signs three-year deal with Rangers
Montoya was 30-7-5 for Michigan last season with a 2.52 GAA
and a .895 save pct.
Players leaving college
for the pro ranks before their eligibility runs out has become de
rigueur at Michigan. That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow
for Wolverines coach Red Berenson, however.
The latest to flee from
Ann Arbor without taking part in Senior Night ceremonies is goaltender
Al Montoya, who signed a three-year contract with the New York Rangers
Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the pact is
believed to be near the rookie maximum for 2004 draft picks (roughly $984,000 annually).
“I understand where
Al is coming from and I understand where the Rangers are coming
from, but I think it’s premature,” Berenson said. “I’m
looking at more than just the player. I’m looking at the person,
the student and the player.”
the Rangers selected with the sixth overall pick in last year’s
entry draft, posted a 30-7-5 mark last season, matching his career
high for wins and recording his best winning percentage as a Wolverine.
However, sharp movements in Montoya’s goals-against average (2.52,
up from 2.23 as a sophomore) and save percentage (.895, down from
.917 the previous year) were troubling. More than a few observers
wondered about the consistency of the netminder who captured the
attention of NHL scouts after leading the U.S. to the gold medal
at the 2004 World Junior Championships.
had another year under his belt to mature and be even more ready
for pro hockey,” Berenson said. “He would’ve had
the chance to be a top goalie in college hockey and maybe a Hobey
Baker finalist, and would’ve had a last shot at winning a
[national] championship at Michigan. Certainly, he would’ve
graduated on time.”
Instead, Montoya will
probably serve an apprenticeship with the Blueshirts’ American
Hockey League affiliate in Hartford. The organization’s top
prospect, three-time Swedish Elite League goalie of the year Henrik
Lundqvist, is expected to sign and have the inside track on earning
the Rangers’ starting job. Jason Labarbera, who has complied
a 65-25-11 record in Hartford over the last two seasons, is also
in the mix.
is great,” Montoya told reporters via teleconference. “No
matter where you go or where you are, you have to beat the best
to be the best. I think the competition is going to make me a better
Montoya claimed he made
the decision to turn pro Tuesday night. Berenson, however, said
the writing on the wall shortly after the Wolverines season ended
with a loss to Colorado College in the NCAA Midwest Regional final.
ready to stand up and say he was coming back,” Berenson said.
“If you leave yourself open and give the pros a chance to
work on you all summer, you’re probably ready to leave.”
goalies, senior Noah Ruden and junior Mike Mayhew, have less than
nine games of experience between them, although Ruden played well
during last season’s Great Lakes Invitational while Montoya
was at the 2005 World Junior Championships. Expected to join the
battle for the starting job will be a pair of freshmen from the
United States Hockey League – 17-year-old freshman Billy Sauer,
who played for Chicago last year, and Lincoln netminder Steve Jakiel.
meanwhile, aren’t finished signing college underclassmen to
pro contracts. The team is expected to ink its first-round selection
in the 2003 draft, Dartmouth forward Hugh Jessiman, to a deal soon.