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For most of this past season, the Habs had a logjam of options between the crease.  With that now settled, how do things shape up between the pipes for the rest of the organization?


Signed: Samuel Montembeault, Carey Price, Cayden Primeau
RFAs: None
UFAs: None

Montembeault has worked his way from being a short-term waiver claim to cover for Price to someone who has been handed the keys to be at least the starter for the short-term future.  He has shown improvement in each full year which helped earn him a three-year extension early in the season.  There are still concerns about his ability to handle a full-season starters’ workload – his career high is 41 games played – but, barring injury, they should be able to evaluate how he handles that challenge in 2024-25.

Primeau has certainly taken the long road to the number two job with the Habs.  He spent four years in Laval and had it not been for him being waiver-eligible this year, it would have been five.  Instead, afraid to lose him for nothing, he languished as the third-string option before Jake Allen was moved at the trade deadline.  He posted a quality .910 SV% in 23 games but can he maintain that with a bigger workload next year?  That’s what they’re going to find out and with 2024-25 being the final year of his contract (he’ll be RFA-eligible with arbitration rights), there will be some pressure on Primeau.

Price is mentioned here simply because he’s still under contract for two more years.  With the contract primarily being in the form of signing bonuses (not covered by insurance), it will be extremely difficult to move him (like they did with Shea Weber) until the last of those is paid.  In the meantime, they’ll bear the brunt of carrying him on LTIR which limits some offseason flexibility while ensuring there will be bonus carryover penalties for the next couple of years.

Needs Assessment: Low – While there are some big question marks about the viability of this tandem being the ones to take the Habs out of the rebuild, they’re not at that point yet.  In the meantime, they need to see what Montembeault and Primeau can do so there’s not much they need to do this summer on that front.  Long-term, well, that could be another story.


Signed: Jakub Dobes
RFAs: None
UFAs: None
AHL Free Agents: Zacharie Emond, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Strauss Mann, Joe Vrbetic

There’s no point in sugarcoating it, Dobes had an ugly start to his pro career last season.  Too many untimely soft goals took away some wins early in the year and that was the difference-maker between making and missing the playoffs (based on points lost).  That said, Dobes completely turned it around and was the only reason they hung around the playoff race as long as they did as Laval’s roster got weaker as the year went on.  He logged a heavy workload this season and should have a big one again in 2024-25.

After Mann struggled badly in the backup role, Laval was forced to look outside the organization midseason to add Kaskisuo, a move that worked out pretty well as he posted a .909 SV% in 13 games.  There’s a case to be made to bring him back but as we’ll get to shortly, it probably won’t be their first option.

Mann fared better with Trois-Rivieres but it’s likely that he will look to move on; an overseas deal isn’t out of the question if he’s unable to land a one-way AHL agreement.  Emond was injured for a good chunk of the year but didn’t look out of place in limited duty and had the starting job in the playoffs.  Bringing him back on a minor league deal is certainly an option.  Vrbetic, meanwhile, had to take a tryout deal in training camp before returning to the Lions in a situation where the Habs were basically just trying to find a place for him to play.  His rights don’t expire until 2025 so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him back in Trois-Rivieres as well.

Needs Assessment: High – The Habs made a mistake last year by not giving Dobes a quality backup to start with.  Yes, they thought at one point that one of Primeau or Casey DeSmith might back it there but they waited way too long to pivot.  Now with a young backup in Montreal and a young starter in Laval, there is a big need to get a proven veteran option to partner with Dobes and give some insurance to the Habs if Primeau struggles or someone is injured.  I’m not sure that goalie is Kaskisuo; I think they need to aim higher for someone with recent NHL experience.  They can’t start 2024-25 without a capable second-stringer and the top goalies for that slot will go off the board quickly in July.  Meanwhile, if Emond and Vrbetic return to Trois-Rivieres, that would quickly solve those vacancies.

Other Prospects

Montreal used an early third-round pick on Jacob Fowler, the earliest they’ve taken a goalie since Zach Fucale.  So far, that looks like a strong pick.  He immediately locked down the starting job at Boston College, one of the top teams in the NCAA, and was dominant while making the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and All-Star Team and earning a spot on Team USA at the World Juniors.  It’s too early to proclaim him the goalie of the future and he’s still a few years away but there’s legitimate cause for optimism that Fowler could be part of the plans one day.

It is very difficult to assess Yevgeni Volokhin’s season considering he was splitting time with another NHL prospect in Russia’s junior league.  But he was simply dominant most nights and was one of the top netminders in the league.  He needs to be tested at a higher level (likely the VHL and the KHL a little further down the road) but this is a late-round dart throw that could be worth keeping an eye on.

After being the backup for QMJHL Quebec last season, Quentin Miller got the starting job this year, albeit on a much weaker team so it came as no surprise that he struggled a bit.  However, he fared much better after being moved to Rimouski before being injured late in the year.  Unlike Volokhin whose rights are held indefinitely, Miller has to be signed by next June despite coming from the same draft class.  He’ll need a big year to have a shot at getting what would have to be a three-year contract.

Emmett Croteau was the near-annual late-round dart throw pick back in 2022 and started his college career this season.  It didn’t go well.  He struggled considerably in limited minutes at Clarkson and after his school went and added a goalie in the transfer portal, Croteau then had to enter, transferring to Dartmouth in the hopes of having a shot at playing meaningful minutes next season.  He’s still a few years away from a decision needing to be made on him but his stock certainly dropped this year.

Needs Assessment: Low – I’m a proponent of drafting a goalie each year, especially if you have several extra picks like Montreal has.  Good goalies can be added from anywhere in the draft so it’s worth a flyer somewhere.  But with Fowler looking like a legitimate prospect and even Dobes doing better in Laval, it’s not a big need so if they’re going to take one this season, they can afford to wait until later on and go after another project.