Let’s look at the Montreal Canadiens’ goalie situation from the perspective of backup goalie Charlie Lindgren. If you’re him, how many setbacks can you take in one offseason?
First, your organization makes a huge trade for former St. Louis Blues starter Jake Allen and then signs him for a two-year contract extension through the 2022-23 season. Suddenly you move down on step on the Canadiens goalie depth chart.
Second, your goalie coach Stephane Waite announces that he’s really pleased with the trade for Allen and that he’s going to work on the development of young Cayden Primeau and hopes he will start at least about 40 AHL games in Laval next season. Oops – one more step backward on that Canadiens goalie depth chart. So, where are you?
Lindgren Has No Place on the Canadiens Roster
If I’m Lindgren, I’m getting the picture. I don’t have a place on the Canadiens roster. In fact, the organization has secured the duo of Carey Price and Jake Allen for the next three seasons. Furthermore, given what’s likely to be a shortened AHL season, with Primeau rising to prominence and expected to play more than half the team’s games, you don’t have a place with the Laval Rockets either. (from “Canadiens’ goalie coach excited about acquisition of backup Jake Allen,” Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 10/11/20).
On Friday, the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey noted that, with the Canadiens focused on Primeau’s development in the AHL, the three goalies who were remaining – Lindgren, Michael McNiven, and Vasili Demchenko – will have to fight for the last spot with the Rocket in Laval. (from “Crowded crease in Laval poses goaltending challenges for Canadiens,” Pat Hickey, Montreal Gazette, 13/11/20).
Hickey’s take is that things might be better for Lindgren if the Canadiens decided to trade him. Although Lindgren started in six games with Montreal last season, his chances of establishing himself on the Canadiens NHL roster or even as a depth goalie within Montreal’s organization really don’t look good for him.
Time for the Canadiens to Move Lindgren to Another Team
Perhaps it’s good if the Canadiens are honest with him and simply let him go. Lindgren’s now 26-years-old and he has to see the writing on the wall, which is that there doesn’t seem to be any real spot for him within the Canadiens’ organization.
No one can blame the Canadiens for trading for Allen so they can offer Price more rest, but now the organization has a bit of a logjam in Laval and someone has to sit. Furthermore, we know – after goalie coach Waite’s announcement – that it won’t be the 21-year-old Primeau.
Primeau’s seen as Canadiens goalie of the future and the organization intends to ensure he gets his regular starts. It’s already been announced that he’ll be the 1A AHL goalie. And, even if Primeau falters, there’s still McNiven and Demchenko fighting for a single AHL job.
It’s also complicated that Montreal doesn’t have an ECHL affiliate. They’d try to find homes for their goalies who can’t make the AHL roster, but they wouldn’t have much control over these goalie’s development.
Of the Three Leftover Goalies, Why Is Lindgren #3?
Although McNiven has kicked around and played in five leagues over the course of his short career, he’s only 23-years-old. On the other hand, Demchenko is interesting because, although he’s Lindfgren’s age at 26-years-old, he’s had a long and quite successful career in the KHL. I can’t see the Canadiens at least not giving him a chance to show what he can do.
It seems pretty simple. Lindgren looks like an outsider. He’s had chances to play NHL games over the last five seasons, but he hasn’t shown yet he can be a reliable backup. Hickey’s article suggests – and it’s tough not to concur – that a trade away from Montreal would both help resolve the organization’s AHL logjam and offer Lindgren a chance with another organization.
As Hickey notes, there wouldn’t be return for Lindgren; but, it might help him find a team who’s more interested in having him as a depth goaltender who would actually play. In the meantime, I suppose there are worse jobs out there than earning $750,000 USD and sitting in the press box.
Still, if you’re a young athlete, you’d want to play.
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