While the Habs already have Charlie Lindgren signed for two more years, GM Marc Bergevin suggested he could turn to the free agent market to find a backup for Carey Price. Who might he target?
Top of the Class
Sergei Bobrovsky: It’s very rare that one of the top starting goalies makes it to the open market which will make his situation certainly an interesting one to keep an eye on. However, that will have nothing to do with the Habs.
Starters With Questions
Robin Lehner: He had quite the resurgent season with the Islanders, a team that basically represented his last chance in the league after not getting the job done with Buffalo. Now, he enters the market as someone that can command a bigger contract but because of the small track record, there’s some risk involved. At this point, it appears his preference is to stay in New York.
Petr Mrazek: Another player that was running out of opportunities, Mrazek made the most of his time in Carolina and will be heading to the open market in search for a similar role and more job security. The Habs probably won’t be the team to give that to him.
Semyon Varlamov: While he lost his starting spot to Phillip Grubauer in the playoffs, he was still Colorado’s 1A goalie during the regular season and didn’t play too poorly overall. He’ll be looking for a starting role which means he won’t be on Montreal’s radar unless things really change.
A Tier Below
Keith Kinkaid: His numbers with New Jersey last year weren’t particularly strong but he was only a year removed from playing a huge role in getting the Devils to the playoffs. He also has played in 41 games in each of the last two seasons, a workload that not many other free agents have on their resume. He’s flying under the radar right now but I wouldn’t be shocked if Kinkaid is who the Canadiens are targeting.
Curtis McElhinney: It wasn’t that long ago that his career appeared to be on life support after Columbus waived him. Toronto did the same thing last year but he was scooped up by the Hurricanes and responded with arguably his best season at the age of 35. Now 36, a two-year deal would carry some risk but it’s believed that he has a chance at getting one.
Mike Smith: He was hot and cold last season with Calgary and his final numbers weren’t that great. However, Smith had a save percentage between .914 and .916 in the previous three seasons which is a lot better than what the Canadiens have had. His days of being an undisputed starter are gone and unlike some others on this list, he probably will only get a one-year commitment.
Cam Talbot: He lost a ton of money with his performance in 2018-19. Instead of showing that he can be a starter, he struggled and wound up losing playing time to Mikko Koskinen (also known as Peter Chiarelli’s parting gift in Edmonton). At 31, he’s a little younger than most on this list so a multi-year deal is likely.
Chad Johnson: Two years ago, he had a lot of interest as one of the top backups on the market. Since then, he has struggled mightily with Buffalo, St. Louis, and Anaheim. He’d come cheap but there would be some risk here.
Michal Neuvirth: It wasn’t that long ago that he was an above average backup. Things haven’t gone well since then though and whoever signs him may very well be afraid that he’ll injure himself signing the contract. If healthy, there would be some small upside with Neuvirth.
Cam Ward: The change of scenery didn’t work out well at all as he struggled mightily for a big chunk of his time with Chicago. Ward had a few good weeks but couldn’t handle the bigger workload when Corey Crawford went down again. Considering the Habs would want their backup to be able to step up, that has to be a bit concerning.
Zane McIntyre: For a few years, McIntyre looked like he was ready for an NHL job but never really got an opportunity with the Bruins. Now a Group VI free agent, he’ll have a chance to go elsewhere. Someone’s going to give him a shot but I’d be surprised if it was Montreal.
With Price making $10.5 million and the Habs not having a ton of surplus cap space available (they’ll want to save most of it to add another scoring threat or a lefty defenceman), they will likely restrict themselves into shopping towards the lower tier of the market. Given how Antti Niemi struggled last season though, they should realize now that a backup goalie could ultimately make or break their postseason chances. Accordingly, they may not be comfortable asking Lindgren to make an impact considering his struggles in the last two years in Laval. It has been a few years since the Habs have added a goalie on July 1st. That may very well change next week.