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Jake Allen: the deal Kent Hughes couldn’t make in 2023
Credit: Capture d'écran / Screenshot

That’s it: the trade deadline is behind us. NHL teams are on the move and all bets are off for the final stretch of the season and the upcoming playoffs.

The Canadiens, however, have not been buyers. Kent Hughes is looking forward to being one during the season, and not just at the draft… but the Habs aren’t there yet in their progression curve.

One day, it will happen.

Since the start of the season in October, the GM has made four transactions. Two of them are Rocket-related (Filip Cederqvist in return for future considerations and Jacob Perreault in return for Jan Mysak) and two of them are Habs-related.

And in both cases, a quality veteran left. One was in demand and the other was… probably less so. #SeanMonahan #JakeAllen

Of course, the Jake Allen deal is the big story right now. After all, the goalie was important to the Habs… until, suddenly, he wasn’t.

Jake Allen held down the fort when Carey Price was nearing the end of his career. He was his last real assistant during Price’s last full season in net, on the run to the Stanley Cup.

In fact, at one point, Allen was so important that Price asked to be exposed to the expansion draft in order to see the Habs protect his auxiliary.

And in hindsight, it was the right decision.

The goaltender was acquired by Marc Bergevin with just one year remaining on his contract with the Blues. Bergevin extended his deal by two years, and it was Allen who held down the fort when Price was injured, in both 2020-2021 and 2021-2022.

And it was in 2022, with a year left on his contract, that Allen extended his stay with the Habs, a club he loved dearly. This time, it was another GM, Kent Hughes, who offered him the deal.

Obviously, in hindsight, the contract, which took effect last summer, was too much. Clearly, Allen’s performance wasn’t acceptable – and I’m surprised the Devils took him on.

But the fact remains that in 2022, signing him was the right thing to do.

I always hammered home the point, right up until last fall, that if the Habs were to trade Jake Allen, the first thing the Habs would do is try to find another Jake Allen.

Why did I stop saying that a few months ago? Not only because of his performance, but also because the situation in front of the net in the Habs organization has completely changed.

A few months ago, not only did Allen have more time left on his contract (logical, given that time is running out), but elsewhere in the organization, things were different.

Samuel Montembeault hadn’t yet progressed the way he did this year AND he was out of contract in the summer of 2024. Since then, he’s taken a giant step forward in front of the net and signed a three-year contract extension with the Habs, assuring him of staying.

And frankly, I wonder what role Allen has played in Monty’s progression.

After all, having three goalies may have reduced the Quebecer’s workload to allow him to progress as he did… but more importantly, Allen’s leadership of Montembeault was tremendous. It helped him get ready to become a #1 in the NHL, without a doubt.

Then there’s Cayden Primeau. The Canadiens’ #2 goalie has proven that he can hold his own in the NHL for the time being, something that wasn’t a given at the start of the season, let’s face it.

So, in just a few months, Primeau and Montembeault have progressed to the point where Allen’s departure is possible. The DG got his price, which he didn’t have before… and there’s another factor.

And that is? Jakub Dobes.

The Laval Rocket goalie is the only goalie (apart from Carey Price, but…) who can take the place of Montembeault or Primeau in case of injury right now. So if one of the two regulars gets hurt, he’s the one we’ll call on.

Would that be ideal? No. But at the start of the year, it would have been totally unthinkable because he was playing so badly. So having three goalkeepers up top was a solution to the lack of depth.

Since then, Dobes has performed so well down below that he’s become an option in the minds of Habs management should the need arise. The ménage à trois will have done just that.

Please note: I’m not saying that I wanted Allen to stay, nor am I saying that I wouldn’t have liked to see him traded in last month instead of yesterday, for example.

But what I am saying is that Allen will have had a major impact and that seeing him go in September would have changed the Habs’ season… and I don’t know if that would have been for the better. His leadership (like Sean Monahan’s) will not be forgotten.

Still, I think the goalie has slowed down and the Devils will soon realize that he’s no Jacob Markstrom, who was on the New Jersey club’s radar recently.

But if Martin Brodeur believes in Allen and the latter takes advantage of the change of scenery to improve his performance (a little), perhaps the Devils will be pleased.


It’s also important to remember that Allen agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the New Jersey Devils. He understood that he no longer belonged in Montreal.

A man of class, that Allen.

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