Montreal Canadiens: Common Sense Says Move Jake Allen Now

Nov 25, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen (34) defends the goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen (34) defends the goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens have been dealing with a three goaltender system since the beginning of the season.

Most would say the system is not really working for anyone as there are simply not enough games to go around to keep all three netminders content. On a lot of teams, just having two goaltenders that want the crease every night can create a bit of a controversy so trying to keep three goaltenders happy is impossible.

The big change this season compared to last year is that Cayden Primeau would now be required to pass through waivers before being sent to the Laval Rocket. That seems unlikely, as the 24 year old still has the potential to be an NHL regular, and another rebuilding team would likely be quick to grab him.

It could have made sense earlier in the season to move Sam Montembeault, but he recently signed a three-year contract extension worth $3.15 million. You don’t sign a player for three years and then trade him three days later so Montembeault is not likely going anywhere now.

That means the only way to fix the three goalie system is to move Jake Allen or Primeau. Allen is a 33 year old veteran signed through next season with a cap hit of $3.85 million. Primeau is also signed through the 2024-25 season but at a cap hit of just $890,000. He is also nearly a decade younger than Allen, which should lead the Canadiens to want to keep him around.

Primeau hasn’t exactly put together stellar statistics at the NHL level yet, but Allen isn’t playing at a high level either. Primeau’s 3.72 GAA is nearly identical to Allen’s 3.74 this season while the younger goaltender’s SV% of .886 is a tick below the veteran’s .898.

At the end of the day, neither goalie is stealing games for the team. Only one of them really has a chance to be stealing games in 2025-26, as Allen will surely be gone by then as he will turn 35 shortly after next season when he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Re-signing him at that point makes no sense for a team that should be looking to transition from rebuilder to playoff contender by then.

Primeau, on the other hand, has shown some flashes of potential in his time with the Laval Rocket and at Northeastern University. He still has plenty of work to do before he becomes a true starter at the NHL level, but so did Sam Montembeault when he was Primeau’s age.

In his 24 year old season, Montembeault was playing in the AHL for the Syracuse Crunch where he played just 13 games and had a 2.86 GAA and a .898 SV%. Now, after the Canadiens force fed him starts for two seasons, he has played well enough to earn a three year contract extension.

Could Primeau do the same? Could he turn into an intriguing starting option by the age of 27 like Montembeault? Well, he has had a SV% of .908 or .909 in the AHL each of the past four seasons, usually on terrible teams and was the goaltender of the year in his second year of college hockey. Primeau has a far better pedigree than Montembeault did at the same age.

Allen meanwhile is sure to be gone after next season anyway. It wouldn’t make sense to lose Primeau now, just to lose Allen as a free agent in a year and a half. The only choice for the Canadiens is to move Allen now and let Montembeault and Primeau split starts the rest of this season.

With regular playing time, maybe Primeau can continue to grow like Montembeault has during his time with the Canadiens. He is signed for next to nothing (at least in NHL terms) through next season and is still an RFA at that point.

The problem is finding a taker for Allen. Almost nobody has cap space to bring him in and not many teams are looking for a nearly $4 million goaltender with well below league average statistics. Maybe the Chicago Blackhawks if they think they can move Petr Mrazek soon for a decent return?

With everything going on there, they could use an experienced voice and trusted teammate in the room. Luke Richardson was the assistant coach in Montreal when Allen arrived and is now the head coach in Chicago.

There wouldn’t be much of a return coming back to the Canadiens, but ending the three goalie scenario and investing starts in Primeau instead of Allen for the rest of this season would be enough of a win. It certainly makes a lot more sense than trading Primeau for a small return and then watching Allen leave just over a year from now.

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