Two season ago, Al Montoya burst onto the Islanders scene as a fan favorite. In a dismal time when the team had lost an unimaginable number of goalies to injuries, he became the anchor. The team struggled mightily to find some rhythm with no consistent face in net every night. He finally provided the team with someone to familiarize themselves with and to depend upon.
This season, Al posted some incredible numbers in the first month or so of play. He appeared fit for the starting job and was solid through and through. He put on amazing spectacles often enough that he still remained a fan favorite.
Then the unthinkable happened. Evander Kane cut hard to the net, unable to stop himself, and barreled into Al, leaving him lying on the ice. He eventually left the game, and the next game...and then Al wasn't there for another month with a concussion. He was limited to a mere 31 games, and although he had his former flashes of brilliance, his numbers and play never really recovered while Evgeni Nabokov walked away with the starting job.
So what is management to do? Al's play apparently didn't merit him another extension during his play last season, and on top of that, the three goalie system did nothing to help the Islanders last season.
From one perspective, the injury bug has always been an issue for the Isles in the goalie department particularly. It seems this team has needed three NHL-level goaltenders for the past five years to even get through the regular season.
So should the Islanders offer him another contract?
Frankly, Garth should ask Al what he wants to do. Al was shopped around at the deadline with little interest from other teams, meaning he can't be signed with the intentions of trading him, yet he has proven he is a NHL-level goalie. To send him back to the AHL so that Kevin Poulin can get 20 starts this season may not be worth it. Poulin appeared mighty shaky in the few starts he received last season and it's questionable if he's ready for the job.
Garth should offer Al another one-year extension and let the backup job sort itself out. If Al can prove he's better than Poulin for the job, then he will be our backup; if not, its back to the AHL. There doesn't seem to be a lot of interest from other teams in Montoya, but on the flip side, sending him back to the AHL may be a bit of a waste.
Hopefully we'll see Montoya back in a Isles jersey, but its a good possibility he'll be passed up to let Poulin get a few starts under his belt, seeing as Nabokov's contract ends next season.