By JD Lagrange – What came first? The Chicken, or the egg? The Montreal Canadiens find themselves in a similar dilemma. Is their goaltending bad because of their young defense or does the youth at that position is exposed because of sub-par goaltending? Not an easy question to answer.
Here’s what we do know. Everyone must do their jobs to the best of their abilities. We know that the Canadiens’ defense will be young. And with youth with inevitably come “rookie mistakes”. You cannot have one without the other. Those young defensemen will do their jobs to the best of their abilities – and there is no lack of skills – while the coaching staff, led by Stéphane Robidas, will work on helping them develop and learn from their mistakes. That, we know for sure.
This leaves goaltending. Jake Allen was hired as Carey Price’s backup. He’s found himself in a spot that is not his as the team’s undisputed number one since Price fell to a serious knee injury. So this will be the second season where he will be asked to carry (no pun intended) the load. A true pro, and while he has done fairly well, his entire career has shown that he’s not capable to be a true number one, even less so on a rebuilding team. At best, he’s good in a 1A – 1B situation.
The issue the Canadiens find themselves in today is that neither Samuel Montembeault nor Cayden Primeau are stepping up to prove that they are ready to have any impact at the NHL level. We can use Primeau’s age (23) to justify that he needs another year (or two) in the AHL as the starter, but Montembeault will turn 26 in a few days. If he’s not ready to be a NHL backup today, he may never be.
The Canadiens decided to pass on claiming 36 year-old goaltender Anton Khudobin, placed on waivers by the Dallas Stars yesterday. This is most likely due to in part to his fairly high cap (one year remaining at $3.33 million). But that doesn’t mean that the two teams couldn’t work out of trade where the Stars either keep salary or they could take one of the Canadiens’ bad contracts in return. So stay tuned.
There are also two teams who currently have three veteran goaltenders at camp and unless they trade one of them, they will have to try sneaking one through waivers. Here are their situations:
|VEGAS||Laurent Brossoit||29||2.90||.895||$2.325M (1 yr)|
|Adin Hill||26||2.66||.906||$2.175M (1 yr)|
|Michael Hutchinson||32||*3.23||*.899||$750k (1 yr)|
|SEATTLE||Philipp Grubauer||30||3.16||.889||$5.9M (5 yrs)|
|Chris Driedger||28||2.96||.899||$3.5M (2 yrs)|
|Martin Jones||32||3.42||.900||$2M (1 yr)|
Statistically speaking, none of these guys had an outstanding season last year. But they are veteran goaltenders who have seen plenty of pucks and have the potential of providing an improvement over Montembeault and help for Allen.
For those concerned about Montembeault not clearing waivers, just a reminder that he’s on a one-way, $1 million contract for two years. This means that if a team wants to send him down to the AHL, not only will he have to clear waivers, but not all teams are willing to pay such a goaltender $1 million in the AHL. Further, the following are not stats to worry about losing a goaltender to waivers, are they? At least not this early on.
The Canadiens have another glaring need which was created since Shea Weber didn’t return. It got amplified when Jeff Petry was traded and while 20 year-old Justin Barron is showing promises, he will inevitably spend some time in Laval this season. We’re talking about the need for a quality right-handed defenseman, of course.
Don’t be shocked if the Canadiens pick one off waivers in the coming days. The teams I would certainly keep an eye on are, in alphabetical order:
- Anaheim Ducks
- Arizona Coyotes
- Boston Bruins
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Calgary Flames
- Dallas Stars
- Los Angeles Kings
- Minnesota Wild
- St. Louis Blues
- San Jose Sharks
- Seattle Kraken
- Winnipeg Jets
All of the above-mentioned teams have a surplus of defensemen who must clear waivers, many of them have some right-shooting players in there.
Through trade, I still believe that a trade is possible with the Edmonton Oilers, who are apparently looking for secondary scoring. To me, one that makes a lot of sense, is Tyson Barrie for one of Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov or Jonathan Drouin. The salary is close in all cases, particularly for Hoffman.
On the right side right now, the Oilers have, in addition to Barrie, Cody Ceci and Evan Bouchard. None of them are third pairing defensemen so they would be trading from a position of strength.
So whether what we touched on in this article takes place or not, something will be happening between now and Wednesday, October 12th, when the Canadiens open the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre. Kent Hughes is lurking.