Having two good goalies is a key to any NHL team’s success
Excluding Carey Price, nine goalies have started at least one game for the Montreal Canadiens since the start of the 2013-14 National Hockey League (NHL) season.
Finding a reliable second goalie at a reasonable price has been a problem for the Habs since Peter Budaj was Price’s substitute from 2011 to 2014. The team’s general manager (GM) Marc Bergevin made a significant move on Sept. 2, 2020 in order to solve that problem. The GM acquired veteran Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a third-round and a seventh-round draft pick. Allen will play the last of a four-year contract next season with the Habs, and will have a $4.35 million cap hit.
Allen lost his starting position during the 2018-19 season when young goaltender Jordan Binnington made a solid impression on the Blues during the Stanley Cup playoffs, helping the team win its first championship in franchise history.
Allen probably lost value because of Binnington’s dominance in goal, which can explain how the Habs managed to get him for two draft picks. However, it doesn’t mean he lost talent. In fact, Allen finished this season second in the NHL for goals against average (GAA) with 2.15, and fourth for save percentage with .927, both career bests in the league.
A problem these past few seasons was that Price was over-used by playing too many games, including back-to-back games in 48-hour spans. With Allen, not only will the Canadiens have two trusted goalies they can send against any team, but Price will be able to rest more. It’s easy to imagine that Price will also feel a weight off his shoulders now that he’s not the team’s only hope between the pipes.
With that salary, Allen will need to perform, especially since he’ll not play as much as he could elsewhere in a bigger role. Not every team has the chance to have two goaltenders who can act as starters. Teams who do, however, usually don’t have a superstar like Price.
Many backup goaltenders can win from 10 to 20 games per season and start from 15 to 30 games. Allen could easily exceed these numbers, but likely won’t get that chance in the 2020-21 season with Price in the starting role.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Canadiens will re-sign him, considering that both Allen and Price are aging veterans looking for ice-time. If not, it’ll be interesting to see why the team traded for a single season of Allen, and didn’t try a similar trade in the past two or three years instead.
It’s yet to be seen whether or not Allen will solve the Habs goalie problems.
Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion