The Montreal Canadiens have been searching for a goaltender for the past 10 years to play back up to Carey Price since Jaroslav Halak was ironically traded to the St. Louis Blues back in June of 2010. Since 2010, Montreal has brought in eight backups, including Alex Auld, Peter Budaj, Dustin Tokarski, Mike Condon, Al Montoya, Antti Niemi, Charlie Lindgren and Keith Kinkaid. However, none of these guys have played well enough to give Price the rest he actually needs throughout the season. After 10 years, the carousel has come to a stop, as the Habs found their man in New Brunswick native, Jake Allen.
Now that we have run through the list that Montreal has compiled since Halak was traded, let’s take a deeper dive into those eight members of the Canadiens carousel.
“He’s big, he’s bald, he’s Alex Auld” and that’s where our journey begins. The Habs have just lost Jaroslav Halak, who had spent four seasons with the team and was a very solid backup behind Carey Price. Auld was joining his third team in two years after having been claimed from the New York Rangers. Spending 16 games with the Canadiens, Auld got the start in 12 of those, going 6-2-2 with a .914 save percentage.
As well, this included a GAA of 2.64 along with one assist. The Cold Lake, Alberta spent one more year in the league with the Ottawa Senators. After that, he would announce his retirement.
The first man to try and fill in for Halak was Peter Budaj, a native of Slovakia. Budaj is the longest tenured backup for Montreal since the Price-Halak era. Through his three years with the Canadiens, Budaj played in 54 games, putting up a record of 23-16-9. This included a GAA of 2.47 and a .910 save percentage.
During the 2011-12 season, Budaj amassed three assists, which are the most by a Canadiens goalie since Jose Theodore in 2003-2004. Now, when you look at his three years separately, he didn’t have awful numbers. His goals against was in the 2.5 range, his save percentage was over .900 and had a winning record in two of his three years with the team.
However, the Habs had a young backstop named Dustin Tokarski, who had high expectations and was almost NHL ready. And so Montreal allowed Budaj to hit the market.
There was a bit of hype for Dustin Tokarski, as he put up great numbers at the World Juniors for Team Canada, going 4-0 with a GAA of 2.65 and a .906 save percentage. Tokarski helped guide his country, as they would go on to win the gold medal. He then spent three years in Tampa Bay’s system before finally joining the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Tokarski would spend another season in Hamilton before getting a shot with the the Montreal Canadiens. During the 2014-15 season, the backstop would play in 17 games, putting up a record of 6-6-4. This included a GAA of 2.75 and a .910 save percentage. The following season, he would be one of five goaltenders who would make an appearance at the NHL level.
The 2015-16 season was the first time Canadiens fans would experience life without Carey Price as he played in only 12 games due to a knee injury. Those remaining 70 games would be shared by four other goaltenders, however, 51 of those starts would go to Mike Condon. The Massachusetts native signed with Montreal on May 8th, just a month after Price went down with his injury.
In 55 total games, Condon would amass a record of 21-25-6. While adding to that a single shutout, he did so with a .903 save percentage as well as a 2.71 goals against average. Montreal finished the year last in the Atlantic Division, but would give Condon his start in the National Hockey League. Condon would spent the majority of the next three seasons with the Ottawa Senators.
In 2016, Habs fans were excited to get back a healthy Carey Price and would continue the hope that he would carry them to a championship. However, one small problem rose when the season ended, as Montreal once again didn’t have a backup. On the first day of free agency, they took care of that, signing Al Montoya to a one-year contract.
It came as no surprise that Price carried the load, which limited Montoya to only 18 starts in his first season with the Habs. He would go 8-6-4 with a 2.67 save percentage as well as two shutouts. The Chicago native also racked up two assists.
The Canadiens would end up making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, would fall to the Rangers in round one. Montoya’s regular season performance earned him a two-year extension and a bit of a pay raise. The following year, Montoya would start in four games with the Habs before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite trading Al Montoya, the Canadiens once again decided to go with a veteran in Antti Niemi. Niemi was claimed off of waivers from the Florida Panthers in November 2017. In his first season with Montreal, the backstop would make 17 starts, going 7-5-4 with a .929 save percentage.
He also added a GAA of 2.46 along with one shutout. Things were looking up for the Habs, as they had secured yet another solid backup. The following season, the backup situation became a concern, as Niemi went 8-6-2 with a .887 save percentage.
This included a 3.78 goals against average. You would think this would be the worst it got for Montreal, however, just wait until we get to Keith Kinkaid.
If anyone has had an interesting ride over the past few seasons, it’s definitely Charlie Lindgren. The Minnesota native went undrafted and has spent the past four seasons in the Canadiens system. Lindgren has gotten 24 starts, putting up a record of 10-12-2.
That includes a GAA of 3.00 and a .907 save percentage. However Lindgren has been a victim of Montreal’s very deep prospect depth. Over the past few seasons, the question has always been who’s next, Lindgren or Cayden Primeau?
And recently, it looks like Primeau has the slight edge. Lindgren will likely start down in Laval, seeing that Primeau was recently added to the taxi squad.
The final member of the carousel is probably the worst member of the carousel and that is Keith Kinkaid. On July 1st, the Montreal Canadiens signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. At the time of the signing, this appeared to be very promising.
He had a solid 2017-18 season when he was forced into the starting role for the New Jersey Devils. He would go 26-10-3 while adding a .913 save percentage and a GAA of 2.77. The following season, his numbers slipped a bit, however, he managed to amass three shutouts despite a 3.36 goals against and a sub .900 save percentage.
It was a risk, but it was a risk that I believe Montreal needed to take. The Farmingville, New York native would play in only six games for the Canadiens, putting up a record of 1-1-3 with a GAA of 4.24. Along with a .875 save percentage, Kinkaid would be waived and sent down to Laval.
Shockingly, his numbers didn’t increase, as he went 3-7-5 with a GAA of 3.44. This included a .876 save percentage. His year would take one more turn, as he would end up with the Charlotte Checkers, where he’d finally find his game with the Hurricanes’ affiliate. With a record of 2-1-1, Kinkaid amassed of a GAA of 2.24 with a .924 save percentage. It’s safe to say that this never worked out.
Allen Is The Answer
Jake Allen has shown the last two years that he’s able to thrive in a role of a backup. During the 2018-19 season, a man by the name of Jordan Binnington was called up to the NHL and stole the starting job from right out under him. However, the St. Louis Blues had two very good goalies, as Jake Allen adjusted to a backup role. In those two seasons, Allen went 31-23-11 with a GAA of 2.60.
While playing in 70 games, he also compiled five shutouts as well as a save percentage of .913. However, like most teams, the Blues had to look long-term and gave Binnington an extension worth $8.8 million. This means they needed to cut some cap and that’s when Allen was traded to Montreal for a third-round pick and a seventh in 2020.
It comes as no surprise that Jake Allen is the answer for the Canadiens. Yes, we have only seen a glimpse of him, but he’s exactly what Montreal needs. He’s already won a Stanley Cup in St. Louis, and if Price were to ever go down (god forbid), he is more than capable to fill in and not have a problem taking a chunk of the starts.
Even Carey Price has mentioned how nice it’s been to have a guy like Allen behind him. This is especially important this season, as the Habs have a very crammed schedule filled with a lot of back-to-back games. For years, people have been saying that Price needs to get more rest, and with Allen, now the Habs don’t have to worry about giving their starter that much needed night off.