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.
“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.
“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.