The St. Louis Blues knew they needed to make a move at goaltender going into the offseason. While the deal has merit, the departing player feels somewhat slighted.
It was not surprising that the Blues traded Allen. While some wanted him to stay as a duo with Jordan Binnington, the reality was that Allen was likely gone when the team gave Ville Husso a one-way contract during his extension.
While some analysts say that meant he was automatically going to be in the NHL, the truth is it didn’t. It just took away Blues options for Husso.
Technically, they could have kept Allen and Binnington and Husso would simply have to start the season in the AHL and stay there unless a situation presented itself where he would not have to be sent back down. That was unlikely.
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Regardless of all that, the surprising thing about the deal was getting sent to Montreal and the return it fetched. Montreal is not a team in need of goaltending and the Blues only got back a third and a seventh-round pick.
As far as the picks go, it is what it is. The Blues simply could not include any players in the return because they could not take on salary.
This move is almost surely being done in an effort to keep Alex Pietrangelo. Even if it does not achieve that goal, the Blues needed cap space to make any potential moves at all.
Also, as pointed out on the Rivs and BK show on 101 ESPN, goalies rarely fetch the kind of return we think they might. If they are in their prime and valuable, they are not traded. If they are traded, it always ends up being for a haul that isn’t what fans thought it would be.
All the Blues got from the Brian Elliott trade was two picks. Granted, they were a second round and third round pick, but the third round was two years after the deal. Both draft picks are for this year’s draft in the Allen trade.
From a player standpoint, I feel bad if this is Allen’s final landing spot before the 2020-21 season. Despite some fan backlash that was unwarranted, Allen has done everything right in his tenure with the Blues.
He had every opportunity to make a scene or undermine other’s positions, but he did not. He continued to do everything in his power to make the team better, even when he was not playing in the 2019 playoffs.
Allen modified his style to emulate opposing goalies during the Stanley Cup run so forwards could pick up on tendencies. He would stay after regular practice to help guys get extra shots. The Snake was a consummate professional.
When the Blues traded Elliott, they did their best to look for a situation where Elliott could, at least, battle for a starting job. The same opportunity will not be afforded to Allen.
Montreal is not looking for a 1B goalie for Carey Price. Price is going to be the starter, no questions asked and Allen might have to beg for playing time.
Price played in 58 games in 2019-20 and that would likely have been higher had the season not shut down. He played in 66 games the season prior to that and still played 49 games in 2017-18, despite having some injuries.
The bottom line is Montreal lets Price play a ton. Perhaps that is why they are looking to Allen.
Maybe they are finally realizing you cannot run your starter into the ground and expect him to be Superman when the playoffs begin. That’s still not the fairest of situations for Allen. He deserved to get a starting opportunity in the final year of his contract.
The problem with the trade, on all accounts, boils down to timing. If everything was not exactly as it is, things might have gone differently.
If the Blues had just re-signed Pietrangelo to an extension prior to now, the Blues could have been much more relaxed in their dealings. Even if they waited until this offseason to trade Allen, they might not have been so rushed in the trade.
St. Louis basically had to take the first sure offer they could get, as long as it was not a complete fleecing. Under a different scenario, the Blues could have waited until the NHL draft and hit up some teams actually in need of starting goaltending, such as Calgary or Edmonton.
But, the Blues are in a time crunch because they know they need to get a potential Pietrangelo deal done before he gets to free agency. You hear whispers and free agents make contacts with other teams off the record, but once you know for sure what kind of money other teams are willing to offer, the dollar signs in one’s eyes are hard to swat away.
In all likelihood, Armstrong would have rather waited and afforded Allen his deserved chance to start somewhere. Unfortunately, he couldn’t wait for the best deal because he couldn’t afford to bring any salary back.
Montreal was more than willing to offer the picks the Blues got because they were not even their own. Each pick was acquired via other trades, so Montreal just played a shell game to acquire Allen.
But, with Montreal ready to wheel and deal, the best case scenario for Allen is that they are not done. There is a possibility that Allen could be packaged to another team later this offseason.
The reason for that is, while it makes sense to have a reliable backup for Price that will actually take some games off him, the Canadiens are paying far too much for goaltending. Montreal now has $14.85 million tied up in Price and Allen.
Blues fans thought it was ridiculous that the team was paying just under $9 million for goaltending. Montreal would be paying more than 1.5 times what the Blues were paying for goalies.
Ultimately, this is almost surely a stopgap move for Allen one way or another. Perhaps he gets traded again, just as Jaroslav Halak never played a game for the Buffalo Sabres.
Or, perhaps Allen just waits until the end of his deal and goes elsewhere. He’ll be around 31 when he hits unrestricted free agency, so there will hopefully be a market for him.
We know Price isn’t going anywhere. He’s 33 now and still signed through 2025-26.
The Blues did what they needed to do. It would have been nice to get some higher picks, but that’s sports.
I feel bad for Allen though. Not only is he moved from the team that drafted him, whom he did everything right for, but he gets moved to one of the few teams that there’s no chance he can earn a starting spot.
As they say, nobody said life was fair.