Montreal Canadiens: Are Habs Showcasing Sam Montembeault?

Nov 22, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault (35) defends the goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Sam Montembeault (35) defends the goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens have been carrying three goaltenders all season, putting them in an awkward roster position. Most teams obviously carry two goalies and it gives them room for an extra skater who can step into the lineup if a player is ill or gets shaken up in warmup.

Having three goalies is just unnecessary as there isn’t enough room for them all on the ice, even in warmup. It is a situation that will be addressed, and everyone has been waiting for the Canadiens to fix since the beginning of the season.

Still, we wait as Sam Montembeault and Jake Allen share most of the work while Cayden Primeau gets the odd spot start here and there. It is obviously not a great setup for Primeau who would be developing better if he was playing a lot more often. Anywhere.

However, he can not be sent to the minors without passing through waivers and the team is sure he would get scooped up by someone so they are not willing to just give him away.

So, we wait as the Canadiens try to find a trade partner for one of the three netminders. Allen makes a lot of sense for other teams as a veteran backup but his cap hit is pretty high. Primeau makes sense for a rebuilding team, but the Canaidens are one of those and would prefer to just keep him. Montembeault probably has the most value and would be best option for another team looking to add a potential starter.

Trying to guess the Habs next move is a tough one, especially with rumours they are working on an extension with Montembeault. That would surely mean he is staying, but what if it is all a smokescreen?

Taking a look at Montembeault’s starts this season, he is getting a pretty easy slate of games all things considered. Is the team sheltering him a little bit to make his stats look better? They say there are no easy games in the NHL, but some are definitely less difficult than others.

Allen started on opening night against the Toronto Maple Leafs and then Montembeault faced the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild. The Wild are struggling this season but even when they were good they were not the best offensive team in the league. After throwing Primeau to the wolves against the New Jersey Devils, Montembeault got to face the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets.

Montembeault did face the Vegas Golden Knights, which is a powerhouse, but then took on the St. Louis Blues who were among the lowest scoring teams in the league at the time. He also took on the Boston Bruins and played well, but then faced the Calgary Flames who have been sputtering while Allen and Primeau got the much more dangerous Vancouver Canucks and Golden Knights that week.

On the most recent road trip, Primeau did get the easiest game as he faced the San Jose Sharks, but it was Allen that faced the Los Angeles Kings, by far the best team in California, while Montembeault took on the Anaheim Ducks after the Canadiens had three days off.

They have another three days off now and will then face the brutal Blue Jackets. Guess who was announced as the start for that Wednesday night contest? Montembeault. That means Allen will get the high flying Florida Panthers a night later.

Is it just a coincidence that Primeau, who has played four games all year, has gotten more starts against good teams this season than Montembeault? Probably not, which means the team is kind of trying to protect Montembeault and it has resulted in a 2.81 GAA with a .908 SV%. Could they be pumping up his numbers as they try to trade him? This is pure speculation but it could be the reason he has faced such weak opposition.

So why put out talks about an extension? We did hear rumours the player and team were talking about a new contract. The only reason I can come up with is to get a team that is thinking about acquiring a goaltender to pull the trigger quickly.

Could the Edmonton Oilers be humming and hawing over a potential deal and the Canadiens are trying to force their hand by leaking info about an extension?

I suppose if we actually see this extension, which has been rumoured for two weeks, then we can end the speculation. However, until it actually gets signed, it makes sense for a rebuilding team to trade a pending UFA like Montembeault if they get a good return for him.

Considering what they can fetch in a trade, it would make a lot of sense to deal Monteambeault if an extension can not be reached soon.

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