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Managing assets: Comparing the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers on the approach to goaltending prospects

Each team has a franchise netminder, but only one has been turning their young goaltenders into future assets. How can the Habs change that?

Honda NHL Superskills Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In 2010, the Montreal Canadiens headed deep into the playoffs thanks to the their starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak. Jacques Martin’s team went to the Conference Final in large part because of the netminder’s superhuman efforts.

Soon afterward, on June 17 of the same year, Pierre Gauthier traded Halak for restricted free agent, and former first-round pick, Lars Eller, and prospect Ian Schultz, who never played a single game for the Montreal Canadiens.

The move was done to settle a “goalie controversy” involving Halak and young upstart Carey Price, giving the reins to the man who would eventually become the team’s best player, and even claiming a Hart Trophy as the league’s best a few seasons ago.

When Marc Bergevin arrived in 2012, Price was cemented in the top spot, with Peter Budaj as the backup. The following is how the Canadiens’ goaltending history has played out since.

  • On October 5, 2014, Budaj and Patrick Holland were traded to the Winnipeg Jets in return for Eric Tangradi, and Dustin Tokarski took the backup role.
  • On October 5, 2015, it was Tokarski’s turn to leave. He was put on waivers in favour of Mike Condon and traded on January 7, 2016 to the Anaheim Ducks for Max Friberg.
  • On October 11, 2016, free-agent signee Al Montoya won the role and Condon was put on waivers. He got claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom he played for 20 minutes before being traded to Ottawa for a fifth-round pick. Condon has since signed a three-year extension in the nation’s capital.

In summary, Marc Bergevin has received two AHL players — Eric Tangradi and Max Friberg — for three goaltenders, two of whom still play in the NHL. Both the AHL acquisitions have since been let go.

Now let's look at another team with a franchise goalie locked into the starter’s role: the New York Rangers.

  • On June 27, 2015, outgrowing his backup role but unable to supplant Henrik Lundqvist, Cam Talbot was traded along with a seventh-round pick in the 2015 draft to the Edmonton Oilers for a second-, third-, and seventh-round pick in 2015.
  • On June 27, 2015, Antti Raanta was acquired from Chicago Blackhawks for Ryan Haggerty. Raanta was an undrafted player signed by the Hawks as a free agent.
  • On June 23, 2017, Raanta was traded with Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes for Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round pick in the 2017 draft.

The net result for the Rangers was giving up Cam Talbot, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Haggerty for DeAngelo, a first-, second-, and a third-round draft choice.

Budaj and Tokarski may not be comparable to the goaltenders the Blueshirts traded, but Condon was clearly worth more than the nothing he was ultimately exchanged for.

With the Habs entering a new chapter of the Price story after making him the highest-paid goalie in NHL history, there’s a chance to get more value out of the netminders in the system whose ceiling in the organization is now that of an NHL backup.

The Habs have Charlie Lindgren who was able to withstand a heavily defence-oriented system attempted without many quality defenders to allow the St. John’s IceCaps to make the playoff for the first time in five years. Michael McNiven was named the best goalie of the CHL. From different sources, Cayden Primeau might be a steal as a seventh-round selection a few days ago. Zachary Fucale may not hold as much value as those others players, though he has seen success in various national and international tournaments, and will have his status boosted as a result. And the current NHL option who holds the secondary spot is Al Montoya, who is a proven backup with a new two-year contract.

The young goalies will be gradually becoming ready for time in the NHL, so Marc Bergevin should try his best to trade Al Montoya while he still has some value to start rotating them in.

First up will likely be Lindgren, who should be the number-one goalie for the Laval Rocket this season. Fucale can be the backup while Michael McNiven follows his path to get maximum minutes with the ECHL’s Brampton Beast.

When Montoya is traded in a year’s time, Lindgren and McNiven move up a level. Lindgren’s value goes up by taking on the weaker competition as the backup to Price. With Claude Julien’s new system and the commitment to defence the Habs are making, it should allow a skilled young goaltender to shine.

Eventually the Canadiens can trade Lindgren at his highest value, just like the Rangers did with Talbot. By then McNiven could be ready to jump into the light NHL role, and the process can begin again. Primeau might give the Habs one more carousel ride from their current crop of goaltenders.

Depending on how much effort you put into developing your goaltenders, and if the potential they have shown so far can be carried through the professional ranks, you might be able to reap great reward from it. It’s much better than waiting until one of three NHL goalies has to be forced out, especially when doing so year after year.