Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin wasted little time in getting to work on his offseason to-do list, acquiring goaltender Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues.
The Canadiens gave up Washington’s third-round pick and Chicago’s seventh-round pick – both in 2020 – and got St. Louis’ own seventh-round pick in 2022 back with Allen.
Canadiens acquire Jake Allen and a 7th-round pick in 2022 from the Blues in return for a 3rd- and 7th-round pick in 2020.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) September 2, 2020
The third-rounder that Montreal gave up was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk. So basically they get Allen for the small price of his $4.35 million cap hit and St. Louis clears some much-needed space and adds a late third-round pick.
Looking good so far.
Now let’s have a look at Allen’s body of work.
It’s obvious that the last two and a half seasons have not gone the way that Allen likely would have wanted. His performance wasn’t where it should have been and he lost his starting job to a guy who had spent his career in the AHL up until that point.
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Let’s not forget that Allen was a top-15 goaltender between 2014-15 and 2016-17 with 81 wins in 136 starts. Individually, he posted a .916 save percentage and sparkling 2.36 goals-against average with 14 shutouts in just 136 starts.
Comparatively, Vegas’ Marc-André Fleury and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen had 87 and 90 wins respectively in 20 more games each.
Of course, between 2017-18 and 2018-19 Allen was not at his best and Jordan Binnington ultimately took over. After the Blues won the Cup in 2019, it was obvious that Binnington was their guy.
He was one of the best goalies to start the season and was 13-3 through the first two months of the season. Then he was up and down in December; he won six out of eight games but only had a .904 save percentage and 2.76 goals-against average.
Once January hit, something changed and Binnington lost his game. He was just 11-7 and his goals-against was under .900 between the start of the new year and the pause.
Allen, meanwhile, was a mediocre 5-3 but was fifth among all goaltenders with a 2.11 goals-against average.
The Blues stuck with Binnington after the NHL returned to play, expecting that the break would have given him the chance to reset and start fresh. They were wrong.
He allowed eight goals over the first two games, despite a strong Game 1 performance. The Blues then turned to Allen against the Dallas Stars – a 2-1 shootout loss where he made 37 saves and gave St. Louis a chance despite being badly outshot.
Craig Berube inexplicably went back to Binnington for Games 1 and 2 of the first round against the Vancouver Canucks and immediately regretted it; Binnington allowed nine goals on just 47 shots.
So, back to Allen go the Blues, and he steals them two games, allowing just three goals on 67 shots. Game 5 rolls around and Allen is a little shaky and he lets in four on 26. Not good.
Now Berube has a choice to make. In hindsight, maybe he should have gone with Allen, but he went with his guy, which is what most NHL coaches would do in an elimination game.
Binnington couldn’t stop a beach ball in Game 6 and got the yank barely halfway through the game.
On the surface, a lot of Habs fans are going to see $4.35 million going to a backup goalie. Admittedly, that is indeed excessive but this is already one of Bergevin’s best moves of the offseason.
The Canadiens absolutely cannot have another backup goalie distraction this season. The Keith Kinkaid signing was a miserable disaster last season and probably could have been avoided if his previous season’s numbers were considered at all.
The Canadiens believe that Charlie Lindgren is not consistent enough to play the number of games to give Carey Price adequate rest. Cayden Primeau needs to start as many games as he can in the AHL. Riding the pine in Montreal won’t help him or the organization, so neither of them is a solution.
There are more free agent goalies than you can shake a stick at this offseason but the notable ones will be looking for starting gigs. Besides 34-year-old Anton Khudobin, nobody else had numbers even close to Allen’s.
So Bergevin could roll the dice and hope that Khudobin both wants to play in Montreal and can continue to play as well as he has for Dallas this season. Both of those seem unlikely though.
Around the league, there are definitely other trade options as well. Rumours around the NHL have Matt Murray on the move and the New York Rangers have a logjam in net. Arizona would also like to move Antti Raanta’s contract considering Darcy Kuemper’s spectacular play.
Murray will likely cost his acquiring team a first-round pick. The last time Montreal traded their first-round pick in a deal that wasn’t moving up in the draft since 2008 when they picked up Alex Tanguay, so that’s probably a no-go too.
In New York, Igor Shesterkin seems to be the man moving forward, so the Rangers will probably move either Alexander Georgiev or Henrik Lundqvist. Georgiev is a young goalie so his price tag will be much higher than Allen’s. the Rangers will have difficulty finding anyone to take Lundqvist’s full contract.
Ultimately, the Canadiens needed to address their backup situation with a reliable goalie and they did just that. Allen should bring stability and give the coaching staff confidence in sitting Price more often.