The Montreal Canadiens are next in our series of training camp job battles for the seven Canadian-based NHL teams leading up to opening night on Oct. 8. We’ve also covered the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
Seeking a big-game performance from one of his players, Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien looked in the direction of a relatively unknown candidate.
Dustin Tokarski, with 10 regular-season games of NHL service, was called upon to start Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final last spring in place of injured starter Carey Price.
The native of Humboldt, Sask., fared well with a 2.60 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in Montreal’s six-game series loss, and immediately sparked talk of fellow backup Peter Budaj’s future as a Canadien.
Therrien opted for Tokarski over a healthy Budaj in that post-season series and both are in a fight for the backup position as the Oct 8 season opener approaches.
Both have played well in training camp, so Therrien probably will let this play out until the very end. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has said he might start the season with three goaltenders but that’s unlikely as it’s not common practice in the NHL.
Also, Montreal would have to put Budaj and Tokarski on waivers before they could be sent to the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton.
Each could present a case for staying with the Canadiens:
- Has been the backup to Price for the past three seasons.
- He has experience over Tokarski, a 296-game veteran entering his 10th NHL campaign.
- He kept his mouth shut and was supportive of Tokarski in last year’s playoffs.
- Has a strong friendship with Price, who has long hailed Budaj’s work ethic.
- Deserves another look because of his strong playoffs and effective training camp.
- He’s 25, seven years Budaj’s junior, and cheaper. He has a two-way contract this year and a one-way deal at $575,000 US for next season. Budaj will make $1.4 million this season.
“[Goalie coach] Stephane Waite has done an extraordinary job with the goalies and they’re well prepared and they’ve delivered,” Therrien told reporters recently.
Other Canadiens camp battles:
The blue-line pictured cleared up on Thursday when Montreal sent Greg Pateryn to AHL Hamilton, leaving Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu to fill the sixth and seventh spots behind Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Tom Gilbert, Alexei Emelin and Mike Weaver.
Should Therrien start the season with three goalies, there probably would only be room for one of Michael Bournival, Christian Thomas and veteran Travis Moen.
The 32-year-old Moen, who’s attending his 14th NHL camp, had two goals, 12 points and plus-2 rating in 60 regular-season games last season.
Bournival, 22, was the surprise of last year’s training camp and went on to play mostly on the fourth line but was used as a top-six forward when injuries piled up for Montreal, finishing with seven goals, 14 points and a minus-6 rating in 65 contests.
Right-winger Christian Thomas has turned heads at camp and remains in the mix for a roster spot. The 22-year-old son of former NHL forward Steve Thomas skated alongside Moen and Bournival earlier this week on the fifth line.
A former 50-goal scorer in junior with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals, Christian Thomas projects as a solid checking forward at the NHL level with the ability to chip in the odd goal. He had 11 goals in 55 AHL games in 2013-14 with Hamilton.