky and Dreidger both struggled in the playoffs, the 20-year-old got an opportunity in their first round series against the Lightning and ran with it, going 1-1-0 with a .933 SV% and a 2.07 GAA. That sealed Montembeault’s fate for the 2021-22 season, even with Driedger being selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
Montembeault signed a one-year deal with the Panthers during the offseason, but him even finishing up that contract with Florida is unknown. This begs the question: what’s next for him?
What Montembeault’s Future Holds
As of right now, Montembeault is set to be the starting goaltender of the Checkers alongside Chris Gibson, who the Panthers signed during the offseason. With a few goaltender needy teams still out there, Montembeault does have a shot at being traded.
The Panthers are looking for a left-handed defenseman at the moment, with Gustav Forsling and Markus Nutivarra being the only left-handed NHL regulars returning from last season. At 24 years of age, Montembeault still has some trade value that could entice a team to take a chance on him and possibly let him see NHL time this season.
A team that comes to mind is the Anaheim Ducks, who lost backup goaltender Ryan Miller to retirement this offseason. The Ducks have Hampus Lindholm, a left-handed defenseman on an expiring contract, who the Panthers may be interested in. If Montembeault were to get traded to Anaheim, he would be in a battle for that backup job with Anthony Stolarz.
It would be an uphill battle for Montembeault, as Stolarz did have a 4-3-0 record with a .926 SV% and a 2.20 GAA, but his sample size is just as small as Montembeault’s. If Stolarz slips, Montembeault can take the opportunity and run with it.
Another team that could give Montembeault a chance is the Buffalo Sabres, who are currently rolling out a goaltender tandem of Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell. It could be a low risk move for them to ship off a defenseman like pending free agent Robert Hagg, who they acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers this offseason, for a package that includes Montembeault at the deadline to give him a chance.
Montembeault still has the chance to be effective at the NHL level, but with the way things are right now, it looks like it won’t be in Florida.
Colby Guy is a writer for the Florida Panthers department here at THW. He’s a senior at Florida Atlantic University and currently serves as a football contributor, social media contributor and photographer for FAU Owls Nest.
Previously, Colby has written for FanSided as a New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators writer. He also served as Editor-In-Chief for FAU’s University Press. You can find him on Twitter at @ColbyDGuy.