Did Canadiens ‘hit a home run’ with Jake Allen acquisition?

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No team is spending a bigger portion of its salary cap on goalies this season than the Montreal Canadiens.

Following the acquisition of Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues earlier this offseason, the Canadiens have more than $14.5 million committed to him and Carey Price. It is a huge investment, and one the Canadiens added to by quickly re-signing Allen to a two-year contract extension ($2.875 million per season).

The goal seems to be obvious: Give Price a competent backup that can limit his playing time, keep him rested, and help keep some mileage off the tires. The Canadiens obviously think that is going to make Price and the team better. Given their massive amount of salary cap space entering the offseason, it seems fine.

The Canadiens, though, seem to think it is better than fine. Especially goalie coach Stéphane Waite who had some glowing words for the Allen acquisition on Tuesday, calling it a “home run” by general manager Marc Bergevin.

Via the Montreal Gazette:

“We paid the price, but it’s the right thing to do in the National Hockey League today,” Waite said in a video conference Tuesday about acquiring a veteran NHL goalie to back up Carey Price. “Jake has almost 300 starts in the NHL, he is a No. 1 compared to Keith (Kinkaid), who has had a hundred starts in the league. It’s a different class. Jake could be No. 1 on other teams.”

The Canadiens’ plan for Allen is to play in at least 30 games, which should allow Price to remain as mentally and physically sharp as possible.

Price, who just turned 33 years old in August, has been given an insane workload the past two seasons, leading the league in minutes played each season. In total his 7,320 minutes during that stretch are 400 more than the next closest goalie. Only three other goalies have logged more than 6,500 minutes in those two seasons.

Only Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck has faced more shots on goal during that stretch.

That sort of workload is just not sustainable for a goalie in their mid-30s. They need some help.

More from Waite (via the Gazette):

“Carey is 33 years old and his body is slower to recover between games,” Waite said. “Carey wants to play every game, but he’s going to appreciate playing a little less for quality starts. He won’t have to cut corners to save his body. We watched games together and he cut corners in certain situations to save energy. This is not the best solution, but we had no choice in our situation. We had to overuse Carey all the time. It will be a very, very good thing for Carey and for the team (to have some help).”

There was a time in Price’s career where the Canadiens could lean on him for that many games and that many minutes and expect him to put the team on his back. But as he has gotten older he has not been as consistently dominant, and bringing in somebody else that can split the workload can not hurt. Especially as the league seems to be trending more toward a two goalie setup. All throughout the postseason we saw teams utilize goaltending duos far more than we have in the past.

Given Allen’s career resume he probably should not be expected to duplicate the .927 save percentage he posted a year ago for the Blues. But if he is able to come in around the .910 mark he has averaged for most of his career over 30-35 games that would be a major game-changer for Montreal.

Their backups over the past two seasons have combined for an .898 save percentage and a 13-12-5 record when they start.

Price has had a .913 save percentage and a 62-49-12 record when he starts.

Even though Price is not the MVP and Vezina contender he was at his peak, it is still a tale of two different teams based on the goalie.

It may not make them Stanley Cup contenders. But it could help close the gap in the playoff race.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.