When looking around for goaltenders that might be of interest at the trade deadline, one might settle on the Montreal Canadiens. The team gave Cayden Primeau a three-year, one-way contract in the fall that suggested he would soon be installed at the NHL level, but still have Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault taking those spots.
Montembeault, the younger of the two, is only signed through 2023-24, so had drawn some speculation as a potential trade target. The 26-year-old goaltender has been strong for Montreal this year, posting a .912 save percentage in 18 appearances, much better than his older counterpart. Perhaps it is because of that performance that Kent Hughes, speaking with reporters including Eric Engels of Sportsnet, explained that he considers Montembeault a part of the team’s future and will not trade the netminder.
There have been flashes of this before from Montembeault. A third-round pick by the Florida Panthers in 2015, he burst onto the NHL scene a few years later and was impressive. The Panthers went 4-0-1 in his first five appearances, before he eventually went through some rookie struggles. It was the same in 2019-20 when he played 14 times in the NHL, showing ability but no consistency. Last year with the Canadiens, Montembeault was left out to dry many nights, playing behind a team that was destined for the first-overall pick. His .891 save percentage in 38 appearances hides some encouraging development that has carried over to this season.
Now, the question is whether or not Hughes’ comments about Montembeault mean anything specific for Allen, who is set to start a two-year extension next season. He has struggled with injuries this year and has an .892 save percentage (easily the worst of his career) in 27 games. The veteran netminder will turn 33 before the new deal kicks in, and will carry a $3.85MM cap hit through 2024-25.
While Montreal isn’t expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup next year, it’s not like they have plans for a years-long rebuild. Not with some of the young talent that is already in place. That leaves a complicated goaltending situation, especially for next season when Primeau will no longer be waiver-exempt. If Montembeault is part of the long-term solution, it’s not clear how the time share will play out over the next few years, as they transition toward playoff contention once again.