The Montreal Canadiens have been a franchise for over 100 years, with many players passing through their system — some becoming Hall of Famers (HOFer), some have just been a footnote in Habs lore. Here is a look at five goalies who you might not have known were members of the Canadiens who had careers with other teams.
Tomas Vokoun is best known for his eight-year career as the Nashville Predators’ starting goalie. He was selected in the Predators’ expansion draft in 1998. He would go on to have a successful 15-year career playing with the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
He retired in 2014 after having complications with blood clots in his legs. Vokoun finished his career with 300 wins, a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.56 and a save percentage (SV%) of .917.
He had a good, steady career but few know that he was drafted by the Canadiens 226th overall in the 1994 draft. He would only play one period for the Habs allowing 4 goals on 14 shots. However, he did play two seasons with their AHL affiliate the Fredricton Canadiens, playing 78 games and winning 25 of them. At 43 years old, he is now living comfortably in Florida with his wife and two children.
Dubnyk is well known in the NHL community as the starting goalie for the Minnesota Wild. In 2014-15, he won the Bill Masterson Trophy for helping the Wild reach the playoffs and resurrecting his career. He was also third in Vezina votes for top goaltender and fourth in Hart votes for League MVP. The latter two trophies were won by Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
Dubnyk started his NHL career playing five seasons with the Edmonton Oilers before being traded to the Predators in January of 2014. Two months later, the Habs got involved as they traded future considerations to Nashville for Dubnyk. Although he was a member of the Canadiens until that July, he never played a game for them. He did play eight games for Montreal’s farm team the Hamilton Bulldogs. He would go on to have his best success with the Wild. To date he has 247 wins with a SV% of .915 for his career.
Fiset is best known for his years with the Quebec Nordiques and the Los Angeles Kings. He played only 13 seasons in the NHL and was never one of the top goalies in the league. His best season was 1995-96 with the Colorado Avalanche — in 37 games he won 22 with a .898 SV% and 2.93 GAA.
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Early in his career, his numbers were more a product of playing on poor teams. Quebec just started being a dominant team and moved to Colorado during his last two seasons with the club. He would be part of Colorado’s Stanley Cup Championship in 1996; however, he only played one minute in the entire playoffs before he was traded to the LA Kings in the offseason.
Fiset was dealt to Montreal at the trade deadline in March 2002 and played a total of 60 minutes over two games. The year before he was traded to the Habs, he suffered two serious knee injury that limited him to only seven games. After his brief appearance with the Canadiens, Fiset retired in September 2002. He wasn’t amongst the best goalies in the league, but he will always be remembered for his goalie mask while with the Nordiques.
Roland Melanson or “Rollie the Goalie” was Billy Smiths’ backup when the New York Islanders were dominating the NHL in the early ’80s — he won three Stanley Cups from 1981-83. He would eventually be traded to the now-defunct Minnesota North Stars in 1984 before being traded again to the New York Rangers in December of 1985.
Related: Top 3 All-Time Canadiens Goalies
On the same day he was traded to the Rangers, he was then again traded to the Kings where he would find stability for four seasons. After his time in LA, he signed with the New Jersey Devils in 1989. However, he would only play one game with the NHL club before being traded to the Canadiens.
The trade that brought him to the Canadiens was one of the biggest trades of the ’90s. Not because of Melanson, but because Kirk Muller came with him in exchange for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske. Melanson would go on to only play nine games with the team before a severe groin injury ended his season. He played two more seasons in the minors, most recently with the St. John Flames, before retiring in 1994. After his career, he connected again with the Habs when he was hired as an assistant/goaltending coach from 1997-98 to 2008-09. He became a goaltending coach for the Vancouver Canuacks from 2010-11 to 2016-17 and is currently goalie coach for the Devils.
We haven’t always agreed on stuff, but he’s such a great person and loves the game and puts so much time and effort into making you better.
Jacob Markstrom on Melanson’s approach to coaching (From ‘Heart Tugs Melanson Home; Canucks Losing Rollie the Goalie coach,’ Vancouver Sun, April 11, 2016
HOFer Tony Esposito is known for his legendary career with the Chicago Blackhawks, which spanned 15 seasons from 1969-70 to 1983-84. He won 302 of his 418 games played with Chicago, recording 74 shutouts and a .906 SV%. In his first full season, he won the Vezina Trophy for having the lowest GAA, Calder Trophy for top rookie, and finished second in Hart votes for league MVP. He would go on to win the Vezina two more times.
Esposito’s success had a lot to do with how he helped pioneer the butterfly style of goaltending where the goalie would drop to his knees to block shots. This would later be perfected by Habs legend Patrick Roy.
Related: Top 5 Goaltenders of the 1970s
Even though Esposito won the Calder Trophy as top rookie in 1970, this wasn’t his first year in the NHL. He started one season earlier when he played 13 games with the Canadiens in 1968-69 due to injuries to Gump Worsley and Rogie Vachon. He spent the rest of the season in the minors and was put on waivers at the end of the season. The rest, as they say, is history.
There weren’t many goalies to choose from — Montreal has always been known to have deep goaltending pools and most of the good ones stayed with the club instead of moving on. Of course, I’m sure many of you knew about these goalies’ brief history with the Habs, but hopefully some of you learned something today. Here are a few other goalies that briefly played with the Habs you might not know about:
Ron Tugnutt played two seasons with the Canadiens in only 15 games between the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons, winning only three games. Marc Denis, who is well known as the between the benches commentator for RDS broadcast, played his final game with the Habs — just 20 minutes where he allowed one goal on seven shots in the 2008-09 season. Finally, Vincent Riendeau, who was more known for his time with the St. Louis Blues, was signed as a free agent in 1985 by the Canadiens and played a total of 36 minutes, giving up 5 goals on 22 shots.