It felt like only a matter of time before Samuel Montembeault signed a contract extension and that came to fruition late last week when he inked a three-year, $9.45 million deal. Having had some time to ponder the pact, our writers offer up their thoughts.
Terry Costaris: The three-year extension of Samuel Montembeault at $3.15M per year is a win-win deal.
Montembeault has continuously improved between the pipes. He’s young enough to progress even further. Monty has shown consistency and seems to have ice water flowing through his veins.
If things go south, his contract will not be highly burdensome for the Montreal Canadiens. If Montembeault continues to improve, he will become a great bargain. If he stays the same, he becomes a slightly overpriced backup.
It’s hard to project into the future. He may be scaffolding for an upcoming prospect such as Jacob Fowler 4-5 years down the road. Alternatively, Montembeault may elevate himself into an elite goalie by the time the Habs likely become competitive.
One thing that I don’t foresee is Montembeault being traded in the near future. Going forward, I doubt that the Edmonton Oilers will send three scouts every time that Monty plays.
At some point, the Canadiens will address their three-goalie carousel. There is no rush to move anyone but such a rotation is not tenable for the long run. Right now, it most likely seems that Jake Allen will be traded allowing Cayden Primeau an opportunity to slowly apprentice in this highly time-consuming line of work.
Allan Katz: In researching the meaning of the name Montembeault the best name origin would be Beautiful Mountain. This means at some time the family lived near a beautiful mountain. Now the name Sam means the name of God. So Sam Montembeault kind of means God’s Beautiful Mountain: Which is exactly whom you would want to be the goaltender for Quebec’s number one religion, hockey. Also, Montreal and Montembeault have a nice symmetry to their names.
Now this discussion is about term, dollars, and trade value. The term of three years seems perfect. As the contract winds down, the team will be hopefully on the cusp of Stanley Cup contention so management can choose based on so much more information what the best fate for God’s Beautiful Mountain is. The dollars seem about right meaning both sides gave a little to make this a done deal.
Meanwhile, trade value is harder to grasp. We are all waiting for the eventual amputation of one head of the three-headed dog called Montreal’s goaltenders. There is a chance the contract is part of a sign-and-trade. Hard to comment on this because we have no idea whom Montreal would get back in the trade.
There is one thing that has to be made very clear in attempting to guess who will or even should be traded. The two reasons Primeau has not been traded yet are 1) The Habs have no NHL-ready goalies in the system beyond Primeau and Laval could really use someone like that, and if one of the heads is amputated that will leave the team with no number three goalie. Jakub Dobes is not ready on any level. The plethora of goalie prospects are all very young and probably three years away from being prime-time players so one injury could make this whole exercise very different. 2) While Primeau has some talent, he might be years away from being a true NHL talent. Everyone has a gut feeling on this and I would trust the Habs better than myself to decide that, but I can share what my gut feeling or desire is.
I would prefer Sam is not traded and either Allen or Primeau be traded (or waived). Allen has a few more years of solid play in him and, for me, Primeau is a wild card not worth keeping over the others. By trading one goaltender, the other two will get more work and will hopefully continue their decent enough play. I suspect Primeau will one day be an okay NHL goaltender, but it seems like he’s a few years from that (like Charlie Lindgren) and the team should move on from him. If Allen is traded the team could live with Primeau being the number two goalie but it might not be pretty. It’s hard to win a trade with goalie talent so deciding whom to let go is a crucially important decision. Regardless there are always a couple of Hamburglar talents hanging around and they do sometimes surprise. Sam-the-man was one of them. I do like the signing.
Brian La Rose: This came in a little higher than I was expecting as Montembeault’s career body of work is relatively uninspiring. Of course, that has to be weighed against playing behind a back end that isn’t exactly experienced. The term makes sense and while I had his value in the high-$2 million range, it’s not a huge difference.
My one concern is that Montreal could use this to justify keeping the status quo in net. Not the three goalies, but that Montembeault would be the key part of the platoon. Is that really ideal? Can the Habs make a push for the playoffs with that goalie structure? If Montembeault is a 30-game goalie at that price point and a new starter is signed or acquired in a year or two, that’s workable. But if he’s the 50-game guy, I’m a little concerned.
In a perfect world, Allen becomes the one who moves as Primeau still has some room to improve and could still play his way into the longer-term plans. (Or, ideally, eventually becomes the 50-game guy although that’s a long shot at this point.) At 33, Allen is who he is, a bridge goalie to a longer-term option. But it won’t be easy to move his contract, barring another team having one of their netminders going down for an extended stretch. But they’re not going to want to give Primeau away for nothing as well so the three-goalie carousel may continue.
Kevin Leveille: The contract itself is a home run all around. For Montembeault who was a waiver claim just two seasons ago, getting paid for the next three years is a nice reward for having weathered the storm that has been the Habs crease for the last two seasons. It also allows for him to continue his development in hopes of becoming a bonafide NHL starter and getting paid even more.
For the team, this rewards a player offering stop-gap services which remains Montembeault’s role in my opinion. This deal does not kill the cap, and it allows for Montembeault to continue developing. Considering the term given, it is easily tradeable should the situation change in Montreal. I don’t expect it to change as the team continues to restructure and goaltending should not be at the top of the list. Once again, if the team does find their next starter in that time span, this is a fine contract for a backup, though I think it is more likely that teams will call to acquire him should that scenario ever play out.
This contract should put to rest all speculation of Montembeault being on the move. I think the Habs would prefer to move Primeau. The young netminder has had strong games, but even in those games, he’s allowed goals that shouldn’t be going in. This is not a selling point for teams that would potentially be interested in his services. Teams are more likely to ask about Allen, but then the salary becomes an issue. Also, Montembeault is young, so having Allen around is better for his development. I think the Habs will eventually have to cave and move Allen, but it might not happen until closer to the trade deadline.
Peter Longo: I think the deal is fair for both sides. For the Habs, they lock up a 27-year-old netminder for the next three years. Montembeault is playing reasonable hockey – better than could be expected from someone they claimed off waivers just two years ago. He’s got reasonable numbers this season (2.66 GAA, 913 SV%), but has been somewhat sheltered playing mostly against sub-.500 teams. Still, he’s shown consistent improvement year over year for the Habs and has demonstrated he’s an NHL-calibre goalie. The three-year term gives Montreal time to see if Montembeault can continue to improve and develop into a consistent starting goalie who can win games for the team.
Montreal also has to like the term as it takes them past the end of Carey Price’s contract and potentially to a time when the team could compete for a playoff spot.
From Montembeault’s perspective, it’s tough to envision any better offers coming his way at the end of the season as a UFA. His numbers are middle of the pack (16th in SV%, 15th in GAA) and he hasn’t demonstrated he could be a consistent starting goalie playing 50-60 games. This limits the contract size and number of teams that would be interested. The $3.15M puts him just behind Allen which makes sense as Allen has more consistency and a proven track record. Montembeault is also just coming off waivers and a two-year, $1M per season deal. So, this is a big raise for him in terms of salary and term. He’s got to like both items at this point in his career.
How does this impact the three-goaltender situation in Montreal? There’s been no reported trade restriction with the new deal so I think it provides more options for Montreal. They could conceivably still trade Montembeault who may be worth more given the certainty of his contract. Would a team like Edmonton be more interested in him now that he has some term and won’t be able to just walk away at the end of the season? I can see Montreal moving forward with any two of their three goalies for the next few years. It’s just a matter of which goalie provides the best return.
Paul MacLeod: The extension for Montembeault is just about perfect. Three years at a $3.15 million AAV gives the goalie some security and provides for a reasonably priced backup. It will be a bargain if Montembeault’s game continues to improve and he becomes a bonafide starting goalie. At that length, the contract also provides stability while our other goalie prospects continue to develop. The odd man out from a potential and salary cap perspective has to be Allen. The Canadiens haven’t given Primeau the reps he needs for them to make a final judgment on him and Allen has to go for that to happen. If the Habs weren’t committed to keeping Cayden, the untenable three-headed monster in the crease would have ended before it began, with him on waivers at the end of training camp.
Dave Woodward: Over the last two seasons, Montembeault has outplayed Allen and, at age 27, he represents the best option for the Canadiens in goal during this rebuild. His goals saved above expected numbers are among the best in the league over last season and this year. Since he is younger than Allen, Montembeault is also better positioned to hold the fort at least until the Canadiens’ rebuild starts to bear fruit. For that reason, the decision to sign Montembeault is a good one.
However, he has barely crossed the threshold of 100 NHL starts and has a sub-.900 career save percentage, albeit while playing behind one of the weakest teams in the NHL. With a relatively small sample size of work for a 27-year-old goalie, the deal’s cap hit may be a little on the high side.
Nonetheless, I like the deal’s three-year term. The Canadiens bought three of Montembeault’s UFA years but did not commit beyond that. With Montembeault’s limited body of work at the NHL level, the Habs did not over-commit on term and that means a lot, especially if the Canadiens are emerging from the rebuild in or about three years.
On balance, it seems like a reasonable deal for both sides, particularly when one considers that the cap will likely rise sharply over the next couple of years.
Now that Montembeault has signed, Hugo must decide whether Primeau or Allen stay or go. The three-goaltender rotation is simply not ideal or sustainable. Much depends on what return the Habs can obtain for either of them. Allen will likely yield the higher return but his contract may be difficult to move at about $3.5 million this year and next. Although Primeau has been better this year than the last few years in his limited NHL appearances, it is not at all clear that he’s ready (or if he will ever be). If management cannot find a deal they like, I expect they will put Primeau on waivers and take their chances on losing him. He has a one-way contract paying him $950,000 this year and $1 million next year. It would not be surprising if there are no takers. If Primeau is claimed off waivers, it’s unlikely that they will have lost their goalie of the future.