In trading for and now extending goalie Jake Allen, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin continues to be a fascinating figure. Will it all be worth it, though? Time will tell — and, if history repeats, that answer might flip-flop between “Yes” and “No” multiple times.
The Canadiens announced that they signed Jake Allen, 30, to a two-year extension that carries a $2.875 million cap hit in 2021-22 and 2022-23. All before seeing Allen play a single game for the Habs.
Hey, if nothing else, the Canadiens rarely go through a boring offseason.
Canadiens sign Jake Allen to two-year extension with $2.875M cap hit
On paper, the Canadiens took an expensive and risky goalie situation (Carey Price, 33: $10.5M cap hit through 2025-26) and made it even riskier. If Price and Allen both stick with the Canadiens through Allen’s extension, Montreal’s goalie spending would look like this:
That’s … a lot of dough.
And, again, the Canadiens don’t totally know what they’re getting in Allen. They haven’t seen how the veteran goalie performs in Claude Julien’s system, so this extension is a leap of faith.
Consider that, on one hand, Allen performed shockingly well for the Blues in 2019-20. While Jordan Binnington (.912 save percentage, 50 games) endured ups and downs trying to follow up his breakthrough, Allen authored a fantastic .927 save percentage over 24 games. The difference was even more dramatic during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Binnington struggling (.851) and Allen quietly continuing his momentum from the season (.935 save percentage).
After seeing Carey Price play brilliantly during this past postseason, the Canadiens invested heavily in the idea that the star goalie might put up elite numbers with a lighter workload.
Maybe just as importantly, extending Allen addressing the goaltending system regarding the Seattle expansion draft.
The Jake Allen signing gives the Montreal Canadiens a goaltender to expose in the Seattle expansion draft. They didn't previously have one since Carey Price's contract includes a NMC and Cayden Primeau is exempt.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) October 14, 2020
But what if Seattle plucks a different Habs player away? Could the Canadiens find themselves with two overpriced, aging goalies when the smoke clears?
It’s fun that Bergevin gambles — other GMs could take notes for sheer entertainment value — yet there are risks if these moves go bust.
Big changes, but are the Canadiens better after another bold offseason?
When you zoom out beyond 2019-20 with Allen, you see a goalie who may be best described as disappointing.
After putting together solid-to-strong work from 2012-13 through 2016-17, Allen floundered in 2017-18 and 2018-19, failing to register a save percentage above .906 during those two seasons. When you factor in the Blues’ often-stingy defense, the results were even more underwhelming at times. Via Hockey Reference, Allen’s career Goals Saved Against Average is slightly below “.500” so to speak, at -.5.
The Canadiens forked over a third-round pick to land Allen. But, most of all, they didn’t require any salary retention from the Blues. Instead of exploiting a deep goalie market to get a 1B, Montreal opted for an expensive option in Allen.
Now, if Allen replicates his 2019-20, or comes close to it, then this is a homerun. Either way, though, it’s a big swing. And it’s not the only one from Bergevin during this fall.
Consider some of Montreal’s bigger moves:
- Trading Max Domi and a third-rounder for Josh Anderson.
- Signing Anderson for more term and money ($5.5M, seven years) than Domi received with Columbus ($5.3M, two years). Like Allen, Anderson hasn’t played a single game with Montreal yet. Compounding the inherent risks, recall that injuries derailed Anderson’s 2019-20 season.
- Knocked it out of the park by getting Tyler Toffoli on a value contract. So that’s good.
- While Jeff Petry‘s been a gem for Montreal, he’s also already 32. Bergevin once again gambles, being that Petry’s four-year, $6.2M extension could age poorly. (On the bright side, at least he’s played a shift for Montreal before prompting a hearty investment.)
- Investing a baffling amount of money into Joel Edmundson ($3.5M x four years). Giving him a no-trade clause is even more puzzling. Again, another player who hasn’t played a game yet for Montreal. They better be right about these new additions.
It would be a mistake for Montreal give Joel Edmunson a roster spot, let alone a non-trivial contract. His profile (good PK, good shot (and therefore some points) while hurting his team badly at 5v5) is the kind of net-negative player who some teams love to get fooled by. pic.twitter.com/T7SCfFoYXZ
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) September 14, 2020
Uncomfortably, we’re already seeing signs that the Canadiens might box themselves into a corner with these contracts.
Reports indicate that contract extension talks stalled with Brendan Gallagher. Along with Gallagher, valuable forwards Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault also enter contract years. In addition to being debatable moves in a vacuum, Montreal’s investments could inhibit the team from retaining more important players.
Of course, Bergevin shows he has tricks up his sleeves over and over again. Even if sometimes those magic tricks end up backfiring.
From a blogging perspective, Bergevin’s 8.5 years of GM work has been gold. Time and time again, it’s fair to wonder if his plan is actually working for the Canadiens, though.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.