The Post-Price Era continues in Montreal as the Canadiens look for their next franchise goalie. But it’s possible he’s already on the roster. Is Sam Montembeault in net the answer for the Habs?
Who Will Be the Habs’ Next Long-Term Goalie?
A third-round pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2015 NHL draft, Montembeault is still not quite 27 years old. The Becancour, QC native has posted fairly pedestrian numbers in his time in both the AHL and the NHL. Prior to arriving in Montreal, he had posted a save percentage over .900 only once, and that was in an 11-game stint with Springfield of the AHL.
When the Panthers took goalie Spencer Knight 13th overall in the 2019 draft, Montembeault had to know he was likely to be on the move eventually. After spending all of 2021 in the AHL with Syracuse (GAA 2.86, Sv% .898), he was put on waivers. Montreal claimed him on October 2, 2021.
Through two seasons in Montreal, he’s posted a GAA of 3.59 and .895 save percentage. (Keep in mind, the team in front of him both seasons was atrocious defensively and not much better offensively). In July of 2022, Montembeault signed a two-year deal with Montreal for a very reasonable $1 million/year. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. That begs the question: is Montembeault in net the answer? Should the Habs pony up to keep him around? And what might it cost?
Showing Him the Money
In terms of comparable goalies, the numbers vary widely. Edmonton’s Jack Campbell, whose numbers in 2022-23 were similar to Montembeault’s, is earning $5 million per year until 2027. Like Montembeault, he played roughly half of the team’s games. But Campbell has been in the NHL quite a bit longer and is already 31 years old. Anton Forsberg, in Ottawa, is another guy who put up similar numbers last season, but he’s also 31 already and missed a big chunk of 2022-23 due to injury. He’s making $2.75 million for this season and next before becoming UFA.
Buffalo’s Eric Comrie and Washington’s Charlie Lindgren (formerly a Montreal prospect) might be better comparables. Both are in their late twenties and put up stats slightly worse than Montembeault’s. They played 19 and 31 games respectively, to Montembeault’s 40. Comrie is earning $1.8 million this season and will be a UFA on July 1st; Lindgren is signed for this season and next at $1.1 million. Judging by those contracts, Montembeault could come in somewhere between $2 and $2.5 million, give or take.
So is Montembeault the Answer? Well… maybe.
The answer is a big wait-and-see. Montembeault’s numbers did tick up slightly last season, and if they do so again this year, I’d be open to the idea of keeping him. The monkey wrench in all of this is Cayden Primeau, Montreal’s seventh-round pick in 2017. He spent the last four seasons primarily in Laval, the idea being (rightly) that he needed to play, rather than be a backup. Primeau signed a three-year deal last September and will be a restricted free agent when it expires. His play in the NHL has been underwhelming, to say the least, but the sample size is still quite small. He’s put up good numbers at both the NCAA and AHL levels. Presumably, the team wants to keep him around at least in the short- to medium-term. Where does he fit in this year, given that Jake Allen is also under contract through the 2023-24 season?
Allen is someone who could generate interest at the trade deadline, clearing a path for Primeau, and be a reliable backup or 1b in the meantime. But whatever happens with the three of them, the Montreal net should be Montembeault’s to lose this season.
Main Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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