When the Montreal Canadiens acquired Jake Allen, the immediate thought it that this was just a simple way to patch up their hole at the backup goalie position. While that is very true, there’s plenty of other layers beyond that reasoning that make this trade a huge win for the Habs, assuming Allen is able to play up to snuff behind Carey Price.
Across Jake Allen’s seven-year NHL career he’s been both a starter, a split starter and the back up for the St. Louis Blues, fully taking the net from Jaroslav Halak, then eventually ceding it to Jordan Binnington. All things said he has a career 2.50 goals against and .913 save percentage with a -0.5 goals saved above average. He’s about as break even as it gets, and for reference to the last goalie Montreal acquired, Keith Kinkaid, came to Montreal sporting a -27.7 GSAA.
Statistically this past year Allen put together a solid year behind Binnington in St. Louis, posting a 12-6-3 record in 21 starts, along with a .927 SV% and 2.15 GAA. Given he’ll be playing in a similar role behind Carey Price (give or take some games started) getting anything close to that kind of performance is the kind of thing the Canadiens have been searching for recently. The playoffs proved that a rested Carey Price is still one of the best goalies in the league. Getting a proven NHL player between the pipes in Allen offers Claude Julien a legit option when needing to give Price a night off during the regular season. Statistically, it all makes sense for the Canadiens, especially if Allen can continue to play like he did this last season for the Blues.
In terms of money Allen does make a good chunk of cash while playing as a backup right now, ringing in at $4,350,000 per year with just one year left on his current deal. So it does mean that the Canadiens have nearly $16 million tied up in net, but there’s important context needed for this. If and when the Canadiens move Karl Alzner back to the minors along with whatever they choose to do with Charlie Lindgren, they’ll be up to $16 million in cap space.
Keep in mind, this value includes a few possible changes (since we're still using the 2019-20 roster):— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) September 2, 2020
- Lindgren & Alzner are set to the NHL level
- Teasdale is on SOIR
If all three were to be re-assigned to the minors, the #Habs would have $16.6M cap space with a roster of 15 https://t.co/u6TlvN2Snm
Cap space being tied up isn’t an issue when there’s still that much in play, and even with Max Domi’s contract looming, there’s still plenty of space to make moves this offseason. Even more important is that this is just for one season. The Canadiens found a way to get a prominent backup without blocking a potential future franchise goalie in Cayden Primeau. Even if you prefer one of the unrestricted free agent goaltenders, chances are they would not have settled for a one-year deal.
This trade has the benefit of allowing Primeau another season in the AHL to smooth out some of his issues from his rookie year. While he was great for stretches, he also had huge issues with consistency in the middle of the season. With a year under his belt, and no pressure to make the NHL leap immediately, this is a huge win for his development, and for the Rocket they get their starting goalie back to gear up for another playoff push.
Also for the Rocket, and the Canadiens, the goalie log jam gets a lot messier now in the minor leagues. Currently under team control are Charlie Lindgren, Cayden Primeau, Vasili Demchenko, and Michael McNiven who is a restricted free agent. Given that Primeau is penciled in as the future starter and they just brought Demchenko over from the KHL it’s safe to secure their two spots.
What this probably means is at the very least McNiven’s time in the Canadiens organization is over, and given his roller coaster time it’s likely best for him to find and established role elsewhere. As for Lindgren, it’s entirely unclear, he’s struggled to stay healthy, and get a regular shot at the NHL level given how much Carey Price plays. He’s a well-liked guy in Laval and has always worked hard to get better, but right now his role is entirely undefined. They could always chose to do a three goalie rotation in Laval, but personally I would chose McNiven given his younger age and better numbers this past year, or much more likely Lindgren is waived or traded by the time next season starts. It’s a tough pill, but hockey is about winning at the end of the day, and Allen fills that spot better than Lindgren and so does Cayden Primeau.
In short, the trade to acquire Jake Allen comes off as a big win for Marc Bergevin at least on paper right now. He dealt from his surplus of draft picks to address a huge need on his team and landed a proven NHL quality goaltender. In that same move he still has plenty of cap space to make other moves, and gave his budding goalie prospect more development time. Across the board the move checks off a lot of boxes, and still leaves the team with space to operate and improve.