NHL Rumors: Carey Price and Montreal Canadiens goalie situation

Today’s NHL Rumors follows up on Carey Price’s recent comments about his career and how they financially affect the Montreal Canadiens. 

Whether you are into the latest trade buzz, signing news, and more, stick with The Daily Goal Horn.

NHL Rumors: Carey Price

The Habs currently have four netminders on their payroll, with three set to battle for two spots in training camp, which opens next week. Currently, the team employs Jake Allen (42 games), Sam Montembeault (40 games), and newly acquired Casey DeSmith (38 games). 

Considering that all three play starter minutes, there are only 82 games in the regular season, meaning they won’t be able to divide the duties by three and keep everyone happy. Of course, one of the team’s most talked about goalies will likely never play again, and that is Carey Price.

However, the Canadiens’ goalie situation will become one of the game’s biggest storylines in the coming weeks. Interestingly, the Colorado Avalanche are in the market for a backup goalie now that Pavel Francouz won’t be ready for the start of the season. Although DeSmith’s name is in the rumor mill, there is no evidence indicating he’s on their radar, and so, having said that employing three first-string goalies will continue to be a problem in Montreal.

The Canadiens create a cap nightmare with three starting netminders

casey desmith
May 3, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (1) makes a saveag New York Rangers center Ryan Strome (16) during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After becoming the third team in the Erik Karlsson trade that sent the reigning Norris Trophy winner to the Pittsburgh Penguins in August 2023, the Canadiens acquired DeSmith, Nathan Legare, and Jeff Petry in the deal. Immediately following the trade, the team sent Petry to the Detroit Red Wings, clearing his $3,906,250 off the books after retaining $2,343,750 of his $6.5 million salary. 

However, the hockey community was puzzled by the move since they already had two goalies making $4.85 million this season. Although neither Allen nor Montembeault had winning records last year, the club seemed ready to roll with them (again) in 2023-24.

Ultimately, acquiring DeSmith this summer complicates things in Montreal since the franchise is already over the cap with five players listed on LTIR, including Price and his $10.5 million contract. As mentioned during his recent interview, the future Hall of Famer admitted that his contract hurts the team he loves and wouldn’t be surprised if they trade it away. 

Interestingly, no teams are below the NHL cap floor, set at $61.7 million, with the Anaheim Ducks coming the closest with a payroll of $66.6 million. So, the only way to move a contract of that magnitude is to acquire another team’s bad (expensive) one. Realistically, a handful of those agreements are out there, but at different salaries compared to Price’s paycheck.

Rebuilding Canadiens will be left with limited goalie options in 2024-25

During the summer, Montreal general manager Kent Hughes openly admitted that his team would struggle to contend in the Atlantic Divison. Although he is only talking about this season, he will have to take a minute to reevaluate his goaltenders during and after this season.

Allen is making $3.8 million this year and next, becoming a free agent at 35 in the summer of 2025. Ultimately, if the goal is to get younger, they may consider moving Allen before his contract expires. However, DeSmith is just a year younger and has a winning record playing behind good teams in Pittsburgh. So, seeing how he responds in a new environment that isn’t as strong, a year away from free agency will be interesting. 

Meanwhile, Montembeault, the youngest at 26, is a bargain at $1 million but is also set to become a free agent next summer. Realistically, after the 2023-24 season, Cayden Primeau may earn a permanent promotion to the NHL after 21 games thus far, although he will also become an RFA in 2025. 

Overall, the Canadiens are among the few teams employing three goalies, all making over $1 million. Despite not being an active skater, Price continues to affect how the club conducts business, and it could be that way for the next three seasons. Ultimately, once management sorts out this crease, the team can usher in a new era for the first time in 15 years.