Jake Allen decided over the weekend that he wanted to extend his stay with the Habs, inking a two-year, $7.7 million extension. Was that the right decision by the Canadiens? Our writers offer up their thoughts.
Terry Costaris: Extending Allen is yet another quality strategic move by the tandem of Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes.
Having Allen for a few more years adds some stability in net and gives Cayden Primeau a few more years to develop.
Within the next two years, Montreal will know if they either have a quality starter or backup in this goalie.
If Primeau is not going to be the Habs’ number one by then, the timing will align itself well with the upcoming cap increase. Montreal should be approaching contender territory by then and should be able to land itself a top-flight goaltender with the extra money that they will have to spend by then.
Allen, unlike Carey Price, will not be able to mask Montreal’s deficiencies but he should give the team enough quality goaltending to allow his team to at least put up good fights each night that he’s in net. And this should aid in the young core’s development.
Having Allen between the pipes makes the Montreal Canadiens competitive – but not competitive enough to lose out on drafting a high-end pick this season. If Allen stays healthy, he will prevent the Habs’ emerging core from being shell-shocked.
Gorton and Hughes are walking a fine line of putting together a roster that will be entertaining to the fans, yet does not psychologically damage its prospects, while still positioning itself in the standings to grab additional top-end talent via the draft. The extension of Jake Allen helps meet all these ends.
For these reasons and more, then, this is yet another savvy strategic move.
Allan Katz: Every single assessment of the Jake Allen extension is stunningly similar; 1) Jake Allen – Solid pro 2) Two-year term – about right considering many prospects are a minimum of two years away from consideration. 3) Amount – Perhaps a tad high but really a solid deal for all involved. 4) Right person, right time, right place – Everyone including Mr. Allen agrees.
So, the two years is to give time for another goalie to develop, be drafted, or be acquired. Remember Primeau might not be “the one” so let’s look at who’s behind him on the depth chart. There are two very intriguing prospects;
21-year-old Frederik Dichow, all 6’5 of him, played in Division 2 in Sweden last year and thrived with a line of 18-9-0, 2.27 .930 which is elite. So far this year in the SHL, he has a 2.52 GAA and a .914 SV% while in Champions League play, his line is 2-0-0, 2.00 .923 which is a great start for a rookie in Sweden’s top league.
21-year-old Jakub Dobes, all 6’4 of him, played in the NCAA last year and thrived in his rookie season with a line of 21-12-2, 2.76 .934 which is elite. So far this season he has a line of 2-0-0, 1.51 .935 which is simply fine.
Either could be in Laval in two seasons and are not universally held in very high esteem. But they really could not do better and no one has really figured out goalies that well. Both have minimum Primeau talent and maybe more.
So, everything’s Jake with his extension and if he learned how to spell his last name properly (Allan not Allen) it wouldn’t make a diff.
Peter Longo: The extension for Allen is a solid piece of work for Hughes. Nothing is more demoralizing to a hockey team than having weak goaltending. Not only would it ruin a season for NHL teams – and resulting revenue loss – but it also kills team morale and player confidence. While the Habs are not going to be competing for the playoffs in the next few years, the team still needs to have respectable goaltending. Allen provides this and more. While he is a proven NHL goalie, he is also willing to provide the mentorship and support that the Habs’ future young goalies need. This is something that Price has previously spoken out about as a source of frustration – not wanting to mentor young goalies – and was one of the reasons the Habs traded for Allen in the first place.
While the Habs did overpay for Allen’s services, this won’t be enough to cause any salary cap pain.
The two-year length of the extension is also smart work. This provides stability in goal for the next three years (including the current year) allowing the team to properly develop Primeau and Montembeault.
The alternative is to trade Allen sometime this year and sign another goalie. Believe it or not, the return on goalies at deadline trades is quite disappointing. At last season’s trade deadline, there were a number of teams looking for goaltending upgrades (Oilers, Leafs, Wild, etc.). Yet Marc-Andre Fleury was traded to Minnesota for only a second-round pick. Given his resume, I tend to think Fleury is worth more than Allen. So, the most the Habs could expect would be a second-round pick, and very likely any return would be much less. This doesn’t really justify getting rid of your best and only NHL-calibre goalie.
The second step of an Allen trade is to sign a replacement free agent for next season. Attracting free agents is never easy in Montreal and would be even more difficult being at the bottom of the standings. So, this option doesn’t look promising.
After reflecting on all the pros and cons, re-signing Allen – even on an overpaid contract – is an easy decision.
Brian La Rose: The money seems a little high relative to the numbers that Allen put up last season and likely will put up this year and at $3.85 million per year, that’s on the high side for a 1B type of netminder. There’s a part of me that thinks that if they waited, they could have gotten him for less.
Of course, the other side of the coin is that he leaves and the Canadiens are trying to promote themselves as a landing spot for a goaltender on a team that will likely be coming off two bad years in a row. Ask Arizona how that’s going for them. They hurried to extend Karel Vejmelka and, after failing to draw reciprocal interest from any of the goalies they targeted this summer, are now playing waiver-wire roulette to find a second-string option. Is avoiding that scenario worth overpaying a little bit on a short-term deal? Probably.
I also want to highlight that Allen is choosing to stay in a losing situation. Few veteran free agents opt to do that and the fact he chose to avoid the UFA market altogether to ensure he stays with Montreal is worthy of some praise in itself. It also might get the attention of some other pending UFAs. I expect that the Canadiens will be a bit more involved in free agency next summer to replace some of their expiring deals and Allen choosing to sign on for more of this can only send a positive message to other free agents. In other words, if he’s staying, he thinks there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that’s worth sticking around for which might get the attention of some others on expiring deals.
Daniel Marsh: For what Allen is, I think this is a good deal. I was a little surprised at the price tag but generally, I believe he has earned it after having to step up all of last year and this year in the absence of Price.
Allen gives the Canadiens a dependable 1B goalie who can allow Primeau to develop in the minors without distractions. He may not be a true starter in the NHL, but on a rebuilding team, he is a dependable veteran who will help mentor and guide the young core in professionalism, work habits, and having a winning attitude.
If Price manages to return next year, the Canadiens will have a solid trade chip at the end of next year’s trade deadline to continue gathering draft picks and prospects assuming his play stays relatively consistent.
Overall, I am happy with this deal both in the short and medium term as it gives the Canadiens’ brain trust more flexibility moving forward – something they have said they want at every opportunity.
Norm Szcyrek: Meh. That was my first impression of the Allen extension. I was not a fan of Allen’s from watching him play in St. Louis. He did play well enough, sometimes, for the Habs last season when he was not injured, even when the team’s pathetic Ducharme-dictated strategies allowed opponents better chances to score than the Habs could muster. This team is in rebuilding mode, so it won’t matter if the Habs’ starting goaltending is Allen, Samuel Montembeault, and/or Primeau. None of them are capable of a top 15 status in the NHL. This team needs to draft and develop a goalie that will be part of the team’s future.
Dave Woodward: The Canadiens have four goalies signed for the next few years: Price, Allen, Montembeault, and Primeau. At this time, it appears that Price’s career is likely over and Montembeault and Primeau are not even close to being ready to be a number one NHL goaltender. Of the four, Allen is the only goalie who can be the starter for the Canadiens in the medium term unless they look externally.
Allen is also willing to be part of the rebuild. He has won a Cup in St. Louis and Allen is prepared to forego another chance at a championship elsewhere in order to serve as the Canadiens’ number one goalie while the rebuild is in progress. He is, by all accounts, a team guy and a valued mentor in the dressing room. Allen is a good fit to facilitate the development of the Canadiens’ young players, particularly the young defenceman. There is certainly no guarantee that another free agent goaltender would be content in that role.
If the Canadiens wanted to tank for Bedard, they could trade away Allen and go with Montembeault or Primeau. But that would hardly be conducive to the development of either a young defence corps or Primeau. If you want to shatter the confidence of young players, a sure way to do so would be to play a goaltender that ensures most defensive errors result in a puck in the back of the Canadiens’ net.
The Canadiens also need some veteran leadership in the lineup and dressing room. A stable, experienced goalie like Allen will help develop the defence corps and the young goalies. It will also buy the Canadiens time to determine whether Primeau or Montembeault can become a number one NHL goalie or whether someone else needs to be acquired (or another young goalie emerges internally).
Allen will not be the Canadiens starting goalie when they are contenders again but he is a bridge to the Canadiens’ next number one and Allen will therefore be an important part of the rebuild. With the extension, the Canadiens retain the services for Allen for less than $3 million this year (under his expiring contract) and $3.85 million for the next two years. That is not a bad cap hit for the goaltending, development benefits, and leadership that Allen will bring to the team. The extension makes a lot of sense.