May 17, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers left wing Rick Nash (61) (not pictured) scores a goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj (30) during the third period in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Dustin Tokarski's Playoff Means Peter Budaj Has Played His Last Game With Montreal Canadiens


Peter Budaj has performed admirably as the backup goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens over the past three seasons. However, when Carey Price was injured in the opening game of the Eastern Conference Final, head coach Michel Therrien elected to go with Dustin Tokarski the rest of the way.

Tokarski was the starting goaltender for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League all season, and though he has a lengthy resume of winning at every level below the NHL. However, it was a bit of a surprise to see Budaj in his usual spot at the end of the bench when a 24 year old with only a handful of NHL games was starting in the Stanley Cup semi-final series.

May 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski (35) makes a save during the third period in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The young netminder played exceptionally well, winning a pair of games but ultimately falling to the New York Rangers in a hard fought six game series.

Budaj has been solid in his three seasons with the Habs, and has another year left on his contract at 1.4 million dollars. The Slovakian netminder is 23-16-9 in spot duty with Montreal, and his easy going attitude and willingness to accept his role have made him very popular with him teammates.

However, Tokarski recently signed a two year extension and would have to pass through waivers to return to Hamilton next season. You have to think after his stellar postseason performance that a team like the Calgary Flames or Buffalo Sabres would grab him for free and give him a chance to play.

With Price still firmly entrenched as the obvious number one guy, the Habs have to trade or send down either Budaj or Tokarski. The Canadiens could expose Tokarski to waivers and lose him for nothing, but you have to think they will be more wise and shop a goaltender this offseason.

Neither goaltender would fetch a hefty return on their own, but getting something is better than getting nothing for them. The decision becomes, do you keep the veteran Budaj who has proven to be great at starting a game when needed? Or, do you hang on to Tokarski, knowing with Price starting, and Zach Fucale in the pipeline, he is unlikely to ever be the starter on the team?

May 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens goalie Dustin Tokarski (35) makes a save on a shot by New York Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (not pictured) during the second period in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With players such as P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Lars Eller and Brian Gionta needing new contracts, and other holes to fill on the team, deciding on a backup goaltender is admittedly not the biggest task on general manager Marc Bergevin’s to do list. However, it is an intriguing decision nonetheless, and one that I think will see Budaj shipping out of town.

The Canadiens are lucky to have Carey Price as their starter and only need a backup who can handle about 20 starts per season. Budaj has proven to be able to do this, and I have no doubt that Tokarski could handle the role as well. The difference is your backup has to be a goaltender you can rely on if Price goes down with an injury. Who did the Habs go with in the Eastern Conference Final when Price was injured? Tokarski, and he is the same guy they will go with next season as their backup.

May 17, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Rangers right wing Martin St. Louis (26) misses a chance to score a goal against Montreal Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj (30) during the third period in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

I predict Budaj will be dealt, and soon for a late round draft pick to a team that barely missed the postseason last year and don’t have a solid number two option. Perhaps that is the Dallas Stars, Washington Capitals or Phoenix Coyotes, but there is definitely a market for a proven solid backup like Budaj.

This move would also save the Habs nearly one million in cap space, as Tokarski is set to earn just $562,000 compared to Budaj’s $1,400,000. With so many great players to re-sign and other free agents to chase, an extra million dollars could go a long way this offseason.

It won’t be Marc Bergevin’s biggest move of the offseason, in fact it will go mostly unnoticed by people who are not Habs fans, but Peter Budaj’s shellacking in relief of Price in Game 1 against the Rangers, was his last appearance as a Montreal Canadien.

Tags: Dustin Tokarski Montreal Canadiens Peter Budaj

  • Biffle McKim

    Woe to you! Montreal went down this path a few years ago. Price must play 55-60 games a season to be effective. Budaj is under a cap friendly contract for 2014-15. Furcale should be ready to take over the #2 role after that. Trading Takarski should be the route to take. He’ll fetch picks or a top-6 winger…

    • Kenny MacMillan

      If Tokarski would fetch a top 6 winger I would agree, but no one is going to offer a second line player for him right now.

    • Bert1

      Their names are spelled Tokarski and Fucale. As for the article, I agree with the assessment. The ideal situation would be the status quo and send Tokarski back to Hamilton but I did not realize he would have to go through waivers. After his playoff performance, someone would pick him up for sure. I would rather have Tokarski as a backup no matter how well liked Budaj is. Tokarski will win or steal you games when it counts. Peter Budaj might be a nice guy but he can’t perform in the playoffs or under pressure. Tokarski has to stay specially if you can’t get a great return for him.

  • Mike

    Totally disagree.

    Tokarski will bring a lot more return value than Budaj at the draft where the Canadiens are sure to make their move to trade up and land a player in return. Furthermore, Budaj’s contract makes him the more long term cap friendly option and frees up space to sign your above mentioned free agents. Secondly, it is precisely because they have Carey Price and whoever plays behind him only needs to play 20 games. Budaj fits that bill better than a premier emerging talent who’ll push for more and more playing time and eventually upset the team chemistry (Think about Vancouver Canucks and the Luongo/Schneider fiasco). Budaj is content with his current role and by all accounts is much loved by teammates.

    If you think it through, it really makes a lot more sense to trade Tokarski and get help out front of the goalie on D while Price is young and locked in as your #1 for the next 10 years. There’s loads of time to find/develop the next great goalie in Montreal, Tokarski could be that guy, but he’s arrived too soon.

    • Mike

      In other words I agree with Biffle!

      • HabsVt

        Mike you need to look at what the market is for goalies currently. Obvously you can check in and see if there is a team that wants Tokarski bad (but I doubt it see my other post) So most likely Budaj goes.
        Tom as far as injury prone..maybe but we will see so but if that is the case Tokarski shoud be kept anyway. Even making more sense to ship Budaj

        • Kenny MacMillan

          Exactly, if Price does get injured, obviously the team would rather use Tokarski like they did in the playoffs

    • Tom

      But Price is injury prone…

    • Kenny MacMillan

      I don’t think Tokarski is on the same level as Schneider, and he just signed a two year deal at minimum salary so I don’t think he will upset the room if he only plays 20 games. He does not expect to be the starter and is better served as a backup than a waiver claim.
      If the Habs could get something in return for Tokaski I would agree to trade him and keep Budaj, but I honestly think his value is only about a 3rd round pick at best

  • HabsVt

    Mike and Biffle

    In a typical offseason Tokarski would probably get a good return. But this year the problem with trading a goalie. Due to the number of goalies who were traded at the deadline (or after..see Halak). A lot of teams have taken care of their starting goalie needs. That and you have both Hiller and Miller as free agents. My opinion is that the trade market for starters will be soft. So this would be a bad year to think of trading a Tokarski. With goalies like Brodeur, Thomas, Nabokov,Bryzgalov, Emery,Johnson alsoa available the backup goalie market may be limited as well but if you are looking for a small return you may find something. So Budaj is the only possiblity and taht won’t get you much other than a high round draft pick.

    Also reviews on Furcale in the second half of last year are mixed I would highly doubt he will be ready by 15-16.

    So I say keep Tokarski as they retunr won’t be great now and mayby prior to 15-16 there will be another opportunity to trade either Tokarski or Furcale.

    • Kenny MacMillan

      Exactly, the return for Tokarski is minimal right now, and if he plays well it could be more in the future. The return for Budaj is also minimal but he only has one year left and will be gone next offseason anyway

  • HabsVt

    Kenny

    I think fans would love to hear more about who are the next big Hab forwards to come up in the system…..like what is the opinion on Carr, McCarron, Andrighetto, Crisp….who will be the next impact player like Gallagher.

    • HabsVt

      Put away the Doritos and get some help!

    • Kenny MacMillan

      For now, we are going to focus mostly on free agency and the draft, once July and August hit there will be lots of coverage on prospects