Goalie depth was an issue for the Habs last year when Carey Price went down so Marc Bergevin decided to shore up that position with the addition of Al Montoya last week. Is he the right fit for this team? Our writers offer up their thoughts.
Gordon Black: Montoya for one year is a great signing if this were July 2015. Seeing as how it’s July 2016, it is a bit curious. Montoya is a good goalie, and a great backup – with absolutely no future on this team. Given his salary is at the magic $950,000 mark, he can be sent to the minors with no real implication on Montreal’s cap. I wonder a little bit if this is a gun-shy reaction to last year. Depth is never a bad thing; but, what is the message they are sending to Lindgren, Condon and Fucale – never mind Hawkey and McNiven?
I am a big believer in Lindgren; ideally, I would have liked to have seen the season start with him and Fucale splitting time in St. John’s and Condon backing up Price (I think Condon’s earned that and more). Based on play (or injuries), that could have changed quickly – but now, based on contracts, that will have to change sooner, rather than later. While it is not the end of the world for a goaltender to spend some time in the ECHL (far less so than for skaters), it is not exactly desirable – and so it would seem that Fucale is destined for that role barring a trade.
At the end of the day, whatever is best for the team is all that matters; however, the ability to attract top-level free agents (from the NCAA and elsewhere) is going to depend, at least partly, on the perceived treatment those free agents receive. If Montoya comes to camp and is undeniably better than Lindgren and Condon – so be it. My only concern is that he isn’t but is still defaulted the NHL position and that it causes the Habs to sour the relationship with their other promising goalies-in-waiting. To face facts, no goalie signing with Montreal right now thinks they will be the starter – but I’m pretty sure they all would like to think they have a chance to legitimately compete for the backup role, and even that just became a whole lot less likely.
Brian La Rose: I had no problem with the Habs going back to Condon to back up Price next season. Condon noted the mental grind with so many starts was an issue, that’s not as much of a problem when you’re only playing 20 games or so. He had played well in that role before Price’s injury and I think he’d have done so again next year.
That said, Montoya’s a nice upgrade without breaking the bank too much. Last year, he was well above average for a #2 netminder and brings more puck handling skills to the table than Condon. Given how often Price handles the puck, having someone that’s better at that particular skill should help as it should be a bit less of an adjustment for the defence when Price isn’t in goal.
It also doesn’t affect the youngsters much. One of Fucale or Lindgren will probably have to spend some time in the ECHL but that was likely to happen anyways if they wanted both goalies to get a starters workload. I don’t think there’s much of a trade market for Condon (there are a couple of backups still in free agency) and if they can get him through waivers, they’ll be better positioned if Price or Montoya get hurt next year.
Alex Létourneau: This one’s a little puzzling. While Condon is clearly not a starting goalie, I thought he was serviceable as a backup. Obviously management didn’t feel that way.
Montoya is a proven backup, and from what I’ve read, a consummate professional. It’s under $1 million which is just dandy for a backup. Maybe Condon is best when in direct competition, maybe we saw him peak in the first half of the season. It’s a good insurance policy, though I feel a little bummed for Condon if he gets moved or sent down. Good story, unfortunately those don’t win games.
Paul MacLeod: A fairly minor move and acquiring a veteran backup should have been done last year. Montoya is an upgrade on Condon in case of an injury to Price. The big question now is will Condon be moved as a result?
Craig Scharien: In Montoya the Habs get a cheap, short term backup alternative for Price should the worst-case scenario unfold again next year. Montoya is experienced playing in this role and has logged more than 300 games as a pro in the either the AHL or NHL. I like the move as it doesn’t cost Montreal much and Montoya has shown considerable ability as a backup at the NHL level. He is known as a strong puck-handling goalie – something the Habs missed dearly when Price was out of the lineup last year. Perhaps the more intriguing part of this deal is what it means for the other goaltenders in the system. With Condon, Lindgren, and Fucale all seemingly destined for the AHL, something has to give. As Condon will need to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL and also appears to be the closest to his full potential he may be the odd man out in the end.
Norm Szcyrek: To me it seems like the Montoya signing provides some insurance in case Price gets injured again next season. With repeat issues with the same knee, Price unfortunately will wear the “injury prone” tag for some time going forward until he remains healthy for a few consecutive seasons. It also gives depth to the organization at the goaltending position. Now there will be a competition for the backup role among Montoya, Condon, and Lindgren. This depth may also provide another exposure option in goal for the expansion draft next summer, since both Condon and Montoya should have the prerequisite number of games played in the NHL.