“It’s definitely my first choice” -Samuel Montembeault

Samuel Montembeault is currently unaware of the Montreal Canadiens’ plans for him.

The Bécancour goalkeeper, who was hit on Thursday during the Champions Classic at Victoriaville Golf Club, where he was honorary president, said his wish hasn’t changed. He wants to remain with the organization, which claimed him on Oct. 2 for waivers and had to rely on for much of the season in the absence of their veteran tandem. Watch the interview with Samuel Montembeault in the video above.

“It is my wish,” he repeated. Despite everything, I really liked Montreal and if I have the chance to come back, it will definitely be my first choice.

In the absence of Carey Price and Jake Allen, Montembeault CH served proudly, making 38 appearances, including 30 starts, for a record of 8-18-6. The 25-year-old goalkeeper’s contract expires in the coming weeks and while we prepare for the draft in the Habs’ senior positions, the Quebecer is patient.

“I don’t have high expectations because I haven’t had much news,” he informed. The repechage is in Montreal and my agent will be there. I know that at that time he will be communicating with Kent (Hughes) and they will meet.

The qualifying bid deadline falls under the draft as the 32 clubs at the circuit have until July 11 to retain their free agents’ rights with compensation.

“This is really when I should have more news. Like I said, I don’t have any news yet…”

Ready soon

On a sunny day in Victoriaville, Montembeault chatted with the golfers for a bit but was unable to play the tournament due to his recovery after having surgery on his right wrist to repair an injury that had plagued him for a month in January.

“I saw my doctor (Dr. Robert Hotchkiss) in New York last week and he had nothing but good news,” he said. I no longer have to wear the splint. I’m starting to exercise a little more.

“If it was the season I would start skating again and be back at 100 percent in two weeks with no problems. There are still two weeks of rehab left.

Montembeault admits he was plagued by the pain of defending the net, particularly on more laborious saves, but says he was given the care he needed to avoid ending up in the infirmary too, long-term.

“It really hurt at first, the first few games, but we kept it under control by always putting duct tape (tape) and doing a lot of physio.”

Photo credit: Photo Martin Chevalier

Tricky situation in front of the net

Towards the end of the season, head coach Martin St-Louis praised Montembeault’s work in difficult circumstances.

“He’s shown he’s capable of playing in the National League. He increased his value as a goalkeeper. He took the opportunity. It wasn’t always easy and he kept fighting. I take my hat off to him,” he said.

Of course, the Montembeault camp is aiming for a No. 2 goalie position, but it will all depend on Price’s future in the NHL. We don’t know at the moment if he can continue his career, whether in Montreal or elsewhere.

Is the darling of the 2005 draft still the undisputed CH goalkeeper? If not, will Allen be the number one contender? We will find out in the next few weeks.

Image copyright: Martin Chevalier / JdeM

Learning from Carey Price

When Montembeault was picked up on waivers, he had no idea what Price was going through. Towards the end of the season, the Bill-Masterton Trophy winner was certainly an inspiration to his teammates.

“In the dressing room, Carey isn’t the person who talks the most. To his teammates, I think he’s more of a quiet leader who leads by example in his actions.

“His preparation was super good and he always puts his foot down in training. To me, just looking at him, he’s ready for any shot. He’s a good example for me.”

Price only appeared in five games in the last campaign. Number 31 first joined the NHL’s relief program, then a knee infection delayed his comeback at least twice.

During this time, Montembeault learned how to behave as a first-choice goalkeeper. He believes he has gained invaluable experience in the absence of the Canadians’ hidden star.

“I played a lot of games. Much more than I thought, he admits. I am very happy. I gained a lot of experience and learned a lot.

“It wasn’t always easy, but I had great times too. I can use that experience next year and I know what to expect if I ever become a number again.

Good words for Primeau

With the Canadiens’ season ending, the Laval Rocket continued into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Montembeault was even spotted at the Place Bell to encourage the squad of his first youth coach, Jean-François Houle.

He was also able to observe the skill of young Cayden Primeau who stood out after a difficult season at the big club.

“I was happy for the whole team. Cayden was really excellent in the playoffs. I’m happy for him. He’s a good boy and he deserves it.”

While he was impressed by the youngster’s performance, Montembeault doesn’t think Primeau’s success in the American League East Finals comes as a surprise.

While many have questioned the potential, even the development, of the 22-year-old American after his unsuccessful stint (1-7-1) with the Bleu-blanc-rouge in the regular season, the Bécancourois doesn’t think it’s necessary to consider yourself to the statistics.

“I wasn’t worried, even if he had difficulties with CH this year,” he says. You can see that in training. He’s so technically good, so I wasn’t surprised to see him do what he did in the playoffs.”

(Main photo credit: Denis Morin)

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