When Samuel Montembeault didn’t file for arbitration on Sunday, it was a sign that a new agreement was close. That was indeed the case as the Habs announced on Monday that the goaltender has signed a two-year contract. The one-way deal is reportedly worth $1 million per season.
Montreal claimed the 25-year-old off waivers late in training camp with the uncertainty surrounding Carey Price’s knee. Once it was known he’d miss the beginning of the season, Montembeault was supposed to be a short-term replacement until the veteran was cleared to return.
Of course, we all know what happened next with Price who missed almost the entire season, meaning that Montembeault spent all of 2021-22 with Montreal. He struggled in the longest NHL stint of his career, posting a 3.77 GAA along with a .891 SV% in 38 games. For his career over parts of three seasons, he has a 3.54 GAA and a .892 SV%.
So, why a two-year, one-way deal then? The second year basically represents a poison pill for teams that might have an inclination to claim Montembeault off waivers in training camp if he’s placed there. It’s one thing to speculatively place a claim on a goalie on a one-year deal. If it works, great and if it doesn’t, you cut bait at the end of the year. That can’t be done now with Montembeault so the second season stands to possibly dissuade teams from claiming him.
With Price aiming to be ready for the start of the season and Jake Allen still with the team, Montembeault is indeed a candidate to be waived in camp and if he clears, he’d partner up with Cayden Primeau as the tandem in Laval. The AAV of the deal is low enough that it would come off the books entirely if he was sent down so there would be no lingering cap charge, just an expensive insurance policy.
An expensive insurance policy is basically the best way to describe this contract. If Price isn’t healthy or Allen gets traded as a rental in-season, Montembeault is someone that can be recalled and allow Primeau, who’s in his final season of waiver exemption, to get as much uninterrupted playing time in Laval as possible. If Montembeault is with the Rocket, he’ll be one of the highest-paid goalies in the league. Either way, it’s a pretty good bump in pay for someone who at this time a year ago was viewed as a third-stringer in Florida at best and was hoping to negotiate a decent two-way provision in his deal. This is certainly a nice step up from that for him.