The Montreal Canadiens goalie history is rich. It has become almost a tradition for this club to have a top-tier goaltender. Carey Price, Jose Theodore, Jacques Plantes, Ken Dryden, and Patrick Roy are just some of the many names to come out of the golden age in the Habs’ net. Now, it’s time to look toward the Montreal Canadiens goalie of the future.
Today, the Canadiens find themselves in search of a starting goaltender. The options for the Canadiens are not limited in any sense. Kent Hughes is looking at goaltenders internally, externally, through the draft, by trade, and in free agency.
Montreal Canadiens Goalie Search
While it’s hard to say for sure who Hughes and his crew have their sights set on, we can narrow it down to four major options for the club. So it now begs the question: who is the Habs’ future goaltender?
Exploring the open market for a netminder this year will unfortunately leave Kent Hughes with slim pickings. Although, the Quebec native Tristan Jarry is available. Jarry isn’t particularly young, and his best years seem to be behind him. Free agency isn’t a viable option for the Habs.
2023 NHL Entry Draft
While this year’s draft is known for the offensive upside it will produce, there are some goaltenders many fans have advocated drafting. Two of the many, are Adam Gajan and Tomas Milic. Both of them are very suitable candidates to explore the role of starting goaltender in the future. However, taking the draft route would mean waiting another four or five years to see them even suit up in the NHL.
Thomas Milic is a top goaltender in the upcoming draft. The Canadian netminder had a very impressive 2022-23 season with the Seattle Thunderbirds and u20 team Canada. Whilst Milic is already 20 years old, his performance this past year has earned him interest league-wide, and he won’t fall too far in the draft.
He posted an outstanding record of 27-3-1, coupled with a .928 save percentage in 31 games of regular season action in the WHL. If that wasn’t impressive enough, he even improved his play for the WHL playoffs. He managed to win the Thunderbirds 16 games, dropping only three of 19. Milic posted a .933 save percentage throughout the run. Most notably, Milic was a star in Canada’s world junior gold medal this past January. He went 5-0, posting a .932 save percentage and a 1.76 goals-against average.
Thomas Milic is a great option out of the draft for many reasons. For one, he is projected to go anywhere between the second and fourth rounds. It won’t cost a big pick to draft him. Secondly, he is already 20, meaning he might make the NHL before an 18-year-old goaltender would. Milic is an outstanding option and he has the potential to be the Habs future goaltender.
While trading for goaltenders hasn’t always worked out in the past, it is by far the best option the Canadiens have. There are two main points of interest on the trade market, those being Carter Hart and Devon Levi (I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out). Both of them are very young and would be able to take over in the role as soon as opening night of the 2023-24 season.
Firstly, Devon Levi. There isn’t a doubt that it will cost a pretty penny to pry Devon Levi from the Buffalo Sabres. However, if the Canadiens could get the Winnipeg Jets involved to send Connor Hellebuyck to the Sabres as part of a three-team trade, the Habs will be in business.
This is unquestionably the least realistic candidate the Habs have, but it’s a home run swing at a guy with some of the best numbers the NCAA has ever seen. He posted a .952 save percentage in his first season playing at Northeastern University, and a .933 save percentage in his second year. Levi is a goaltender that has the potential to win Vezina trophies for years to come. This would solely hinge on Buffalo wanting to win-now, or an offer from Montreal that they can’t refuse.
A more likely option for the future Montreal Canadiens goalie spot is Carter Hart. He is the best fit for this role in the entire league. Forget his potential entirely, it would be a good story just based on how he grew up watching Carey Price just like every Habs fan did. Hart came into the league being compared to Carey Price, and now he could have the chance to take his job in Montreal.
In terms of pure hockey, Hart couldn’t be better suited for this. He has struggled slightly in Philadelphia these past couple of seasons, but that shouldn’t worry you in the slightest. Throughout his young career, Hart has posted a .906 save percentage and a 2.96 goals-against average.
On the surface, these numbers don’t look all that impressive. For Hart, you have to dig deeper, because he played for a team that hardly defended for him at all. Hart displayed a very impressive 10.3 goals saved above expected in the 2022-23 campaign, showing just how positive of an impact he can make.
Recent news has surfaced that the Flyers could trade Hart any day now, so expect news on him in the shortcoming. If Kent Hughes sees a trade involving Hart that makes sense, he very well might be the Habs’ future goaltender.
The Montreal Canadiens goalie depth within the organization is questionable, but not without options. Montembeault and Jakub Dobes are both showing promise. Montembeault specifically has shown he is capable at the NHL level this past season, and no doubt will be given an extended look this upcoming season.
Samuel Montembeault is viewed as the fallback plan by many. Here is why he could be more than that. He has genuine starting potential in the NHL, and he displayed just that in his 2022-23 campaign. Montembeault posted a .901 save percentage over 40 games with the Canadiens in 22-23. This number, like Hart’s, needs to be looked further into. Among NHL goaltenders with 40 or more games played, Montembeault had the tenth-highest goals saved above expected with a fantastic 11.8 goals saved above expected.
He’s a fan favourite due to his fast rise in the organization after being claimed off waivers in 2021 from the Florida Panthers. He also gets bonus points for being born and raised in Becancour, Quebec. This guy can be the Habs’ future goaltender if all goes according to plan.
What Should the Canadiens Resort To?
Everybody loves a big trade or signing, but the truth is that the Canadiens should give Samuel Montembeault a chance to take the starting job this upcoming season. He’s still young and he has shown himself to have plenty of talent if given the right opportunity. It’s time the Habs give him that chance, and that’s exactly what Kent Hughes may do.
As for other options, some are long shots, but they are possible. Carter Hart is likely the most plausible acquisition for Canadiens management if they felt the need to acquire a star goaltender, however, the market is big for star-calibre goaltenders right now. If Kent Hughes and his team believe they might have something like that in Montembeault, there is simply no need to sell the farm for a big name.
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