It has been a rather complex season thus far in for general manager Marc Bergevin and his Montreal Canadiens who have unfortunately had to be busy both internally and externally early due to a wide variety of injuries suffered within his active roster.
It all started out back on the 20th of October when head coach Claude Julien lost right winger Ales Hemsky to an upper-body injury and he has been on the club’s IR ever since with no further progression. Following his lead was veteran goaltender Al Montoya who suffered a concussion on the ninth of November with no further status updates provided since the mishap which leads onto the final member of the list which is Shea Weber, out until after the all-star break due to a right foot injury suffered on Opening Night against the Buffalo Sabres, one that hadn’t healed properly and therefore ailing the all star defensemen to the point where sidelining for pre-caution became the best course of action to take given the circumstances he was under.
Now, why are these important you may be asking yourself?
That would be simply because following the Habs 2-1 victory in shootout on Thursday night at the Bell Centre against the highly touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Edmonton Oilers announced the acquisition of veteran netminder Al Montoya from the Canadiens organization in exchange for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
In other terms, Montoya, 32, has been better known to be the backup to Carey Price since he was signed to a one-year deal back in July of 2016 after a short bout in Sunrise with the Florida Panthers.
According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.ca, the condition on the draft pick involved works a little something like this: Montreal is eligible to receive a 2018 fourth-round selection if Al Montoya appears i seven more games this regular season. If he is unable to meet those requirements, Montreal will then be due to get handed over a fifth-round selection. This policy was later re-iterated by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic Toronto a short time later.
Anyways, moving on.
Now the question you may be asking yourself is what was the purpose of a trade like this?
Here is the best light to put it in knowing that general manager Marc Bergevin is the type of man who always likes to stay busy and make moves to his team and when you the fans least expect them.
As previously mentioned above, Montoya has been out since the fourth of November when he suffered a concussion while in action against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Center with no further progression having been made to his health in any shape or form ever since the date of the untimely occurrence. That being said, no updates had been reported to bring fans nor the organization up to speed with where things stood as far as his all around well-being as well as his future and that would be where holes started to open up with questions surrounding his future with regards to playing in Montreal.
Taking a look at this transaction from a deeper, more insightful angle per say, the native of Chicago, IL, due to the injury which he sustained, the team tried to manage from an internal standpoint, however, it started to become clear after multiple episodes of recalling goaltender Charlie Lindgren and then a day later re-assigning him to the AHL’s Laval Rocket that it would no longer be a looked at as a viable option, therefore, something had to happen and it led them to the waiver claim of free agent Antti Niemi who had been dropped by the Florida Panthers just days before being picked up by the Canadiens.
Prior to his stint at the BB&T Center in Florida, Niemi had also seen time with both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Dallas Stars where he served as a backup to Penguins starter Matt Murray and Stars starter Kari Lehtonen before Pittsburgh recalled Tristan Jerry from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League and the Stars acquired Ben Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings.
Do keep in mind the fact of which the Canadiens did agree to terms with Montoya Lat January on a two-year contract extension worth a reported AAV of $1.065 million, however, that was not seen as a long term solution upon it’s ultimate completion with plenty of speculation leading to Montoya’s eventual dismissal somehow which has now come to take full shape given there was no future to begin with in which it was drawn in that he would remain locked up through to the conclusion of the 2019-20 season as we are now seeing take place today.
Taking a look at Montoya’s 2016-17 season, he played in a total of 19 games played for Montreal, 18 of those in which he started while owning a record of 8-6-4 to go alongside a GAA of 2.67 as well as a save percentage of .912.
At this time, things are looking positive on the upswing as Ryan Rishaug of TSN.ca reports that while Montoya remains on the IR for at least the time being, he is currently on the tail end of his concussion recovery and has practiced the last few days, meaning that he may be ready to return in a short time from now.
In continuation, Rishaug notes that Montoya, who is under contract for the 2018-19 season as well, is expected to be with the Oilers, not the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL as head coach Todd McLellan wanted a veteran backup for starter Cam Talbot which means that once Montoya is activated and officially ready to go, Laurent Brossoit may be looking at different options such as heading back down so he can be used later on as a replacement if an injury is to occur or he could request a trade where he is guaranteed playing time elsewhere and on the big league stage.
Taking a quick look at the comparison of statistics for the 2017-18 season, Montoya has only appeared in a total of four games played while holding down a record of 2-1-0 to go alongside a GAA of 3.77 as well as a save percentage of .863 while in another light stands Brossoit, 24, who on the other hand owns a GAA of 3.22 to go alongside a save percentage of .822 this season.
To some extent, it is definitely worth noting that before the new year, the Oilers’ goaltending depth was pushed to it’s breaking point in the absence of Cam Talbot missed who six games due to injury and has not been the same since in terms of success. During that time, Brossoit posted a 3-3 record in his place.
For his NHL career as a whole, Montoya, who was selected by the New York Rangers with the sixth-overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, owns a record of 65-47-22 to go alongside a 2.63 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 159 total games played. He also owns seven shutouts. This is all combined between the Canadiens, Panthers, Winnipeg Jets, New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes.
In closing, head coach Todd McLellan told Ryan Rishaug following the Oilers 2-1 SO victory over the Anaheim Ducks at Rogers Place that Montoya has a good track record of joining a new team and giving them some good starts. Further more, McLellan went on to say that Brossoit needs more time in net and simply wasn’t going to get it with main club as his plan as you may figure is for Talbot continuing to play a lot, therefore, a likely course of action being that the former sixth round selection of the Calgary Flames (2011 NHL Entry Draft) will require waivers in order for the pieces to fall perfectly into place.