Every summer, there are players who slip under the free agency radar and end up yielding surprising returns for affordable contracts.
Could Al Montoya be a sneaky goaltending gem for teams that wait out the feeding frenzy stages of the UFA period?
There were already murmurs of the Panthers wanting to move on from Montoya a couple weeks ago, even when the team seemed a little more optimistic about retaining “Soupy.”
When it comes to lower-tier free agents, it’s all about managing expectations.
Montoya isn’t likely to save a team’s bacon over and over again, yet he boasts reasonable potential to be either a nice backup or even a decent 1B option.
In 25 games for Florida in 2015-16, he went 12-7-3 with a nice .919 save percentage. He also managed a .920 save percentage in 2013-14 with Winnipeg.
Now, his 2014-15 work with the Panthers was a little rough (6-7-2, .892 save percentage), so it’s not to say that he’ll light the world on fire. His career .909 save percentage argues that he probably isn’t a backup who can become a true top guy like, say, Martin Jones.
Call them flashes of brilliance or glimpses of competence, but there have been enough moments that he could be the sort of backup who can grab subtle-but-important points. There’s even the possibility that he can hold down the fort when a No. 1 guy gets injured.
With Luongo getting up there in the years, the Panthers might require even more than what Montoya can provide. Another team – maybe the Anaheim Ducks with John Gibson more exposed? – would be wise to take a look at Montoya if he hits the bargain bin.