This past week, Fredericton, New Brunswick-native Jake Allen was traded from the St. Louis Blues to the Montreal Canadiens. In some ways, it must be difficult to be traded. When you’ve lived your entire career life in one place and built a home and family in that place, being traded can disrupt the normal. Suddenly you’re facing a new normal, and that might be difficult.
Allen Thanks St. Louis and Looks Forward to Montreal
Allen experienced that move this past week. However, being the good professional he is, on social media Allen tweeted,
I hope you take an opportunity to read his long note to fans. Allen does what’s typical of NHL players. He stands up straight as a good professional and thanks the organization he’s leaving. He then publicly looks forward to heading to the organization where he’s been traded.
Actually, I trust what Allen said. In fact, he might be telling the truth about his excitement to move to Montréal. I know that he had actually lived in Montréal for a couple of years during his early days of hockey.
Was Allen a Montreal Fan When He Was a Kid?
Allen was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Having taught at the University of New Brunswick for many summers over about 15 years, when I taught there UNB was the home of the Fredericton Canadiens. In fact, they played their hockey games in the field house right on the campus.
I mention that Allen was born in Fredericton because there’s a chance Allen has been a lifelong Habs fan, which probably started when he was a kid. I don’t know that for a fact and I’m just guessing; however, from 1990-99, the Fredericton Canadiens were the Baby Habs. And, given that Allen grew up near where they played, I have to believe he watched a large number of baby-Canadiens games when he was a kid. He would’ve been about the right age.
Now he’s being moved to the Canadiens. Is that like coming home for him?
The Backstory About Carey Price and St. Louis Cap-Clearing
The two biggest reasons Allen was traded from St. Louis to Montréal are that Carey Price plays much better when he’s rested and St. Louis needed to clear salary-cap space – I assume to re-sign Alex Pietrangelo.
When Habs general manager Marc Bergevin held a media conference after his Canadiens were beaten by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the NHL playoffs, he was clear about his team’s biggest priority. Price didn’t have adequate backup. He then went out and found that capable backup in Allen.
Allen’s been a steady goalie for the Blues for many seasons. Now 30 years old, he played 24 games with this season and posted a 12-6-3 record with a goals-against-average of 2.15 and a .927 save percentage. But Allen’s time as a starter had come and gone in St. Louis, and he now was backup to young goalie star Jordan Binnington.
Although Allen was actually better then Binnington during the 2020 postseason, making five playoff appearances and posting a 2-1-1 record with a goals-against-average of 1.89 and a .935 save percentage, it was obvious the Blues were going with their youngster.
Allen: Almost Like Coming Home?
Could it be that playing for the Canadiens is like being home for Allen? The New Brunswick-native played two seasons in the QMJHL with the Montreal Juniors. He was selected by the Blues during the second round (34th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
In a conference call last week after the trade, Allen admitted “I’ve come full circle now” when asked about returning to Montreal. (from “Canadiens acquire goalie Jake Allen from St. Louis Blues,” Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette, 02/09/20).
He added, “Playing for the Montreal Juniors in Verdun and then playing in the NHL against the Canadiens and at the Bell Centre. It’s wild how it’s all sort of come and reinvented itself. But I’ve had a few experiences in the building and I lived in the city for a couple of years. I get I was a teenager (in junior) and didn’t really know everything in the whole world, but definitely some familiarity about it. Still have some people I keep in touch with in the city, and it’s a place that I’m more familiar with than most others in the league. I think it’s definitely going to give me a sense of comfort.”
The Canadiens Are Spending Big on Their Goalies
Allen has another season left on his current contract of $4.35 million. Given Price’s $10.5 million salary-cap hit next season, that means the Canadiens will spend $14.85 million on only goalies. That’s the most any NHL team will spend and is just under 20 per cent (18.2 per cent) of the team’s salary-cap limit for next season.
The trade not only offers Price some time off – last season’s 58 regular-season games (tying the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck for the most games played by a goalie in the NHL) were a bit too much. Furthermore, Allen’s a good enough goalie that he adds insurance in case of an injury. Finally, the trade gives the organization a chance to pause the development of its young goalie prospect, 21-year-old Cayden Primeau. That offers him a chance to develop more fully at the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
Canadiens coach Claude Julien was clear what he thought about Price when he noted, “We really feel that Carey — when he’s well rested, as you saw, and he’s healthy — he’s an unbelievable goaltender.”
Julien added, “We’re not saying that Carey should be splitting games. I think we need to take some of the workload off of Carey a little bit so that we can get the Carey Price that we saw in the playoffs more often than not. I think we’re going to definitely be looking to make sure that whoever is coming and backing up Carey will be able to do that for us.”
Price Stepped It Up During the Postseason
The playoffs showed what Carey Price could do when rested. Although the 33-year-old Price had a 27-25-6 record during the regular season with a goals-against average of 2.79, a .909 save percentage, and four shutouts. During his 10 postseason games, he only had a 5-5 record; however, his goals-against average was 1.78 and his a .936 save percentage, and two shutouts.
It seems like a smart move for the Canadiens, and – one can hope as a Canadiens fan – that Allen will feel at home with the team.
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