Montreal’s decision to give Al Montoya a two year contract extension has been largely praised. Do our writers feel the same way about the move?
Gordon Black: I like the extension – good rate and good term. It fulfills the expansion requirement and that is one less thing to worry about, but I like the move far more from a depth perspective. As we saw last year, the Habs are always only one goalie injury away from serious peril. Montoya has been fantastic this year and most of his losses cannot be hung on him in any way.
While I am still an ardent supporter that Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven both have a realistic chance of becoming NHL starters (and it’s far too early to throw the towel in on Zach Fucale) – the extra depth gained by this extension makes too much sense. If one of the prospects seriously outperforms Montoya in camp, he can be buried in the minors for next to no penalty against the cap ($37,500) – and more likely could be moved for one of Bergevin’s infamous 5th round picks. He seems happy and wants to be here, is well liked by his teammates, and provides the option of mid-term stability in the crease. Win win win.
Hilding Gnanapragasam: On the surface, the Montoya extension looks like a case of too much money and too long a term for an aging backup goalie; but with the Canadiens in need of a signed veteran goaltender to expose at this summer’s expansion draft, this was a move they needed to make. Yes, in a perfect world, the deal would have been a year shorter, but Montoya’s camp knew they held all the cards, since getting Our Pal Al under contract was the least painful way of exposing a goaltender at the draft. Two years is hardly an albatross and Bergevin did well to limit Montoya’s raise to only $100K.
At the end of the day, if at some point throughout the next 2.5 years it appears that Montoya is standing in the way of a young goaltender like Lindgren or Fucale, it will be simple enough for the Canadiens to push Montoya aside, either by way of waivers, trade, Laval, or buyout.
Expansion drafts are a time of difficult decisions and the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft will be the toughest yet, with teams required to expose more players than ever before. Of all the tough choices that will face teams in the coming months, this one was a gimme.
Brian La Rose: This was a deal that seemed likely to get done a while ago so it’s nice to see it didn’t drag out (he signed the second day that he eligible to) and that it’s at a reasonable price. They needed a goalie to expose for expansion and now they have that and given some of the other goalies that are going to be available, I don’t see Vegas really having any interest in him.
The Habs really haven’t had a lot of stability at the backup goalie position in recent years other than a few seasons of Peter Budaj, who was about at the same point of his career then as Montoya is now. I’m a fan of allowing plenty of time for young players to develop and this deal allows for that to happen with Montreal’s prospects. They now have the security to do that with a decent backup at the NHL level so I’m content with the extension.
Alex Létourneau: I have no problems with the Montoya extension. He seemed to fit in seamlessly with the club and, that 10-0 abomination aside, he has looked like a dependable backup that could offer Carey Price 20 or so games of rest without unsettling the team in front of him. The price is reasonable and it stabilizes the goaltender position near-term. I don’t think there’s any interest in him getting poached in the expansion draft either.
As far as stunting the pipeline for the goaltender prospects, the carousel of backups the Canadiens have had recently should serve notice that contract or not, nothing is guaranteed. The two that pop in to mind immediately are Fucale and Lindgren. Fucale had an excellent Spengler Cup tournament, but the fact that he’s been mediocre at best in the AHL and demoted to the ECHL paints a pretty bleak picture that he hasn’t developed the way the Canadiens hoped. Lindgren seems to be the one that will battle Montoya for the backup role, and that’s fine – competition is good.
Norm Szcyrek: I like this extension for a few reasons. First off, the price is right. The value of the contract is very reasonable for an experienced veteran goalie, especially one that’s playing well. Sure, Montoya could be exposed to the Vegas expansion draft, but I actually don’t see that happening. I believe the signing was done to try and keep him in the fold for the two seasons. It’s possible that the Habs’ brass do not believe the next goalie in line to become Price’s backup [Lindgren] is expected to be ready for that role to start the 2017-18 season. It shouldn’t hurt Lindgren’s development to spend another one or two seasons in the AHL given he’s in the middle of his first pro season and he’s only 23 years old. All of the other Habs goaltending prospects like McNiven and Fucale are younger than Lindgren, and the classic line is that goaltenders take the most time to develop into NHL regulars. Instead of leaving Montoya exposed, I believe the Habs will sign veteran Yann Danis to a contract to meet the requirement of making an experienced goaltender available for the expansion draft.
After Montoya got the win against Florida on December 29th, you could see the joy he had and what his teammates had for him, for defeating his former team from last season. That’s a sign that he’s well liked and accepted by the rest of his Montreal teammates. He appears to be a good team guy, and for all of those reasons I doubt Montreal will make him available to the Las Vegas team.
Dave Woodward: The extension of Montoya’s contract is a wise move by Bergevin. Quality NHL backups are not inexpensive. For example, James Reimer’s contract with the Florida Panthers includes a cap hit of $3.4 million. Antti Niemi’s contract has a cap hit of $4.5 million and he shares the number one job in Dallas with Kari Lehtonen (who has a cap hit of $5.9 million).
By extending Montoya, they are able to meet the expansion draft requirement of leaving one goalie unprotected. By signing him to a reasonably priced contract with a cap hit of $1.0625 million, the Canadiens can either move Montoya or bury his contract in the minors without significant implications if Lindgren or Fucale are ready within the next two years. In the meantime, the Canadiens have a quality and experienced NHL backup in Montoya who has repeatedly given the Canadiens a chance to win when he spells Carey Price. It is also prudent to give their goalie prospects (especially Lindgren) adequate time in the minors. This extension accomplishes this objective and provides the Habs with a quality number two netminder in the interim.