The Canadiens are facing a roster crunch between the pipes after they picked up goaltender Casey DeSmith from Pittsburgh as part of their facilitation of the Erik Karlsson trade last month. Back when he spoke following Montreal’s move of Jeff Petry to Detroit, GM Kent Hughes indicated that he wasn’t sure if he’d be moving DeSmith or one of their other netminders.
It appears that the decision has now been made. Jonathan Bernier of the Journal de Montreal reports that there was an expectation within the front office that DeSmith would have been flipped by now, likely within a few days of the Petry swap. Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet.
The 32-year-old is coming off a bit of a down season with the Penguins, one that saw him post a 3.17 GAA (the highest of his career) along with a .905 SV% (the lowest of his career) in 38 games. However, over his five NHL seasons, DeSmith has shown himself to be an effective backup for the most part.
It isn’t as if DeSmith’s contract is overly problematic in itself either. A $1.8MM cap hit for a capable second-string netminder certainly isn’t an overpayment by any means. However, most teams have their tandems in place already and those that could benefit from an upgrade don’t have the cap space to afford him. The Canadiens have already used two of their three retention slots (on Petry and Joel Edmundson) so paying down DeSmith’s cost to make a trade happen doesn’t seem like a viable option for them at the moment.
Accordingly, Bernier wonders if Montreal might consider carrying DeSmith alongside holdovers Samuel Montembeault and Jake Allen to start the season. The Canadiens only have two road trips of more than a game over the first two months of the year, meaning they can get away with stashing an extra skater in the minors if need be. In theory, that would allow a market to potentially develop if an injury or two arises or someone struggles out of the gate.
Even so, it’s not as if Hughes is going to be in a strong spot to deal from. When Pittsburgh signed both Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg this summer after re-signing Tristan Jarry, it was evident that DeSmith would be available. Fast-forward to two months later and while he’s in another organization, he’s now clearly still available. Teams won’t be making significant offers for someone in that situation so even if the Canadiens can find a taker for DeSmith (now or in-season), the return isn’t likely to be particularly strong. At least at this point, they now know which netminder they intend to move.