The news that came out last week – first reported by The Athletic’s Arpon Basu – that the Habs had now started extension talks with Samuel Montembeault surprised me a bit. Not that it wasn’t going to happen at some point but they had all summer to discuss a new deal and didn’t really do so. Now, after all of five games played (at the time talks were reported), the Habs had seen enough to start talking about an extension? Five games isn’t much of a ‘prover’ one way or the other.
Many continue to wait for a domino to fall between the pipes. When will Jake Allen go? Will they eventually just let Cayden Primeau try to catch on somewhere else? But what if Montembeault is the actual domino here?
It stands to reason that they wouldn’t want to move one of the other two until Montembeault’s situation is resolved. The last thing they want to have happen is to, say, move Allen and then not extend Montembeault, leaving them with Primeau and nothing else next year. Or they move out Primeau, can’t agree to terms with Montembeault, and have Allen on an expiring contract and nothing else for 2024-25. Viewed under that lens, these early extension talks make sense.
But what about the other option? What if they can’t reach an agreement on a new deal? Does Montembeault then become the one who moves? With a $1 million price tag this season, he probably carries the most trade value of the three as it’s a price tag that a lot of teams – even cap-strapped ones – can fit into their structure without much difficulty. But I suspect they don’t want to go down that route unless they know they’re too far apart on money for next season. Accordingly, starting talks this early starts to make more sense.
Now, what about that money? This is not exactly an easy player to find comparables for. His camp can’t logically look at Allen (who has a $3.85 million cap hit) and say Montembeault was better last year so he deserves more. One has a 10-year track record. The other has about a 10-week track record of above-average performance. They’re not directly comparable as a result.
The reality is that there are few comparables in terms of similar situations around the league. Connor Ingram is one and was an early-season waiver claim last year as Montembeault was the year before but his games played total is lower than Montembeault’s. He’s making $1.95 million for three years and Montembeault should come in above that. By how much is the hard part. Let’s try something different then.
Is Montembeault a top-32 goalie in the NHL? The 32nd highest-paid active goalie in the NHL has a cap hit of $3.475 million. That’s Jeremy Swayman who certainly isn’t a comparable. And it might be a stretch to call Montembeault a top-32 netminder. He might check in closer to the 40-45 range as an above-average backup. Now we’re in the low-to-mid-$2M range. I’m not the world’s biggest believer in Montembeault but something in that price range is defensible for sure.
Will his camp (and the Canadiens) see it that way? We’ll find out soon enough and once Montembeault’s situation is settled, then perhaps the goalie domino will fall to end this three-netminder rotation. But if an extension doesn’t get done, it wouldn’t shock me if Montembeault himself is the one who winds up moving. That said, I suspect we’ll see an announcement of a new deal soon enough which could be the beginning of the end of carrying three goalies.