Montreal Canadiens Off-Season Preview, Part I: Goaltending

Matt EichelSenior Writer IJune 5, 2008

Another season is over and it's time to look towards the draft, free agency, and ultimately the starting lineups for the 2008-2009 version of Les Canadiens de Montreal.

Montreal Canadiens' Off-Season Preview: Goaltending

(As Compiled by Miah D. & Matt Eichel)

Bob Gainey made a strong statement putting in rookie netminder Carey Price as his #1 down the stretch. A bold, somewhat criticized to be foolish, move paid off for the Canadiens as Price shined brilliantly down the stretch to lead them to a Conference and Division titles.

However, now that veteran Cristobal Huet is gone, will the Canadiens be content with two young, virtually inexperienced netminders?

Goalie coach Rolland Melanson had a meeting with his two young goaltenders after the end of the playoffs.

He had a few words regarding his two youngsters, starting with Carey Price. “It is one thing to work on the techniques, but he is the one who is on the ice and manages the difficult situations. He needs to learn to handle some parts," pointing that Price needs to work on his emotion.

With Jaroslav Halak's situation, despite his agent inquiring more time on ice, rumours have it that he will be back with the team. Melanson commented “I’d like to see him pushing Price more for the performances. Halak still have the possibility to be a number one in the NHL”.

For the Hamilton Bulldogs, Yan Danis might not come back. During the Bulldogs Calder Cup run a year ago, Danis lost the starting role to Carey Price. Then he lost his spot to Halak during most of this season. To top things off, this season, he has been put on waiver at the start of the year, and with Halak graduating to Montreal, he still could not help Hamilton get off of a 13 game losing streak.

Possibilities are he would not be willing to come back with the team but rather test the market for a team who would need a rookie goaltender as a back up in the NHL.

Melanson is planning on having a veteran goaltender to become the Bulldogs’ number one goalie, and be a possible number three goalie for the big club to step up, in case of injury.But there is also the possibility of having a veteran goalie to help Carey Price.

We all have seen what happened during the playoffs against the Flyers. Neither Carey Price nor Jaroslav Halak were able to show any resistance to the Flyers scoring machine.

Looking at this year’s UFA list, the first name that would be Olaf Kolzig - a 16-year NHL veteran who has played his entire career with the Washington Capitals and has long season and playoff experience, going all the way to the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals.

Despite the salary he makes, he would be a perfect psychological fit to the young Canadiens netminder. Obviously, Kolzig won’t come back with the Washington Capitals next season. He is the owner of the Try City Americans – the team Price played for during his junior years. Both players have a lot of admiration for one another.

But, we have an obstacle - Kolzig’s paycheque. He was paid $5.45 million with the Capitals.  And in the Canadiens case, do they need or have the space to spend lavishly on a backup netminder?

Moreover, we also have to consider the fact that Kolzig can think about retirement this off-season. In the list of goaltender UFAs, Kolzig is the most interesting candidate.

Other than Kolzig, there is Johan Hedberg of the Atlanta Thrashers. With the rise of Chicago Wolves’ netminder Ondrej Pavelec, Hedberg might be pushed out of a job backing up starter Kari Lehtonen in Atlanta.

Alex Auld is also currently a question mark. He is with a Boston Bruins who has two #1 netminders in Manny Fernandez and Tim Thomas. Keep in mind that Boston also has young Tuuka Rask in the AHL with the Providence Bruins.

Ty Conklin, 32, has spent six years in NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Buffalo Sabres, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He played a vital role for the Penguins this last season when Marc Andre Fleury was injured. It seems he has always been a backup goaltender, and never played more than 40 games in a season. This last has been his best with 18 wins. But I would be tempted to question whether he can bring the needed depth to the roster.

Curtis Joseph, 39, would be the the most experienced and accomplished of the veteran netminders who are currently backups. His career has spanned over 19 years since he began in 1989 with St. Louis and has recently returned to the NHL with the Calgary Flames. Calgary already had Curtis McElhinney who started the season as the backup. The Flames may want to make McElhinney their permanent backup.

If Montreal were to sign a vetern netminder for the next two or three years, the time will come when perhaps former Quebec Remparts netminder Cedrik Desjardins could become Price's backup. This is said taking into account that both Halak and Danis would look elsewhere this summer.

The goaltending situation in Montreal seems to be set with the starter, yet such a young netminder needs some guidance and inspiration. With Cristobal Huet gone to Washington, there is a lack of that veteran experience between the pipes.


Look out for segment two of the Montreal Canadiens Off-Season Preview...