Al Montoya has earned himself a two-year, $2.13-million extension with the Canadiens, but the looming expansion draft — and Montreal’s lack of eligible netminders — almost certainly played into the signing.
The “highlight,” if you can call it that, of Al Montoya’s tenure as a member of the Montreal Canadiens was sticking in goal for a 10-goal drubbing at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But there’s more to Montoya than that.
Outside of the embarrassing loss to the Blue Jackets, Montoya has gone 4-4-2 this season, shutout the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins just three games into the campaign, has mustered decent enough backup numbers with a 2.74 goals-against average and .909 save percentage and, hey, his puck-moving ability has helped him notch two assists. Not a necessity, of course, but certainly an added bonus.
Beyond that, the 31-year-old puckstopper has proven he can be a more-than-serviceable backup netminder and spot-starter when the situation calls for it. And the Canadiens know how bad things can get when there’s not a netminder ready and waiting to fill in for Carey Price if the all-world starting goaltender happens to have to miss a few games here or there.
For those reasons alone, Montreal’s signing of Montoya to a two-year contract extension that carries an annual cap hit of $1.0625-million makes sense.
But there’s another reason for Montoya’s signing, and one that has as much to do with his ability as it does the impending expansion draft. With the Canadiens locking up Montoya on Monday, they officially have the pieces in place to be compliant when the draft to fill up the Vegas Golden Knights roster rolls around. Before inking Montoya, that wasn’t the case.
As part of the draft, each team must have at least one netminder available to be drafted come June’s expansion draft. As of Sunday, though, the Canadiens only had one — Price — with the rest of their goaltending platoon exempt from the draft, according to CapFriendly. Because none of Zach Fucale, Charlie Lindgren or Michael McNiven will have two-plus pro seasons under their belt by the time the expansion draft rolls around, inking Montoya for two additional years gives the Canadiens a netminder to expose.
Montoya could be worthy of at least a look by the Vegas franchise, too. As it stands, most of the top options the team will have available come the draft will be either young, inexperienced netminders or high-priced starting options, and while some believe one of Ben Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury could be Vegas bound, there’s no certainty either will be suiting up for the expansion franchise next season.
If the Golden Knights are left with only backup options come the expansion draft, maybe Montoya’s experience is enough for him to be considered come June’s draft. His cap hit would certainly work for a franchise building from the ground up, he’s got experience starting 20-plus games in each of the past five full seasons and is on pace to see at least 20 games against this season.
And if he ends up sticking around in Montreal, the Canadiens could do much worse than having Montoya as the second-stringer behind Price.
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