Ah goaltending… as Habs’ fans, we are wired by relying on having that position as a key component for success. Who can blame us? Over the years, Canadiens’ fans have had the luxury of having some of the best in the business, generation after generation. From Vezina to Hainsworth, Dunham, Plante, Worsley to Dryden, then Roy and now Price… Goaltenders have brought more championships to Montreal than anywhere else in the NHL.
But this season, with Carey Price not having played a single game all year and no plan for him to return anytime soon has exposed some problems. And if you combine that with Jake Allen having missed almost half the season to injuries himself, goaltending has been one of the issues justifying the poor season the team is having. The Canadiens have used five goaltenders so far this season… and none of them is Price. They even had to trade for a guy who hadn’t played a single NHL game in four years in Andrew Hammond! And now, Price, Allen and Hammond are on the shelf, leaving the net to Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau.
What makes things extremely difficult for Kent Hughes and the Canadiens is that they have $10.5 million reasons to be worried. No one, including Price himself, knows if or when the All-Star goaltender will be back playing. In fact, while his goal is to return and he works with that as a source of motivation, there is no guarantee that he will be able to. And because of that, the Canadiens cannot count on him for returning, nor can they plan to replace him. That’s a lot of cap that they have sitting in limbo.
Jake Allen’s case is different. It’s more a matter of bad luck in his case. Earlier this season, he missed games because he was rammed into his net, causing a head/neck injury. He is currently out with what was described as a “lower body” injury, which appeared to be a groin. While this takes time to heal (particularly for goaltenders), it usually does, so he should be back. He has one year left to his contract at $2.875 million cap hit.
Earlier this season, while Marc Bergevin was still the GM, it was rumoured that the Canadiens were interested in Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo. More recently, Kent Hughes and the Habs were apparently looking at Ilya Samsonov in Washington.
What’s interesting in the Samsonov rumours is that in other rumours, the Capitals are apparently one of the many teams interested in Canadiens’ left winger Artturi Lehkonen.
Lehkonen for Samsonov swap?
Lehkonen is on the last year of a contract with a $2.3 million cap hit. He is a pending Restricted Free Agent (RFA) with arbitration rights at the end of the season, one year removed from being UFA eligible. Third on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 25 points, the 26 year-old is having his best season since his rookie year.
Samsonov is 25 years old and he is also a pending RFA with arbitration rights, making $2 million this season. In 32 games this season, he has a record of 17-9-3 with a 2.93 goals against average and a saves percentage of .901. The Capitals first round pick in 2015 (22nd overall) has yet to perform up to expectations but as we’ve shown in a previous article on Cayden Primeau, goaltenders often take longer to reach their peak.
NHL Insider Frank Seravalli has mentioned that Lehkonen might be this year’s version of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. Both have fetched a first round pick and a good prospect at trade deadline. So if the Capitals are willing to sweeten the deal a bit, perhaps getting Samsonov and a pick/prospect would be a very good return for Lehkonen. This would address a need for the Canadiens as well, who are deep on the wing but while they have good goaltending prospects, none are ready to step up in the NHL.
While losing a player polyvalent like Lehkonen would hurt, acquiring a goaltender like Samsonov with good upside adds to the quality depth in goal. Further, it would be a great insurance policy for the Canadiens no matter what happens with Price.
If Price comes back in good health, Hughes could easily trade Allen. If Price doesn’t come back, you then have a duo of Samsonov and Allen. With an improved and more mobile defense, this might not be a bad situation to be in.
Potential Destinations – Goaltending & Defense by Bob Trask