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Despite his reputation as a quality veteran, the contract and mediocre performance from Jake Allen this season stand as possible barriers to him being traded by the March 8th deadline.  There is also another factor that will make a trade harder, one that is entirely out of his control.

No, that element isn’t injuries around the league.  That’s the ultimate x-factor and can’t really be factored into Montreal’s planning.  Should a few netminders get injured and open up the goalie trade market, all the better.  But that can’t be planned for or expected.

The other factor is actually Canadiens GM Kent Hughes.  More specifically, his reputation.  Consider the Tyler Toffoli, Artturi Lehkonen, Ben Chiarot, and Sean Monahan trades in particular.  What is the common element of those?  Hughes set his price, one that some would call high.  He waited until he got it and then he pulled the trigger on the trade.

Consider the reporting that has been out there around Allen so far.  What’s the common element?  Hughes has set a price and hasn’t moved off it.  And that’s the point entirely.

For Hughes to have made the trades that he has made, the reputation of being someone who sets his price and sticks to it is of paramount importance.  If a GM sets a price and then folds late in the process and accepts a lesser offer, that GM is going to have a hard time commanding a high return the next time he wants to make a move; other rivals know if they wait it out, the price will come down.  That means Hughes shouldn’t break the script and do so here.

I’ve seen plenty of suggestions saying take the best offer for him, even if it’s just a late-round pick to get it over with and end the three-goalie situation.  On its own, such an argument has some legitimate merit.  But it runs counter to how Hughes has handled trade talks up to this point in his tenure.  Changing it now to get what would be an abjectly boring return probably isn’t worth it if it makes it harder for him to stand firm on a high asking price in a trade discussion for someone different, say, David Savard.  Using their final retention slot to get a slightly better return also isn’t necessarily ideal if it takes that option off the table for someone who could yield a better return with retention, also like Savard.

With Allen not being on an expiring contract, this isn’t a case of doing something or risk losing the player for nothing.  That’s a different set of circumstances where salvaging something becomes easier to spin.  But with one more year left at $3.85 million, even that doesn’t apply here so they’re not in that situation until around this time in 2025.

Personally, I think the best bet for Hughes to get his price for Allen (whatever it may be) is to wait until June.  At that point, the market should be stronger.  How many teams now have backups on expiring contracts that they won’t want to commit a multi-year deal to in free agency to keep?  For those teams, flipping something for Allen to avoid getting locked in with a contract they don’t want has some value.  Speculatively, that value is probably more than what is being offered for Allen’s services at a time when there aren’t a lot of teams looking for goalie help and even fewer that can afford the full contract.  Perhaps they’d even give up a return at the level Hughes is currently seeking.

I’m a fan of Hughes’s approach in trades, which boils down to ‘Here’s the price.  Pay it and the player is yours.’  I’d say it has served him well thus far.  This isn’t the time to deviate from that approach, even if it means keeping Allen through the rest of the season.  If Hughes is going to get his price for Allen, I don’t think it’s coming in the next two and a half weeks.  Stick with the process that has worked so far, even if the three-goalie rotation has to last a little longer; it’ll be worth it in the end.