When the playoffs ended, GM Marc Bergevin indicated that a capable veteran backup goalie was something he was going to seek out. That search is over as the Habs have acquired Jake Allen from St. Louis. The Blues will pick up a 2020 third-round pick (acquired from Washington in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade) as well as a seventh this year (previously acquired from Chicago for Andrew Shaw) while the Canadiens also pick up a 2022 seventh-rounder.
Allen is only a couple of years removed from being the full-fledged starter in St. Louis. However, it’s a role that he struggled with over his last couple of seasons with that workload after being one of the better starters in his first three NHL seasons. The emergence of Jordan Binnington allowed Allen to play less this year and the results were certainly encouraging as he collected a 12-6-3 record with a 2.15 GAA and a .927 SV%, both career bests. Allen also suited up in five postseason contests, sporting a 1.89 GAA and a .935 SV%.
So, how did Montreal acquire him this cheap? Simple – the salary cap. Allen carries a $4.35 million cap hit for next season which is an amount that St. Louis couldn’t afford, especially with Alex Pietrangelo set to become an unrestricted free agent next month. Meanwhile, the Habs had plenty of cap space at their disposal and can afford to pay their backup that much even though they already have the highest-paid goalie in NHL history in Carey Price on the books.
During his end-of-season presser, Bergevin cautioned against big spending, correctly noting that Montreal has several players in need of new deals for 2021-22. Accordingly, the fact that Allen only has one year left on his contract could certainly be viewed as a positive. By then, they’ll have an opportunity to further evaluate Cayden Primeau and also see if Vasili Demchenko has some NHL upside.
At the very least, this certainly makes it less likely that Charlie Lindgren, who finished the season as Montreal’s backup after Keith Kinkaid struggled mightily, will return for 2020-21. While he’s under contract with a $750,000 one-way deal, there isn’t any room for him with the Canadiens or Rocket (and management still has to make a call on Michael McNiven’s future next month as well).
In the end, the Habs essentially deal Kovalchuk (who they signed for free) for Allen which is a pretty cheap acquisition, at least in terms of who they gave up to get him. But a $14.85 million price tag between the pipes next year will be a new NHL record which is anything but cheap. However, the Canadiens now have a more than capable backup at their disposal which is something that hasn’t been the case for a long time.
Meanwhile, with the two picks for this season moving out, Montreal is now down to a dozen selections in next month’s draft with eight of them coming in the first four rounds. The addition of the 2022 draft pick is their first extra pick of that class which means they have eight choices in that draft as things stand.