Four Goaltenders, One Net

By JD Lagrange – Remember the old saying? Quantity is never a substitute for quality. Well, the Montreal Canadiens used to be thin in quantity when it came to NHL goaltenders. But they didn’t lack quality.

When you have Carey Price as your starter, you have one of the best in the game and when they got Jake Allen to back him up, the Habs thought that they were set in goal for a while. That was before the world came crashing down on Price… and we know the rest.

TVA Sports journalist Anthony Martineau recently tweeted (can we still say that?) having information to the effect that the Canadiens are “open for business” when it comes to their goaltenders. The team hasn’t made a decision yet, but they are attentively listening and it seems like they’re looking for the option that would bring them the most in return. 

That should come as no surprise for a couple of reasons. For one, they have four goaltenders who will need to clear waivers if sent to the AHL. The second reason is that none of them is a proven starter at the NHL level… yet.

Jake Allen

Too many fans seem to have forgotten that Allen was acquired to back up Price. That he was forced into this starter role and they are now judging his performances as a starter. They also make the mistake of thinking that because his numbers as a starter are not up to par, he is not a capable back up. They are wrong! He had an injury-filled season, sitting in a chair that wasn’t his.

Jake is entering the first year of a two-year contract extension. An extension that he signed with current GM Kent Hughes. And as we’ve seen a few times already, Hughes does good by his players. For that reason, I find unlikely (although possible) that he trades him. And that, in spite of many fans wanting to see that happening.

Samuel Montembeault

Ah, the new fan favourite to many in the media and in the fan base. Montembeault has been a good (not great) waivers pick up from the Florida Panthers. Some people look at this performance at the World Championships, a B or C level tournament, and act like he’s won the Olympics. It’s not the case folks. A couple of tournaments ago, Joel Armia was a dominant forward at that tournament, remember?

Monty isn’t young either. He turns 27 in October. This is the “make or break” season for him. All the pressure is on him to establish himself. Some seen him as a starter, many of us see a career back up in him. He is entering the final year of his contract and he is scheduled to become a UFA at the end of the season.

Casey DeSmith

Acquired in the Erik Karlsson deal, which saw Mike Hoffman and Rem Pitlick find new homes, DeSmith is a veteran goaltender who has never been able to secure a starter’s position in the NHL. He only has 31 more games under his belt than Montembeault, although with better numbers. But he was on a better team too.

In his press conference earlier this week, Hughes mentioned that DeSmith wouldn’t be sent to Laval. This leaves two options: he stays in Montreal or he’s being traded. Don’t expect much in return if the Canadiens send him packing again though.

“I’m told that Casey DeSmith and his girlfriend live through a lot of anxiety right now. She will be giving birth in the next hours/days and is still in Pittsburgh. The goaltender is waiting to know under which circumstances he will have to move his young family.”

Cayden Primeau

The Canadiens’ prospect just turned 24 on August 11th. Considering that fans are willing to give 27 year-old Montembeault all the slack, it is mind boggling to see how many have given up on a goalie prospects who was 23 the last time he played. Most goalies don’t have their break out season until they turn 25-26. Unless he’s involved in a deal to get an improvement in net or picked off waivers, Primeau should be in the Habs’ organisation this upcoming season.

Questioned about his starting goaltender last season, Laval Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle was asked if Primeau is NHL-ready. He told TSN 690:

“I’d like to think so”, said Houle. “He’s been in the AHL for three years. He had a really good run in the playoffs two years ago. He also had a good run to make the playoffs with us last year. I think Cayden knows, he needs to be a bit more consistent and string more better games in a row. He’s proven that he can play at a high level. I’m all for a healthy competition and that’s what’s happening in Montreal right now where there’s a lot of good goalies and may the best ones make it. […] I think he showed some promising steps with the Laval Rocket and I hope that he stays and sticks in Montreal this year.”

For the fan of statistics, here are the four men’s numbers in their career, and last season.

Primeau (NHL)30203.46.8520

The pipeline

Recognizing the team’s lack of depth in goal, Hughes and the Canadiens drafted three goaltenders at the NHL Draft this past June:

  1. Jacob Fowler (3rd rd, #69 overall)
  2. Quentin Miller (4th rd, #128 overall)
  3. Yevgeni Volokhin (5th rd, #144 overall)

These young men are years away from the NHL, if they ever make it. So it’s not going to address a team’s need for a starting goaltender for the immediate future. The Canadiens’ only hope is either for Montembeault to really step up, or for Primeau to show more maturity and consistency.

Here’s what the organizational depth looks like at the time of writing this:

It is important to point out that the Canadiens still don’t have a goalie prospect selected in the first two rounds of the draft. In fact, all but one (Fowler) have been drafted in the fourth round or later. Basically, it’s a roll of the dice, even with a new management group in place. As quantity doesn’t replace quality, Hughes should be looking for a solution outside the organization, to avoid repeating the same mistake the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Edmonton Oilers have made: being ready to contend but unable to find a suitable goaltender.

Habs’ Roster: Too Many Men

By JD Lagrange – Well, here we are on July 8th. As a Canadiens’ fan, it’s been a rather underwhelming off-season thus far. It’s particularly true when considering that for a second season in a row, the team was eliminated from playoffs’ contention not too long after we had to put the Christmas tree away.

For one thing, many fans felt cheated when Carey Price attempted to remember David… David… Reinbacher as the fifth overall pick. Truth being that few fans knew much about him and, like a year ago with Shane Wright, many fans had their sights and hopes on the controversial Russian Matvei Michkov. Now that we’ve gotten to know Reinbacher more, most fans are okay with the decision.

Where many fans are hung up, particularly that most fans are okay with the rebuild, is with the lack of trades, and even buyouts. The Canadiens paid a hefty price to acquire Alex Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche and, at the time of writing this, he has yet to put his name on a new contract. And Joel Edmundson has found a new home in the US Capital, joining Alex Ovechkin’s group.

Further, as explained yesterday by my colleague Bob Trask, the Canadiens’ cap situation is not ideal for a team in a rebuilding mode. Losing Edmundson only freed up $1.75 million as they kept 50% of his $3.5 million.

Too many men

There is still time, and many players haven’t found new homes around the NHL and in order to accommodate some of these players, teams will have to do some salary cap gymnastic. But the Canadiens’ numbers, both in salary cap and in amount of NHL bodies, is far from ideal. You have overpaid, under-producing veterans blocking the way to young, hungry and NHL-ready prospects.

Pay no attention to the line combination as the purpose of this exercise, presenting it this way, is simply more impactful visually than dressing a list, to show the surplus of players available. The asterisks are players that DO NOT have to go through waivers. Everyone else does need to clear before being sent to Laval.


There are legitimately at least 19 forwards who have shown that can play at the NHL level, some of them obviously having shown more than others.

Cole CaufieldNick SuzukiKirby Dach
Alex NewhookSean MonahanJosh Anderson
*Juraj SlafkovskyChristian DvorakBrendan Gallagher
Mike HoffmanJake EvansJoel Armia
*Rafaël Harvey-Pinard / Rem Pitlick / Michael Pezzetta
*Emil Heineman / Lias Andersson / Jesse Ylönen / *Owen Beck

And that doesn’t include a situation if youngsters like Joshua Roy, Sean Farrell, Lucas Condotta or others who might impress at camp.


  • If the Canadiens felt like then 18 year-old Slafkovsky was better served developing at the NHL level a year ago, and refused to send him to the World Junior Championships, what are the odds that they will feel like he should go to Laval when he’s a year older, and more mature?
  • Harvey-Pinard has clearly proven that he is not only NHL-ready, but that he can contribute to the team at that level.
  • According to Rocket’s coach Jean-François Houle, Heineman is very close to being NHL-ready. Of course, he will have to prove that at training camp but he had a great camp a year ago. What if he does again this year?
  • While I understand not buying out Armia because he has two years left to his contract, I strongly believe that the Canadiens missed the boat by not buying out Hoffman (they had until June 30th to do so). If they can’t trade him, he will be taking a spot and valuable ice away from a more deserving youngster.


The picture on defense has become clearer when veteran Joel Edmundson was traded to the Washington Capitals a few days ago.

Mike Matheson – *Justin Barron
*Kaiden GuhleDavid Savard
*Arber Xhekaj – *Jordan Harris
Chris WidemanJohnathan Kovacevic


  • At first glace, that’s not a defense that will bring a lot of protection for a goaltender. Young guys should continue their progression but with it, will come mistakes.
  • Basically, the Canadiens could chose to go with eight defensemen but that would simply compound the issue at forward, needing to cut one more skater up front. As it stands right now, I could see a rotation between Xhekaj, Harris, Wideman and Kovacevic.
  • In my humble opinion, Matt Dumba would have been a good pick-up (at the right price) as a UFA. As a stop gap while Mailloux develops in Laval, Dumba is right-handed, is a good skater, is physical and has a cannon of a shot, which the Canadiens could use for the power play. At the time of writing this, he still has not signed with anyone yet.


Contrarily to many Habs’ fans, I am not sold (yet) on Montembeault as a starter and we know that Allen is a quality backup, but not a starting goaltender. In my opinion, in spite of drafting a few goaltenders (a few years away from the NHL), Hughes also missed an occasion to improve the situation between the pipes.

Jake Allen
Samuel Montembeault
Cayden Primeau


Unless a trade occurs involving a goaltender, one of them will have to be sent down to Laval and the most likely candidate is, of course, Primeau. While I personally doubt that he would be claimed when sent down from camp, it is always a risk and one that the Canadiens can’t really afford, from a position of weakness.


There is clearly too many men on the ice for the Canadiens, too many players who can play in the NHL. Kent Hughes has a couple of contracts to negotiate with Newhook and Ylönen, but he has a lot more work to do before he can take the month of August to recharge before what promises to be a very competitive training camp for the Canadiens. He definitely has his work cut out for himself… but there is still time to do it.