The Habs got a head start on their offseason spending earlier this week with the acquisition of goaltender Jake Allen from St. Louis. Having had some time to ponder the move, our writers off up their takes on the trade.
Terry Costaris: Allen is an excellent pickup by Marc Bergevin. Kudos to the Habs’ GM for taking advantage of the St. Louis Blues’ cap issues.
Allen tips the scales for the Canadiens and should be able to deliver at least 10 extra points – enough to get the Habs into the playoffs. In addition, Carey Price will finally get an opportunity to practice some workload management. Let’s also remember that next season’s schedule will likely have considerably more back-to-back games than previous years. A legit backup, therefore, is the equivalent of a game-breaking forward – if not more.
We saw vintage Price this summer due to the rest that he received from March to July. Jake Allen playing 25 games should thus mean some additional Carey Price playoff success next season.
What Montreal gave up was minor. It was a “found” draft pick for taking a flyer on Ilya Kovalchuk for a month.
And believe it or not, the Habs actually have too many picks this year. They need to move some over to future drafts. That is, Montreal would not have been able to sign 14 prospects from this year’s draft on top of all of their other previous picks. And they’re still not done. They have to shed a few more prior to the draft. This was an excellent first start. Bergevin got the most blast for the buck here for sure.
And speaking of the future, Allen’s one-year cap hit also works perfectly well with Montreal’s likely spending spree next year.
Had this trade happened during this upcoming season’s trade deadline, the asking price would have been MUCH higher.
Finally, Montreal’s defencemen will also benefit from this transaction as they will not be playing as tightly as they normally do with less skilled goalies filling-in for Price. Keith Kinkaid made those in front of him overthink things. Thankfully, this will not be a factor for the 2020-21 season.
So, I have to give Bergevin an A+ on this deal. He performed some excellent asset management: Got a great backup goalie who immediately wins over the dressing room’s confidence, gave up little, and appears to have put the Habs, barring serious injuries, in the playoffs.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Allan Katz: Sure the Yankees won, but Babe Ruth hit two home runs, without him they’d be toast. True, but the point is your best player should dominate. The Habs’ best player is a goalie, probably just past his prime, which doesn’t help things. The fact is since the biggest financial commitment is to their best player, other positions suffer. Maybe that ten million could go to a sniper or a defenceman, but that is not the reality. The team is built around Price, like it or not. So when a backup is playing, that person is playing on a team that has sacrificed to have a great goalie and so far million-dollar goalies have not been up to the task. The result is a team constructed to have a great goalie and thus to replace a $10 million dollar player demands something more. With Allen in net, the goaltending team is now ready to be dominant. A well-rested Price should be closer to the guy we saw in the play in and the playoffs. Allen could very well be one of the best backups in hockey meaning the team that heavily relies on their goalie can continue to do so regardless of who is in nets. Great trade.
So what about the other four goalies? Charlie Lindgren needs to play elsewhere, for his own sake. Michael McNiven seems like a great depth piece for the organization but the problem is the hockey world is deep in decent goalie prospects. He’s a legit prospect: His stats in Junior, and awards, are a sign of that, but he’s not as well-touted as Cayden Primeau and could easily move on. Primeau is a year or two away from assuming Price’s mantle… hopefully. If Primeau falters, Allen is there to be re-signed. So what about Vasili Demchenko, a decent, but not awesome, KHL talent? I believe it’s to be the Habs #3 goalie while staying sharp in the AHL. This gives Primeau the time to ripen and assures the team of a vet in nets in case of a goalie injury.
Finally: THE MYSTERY GOALIE. Someone needs to be hoisted up as bait for the expansion draft next summer. That goalie is probably not on the team. Allen is not signed for next year and he could be. Primeau is too young and Demchenko has not played NHL games yet. Extending Allen might not happen because Primeau might be ready soon. So Montreal will need to sign a body to be put up for expansion. Finally, my son’s name is Jake, mine is Allan so I’m good with Jake Allen.
Brian La Rose: Knowing all of the contracts that are expiring after next season, it’s understandable that the Habs didn’t want to make a long-term commitment and that Allen’s one year remaining was ideal for them. The looming expansion draft is going to make getting a quality backup goalie on a one-year contract had to get unless a team wants to sign a veteran that’s just hanging on. Montreal’s rotation of backups the last few years has shown that they need a better one and Allen fits the bill.
Yes, it doesn’t solve the expansion dilemma although qualifying McNiven for the next two years accomplishes that (though it leaves him no place to play). Beyond that, there isn’t much to question here. The optics of having one of the highest-paid backups in the league when they have the highest-paid goalie in league history isn’t pretty but I’m not worried about the optics. I’m worried about wins and the Habs will have more of them with Allen in the fold than without him.
Allen’s contract is pricey for sure but Blues GM Doug Armstrong acknowledged there was interest from other teams in taking on the deal, just not for any assets. That eliminates any thought that the Canadiens should have leveraged another asset out St. Louis; it just wasn’t happening. Montreal parting with a late third-round pick when they had four of them to ensure they got their target is certainly justifiable in the circumstances. Now they can head into the rest of the offseason with one thing checked off their to-do list and a fair bit of room left to work with still. This is a good start.
Kevin Leveille: In Allen, the Habs acquire a proven NHL goaltender that should provide more rest for Carey Price. This should be good news since we all saw what a rested Price can do during the recent series against the Penguins. The negative, of course, is that Allen comes with at a hefty price tag that may limit the moves that Bergevin can complete this summer.
My take on this one is that if it’s the only move Bergevin pulls this summer, I’ll be disappointed because being sound defensively should not mean losing 2-1 and 3-2 with regularity and needing a pandemic to make the playoffs. The Habs need help scoring more than they needed Jake Allen. However, if this acquisition is merely the first move pulled and Bergevin tries to shore up the scoring, then I’m really over the top for this trade.
It cost the draft acquired for the free agent Kovalchuk to acquire Allen and Bergevin still leaves himself with some important cap space next summer when Allen’s contract expires. Even if he does re-up in Montreal, Allen will command nowhere near his $4.3M cap hit. And in a world where the projection is a flat cap for more than one year, it’s possible that the cap space will be even more coveted next summer, so this might be an excellent move all around, so long as it’s not the only one.
Dave Woodward: At long last, the Canadiens have acquired a competent backup goaltender. In doing so, Price will hopefully get more than a few nights off and be limited to 50-55 games during the regular season. If the recent postseason performance is any indication, a rested Carey Price remains among the elite netminders in the NHL.
And Allen is not just an ordinary understudy. He was the starter in St. Louis before being supplanted by Jordan Binnington, and in the most recent postseason, he outperformed last year’s Stanley Cup-winning goaltender. Just as importantly, Allen was, in effect, acquired for the third-round pick received from Washington in the Kovalchuk deal near the trade deadline (seventh-round picks in 2020 (to St. Louis) and 2022 (to Montreal) were also exchanged). Why so cheap? St. Louis has cap issues and need to find a way to sign Alex Pietrangelo, Vince Dunn, and others in a flat cap environment.
Allen’s cap hit is not cheap but his contract expires next year, just in time to provide some needed cap space for the Canadiens to sign UFAs Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar, Jeff Petry, and Joel Armia. The Canadiens have the cap space this season to overpay their backup goalie, and Allen’s contract expires at just the right time.
If the Canadiens cannot re-up Allen for the following season, he has at least served as a bridge to Primeau, the Canadiens’ most promising young goaltender who needs lots of minutes in Laval to develop next year. He is very likely to become Price’s backup and eventual successor.
This is a classic example of the value of cap space. Allen’s acquisition costs the Canadiens some salary and a third-round pick acquired at the trade deadline (in a year that the Canadiens still have 12 picks even after this deal), far less than the Habs would have had to part with if St. Louis did not have cap issues. Given the price paid, the chronic need for a competent backup for Price, Allen’s status as a capable NHL goalie, and the salary cap “fit”, it’s hard to find fault with this deal.
Norm Szcyrek: My first thought to hearing this trade was that it was a terrible move. When Allen was the number one goalie for St. Louis, he was well known to let in soft goals at the worst times. I always remember him as the Team Canada goalie in 2010 that allowed five goals in the gold medal game, before he was pulled; Canada eventually got the loss. To me, it was no big surprise that the Blues flourished when they decided to anoint Jordan Binnington as their number one goalie, and he, in turn, took them to a Stanley Cup championship last season. In my opinion, Allen is the total opposite of a clutch goalie. Perhaps as a backup, he can handle the responsibility better, but I have really low expectations for him. This has the potential of becoming one of Bergevin’s worst trades