So when Maloney saw one goaltender after the next go down on Long Island, he picked up the phone, dialed Islanders GM Garth Snow’s number and threw Montoya’s name into the mix.
“I called [Snow] at the time and said ‘You really should take a chance on this guy’,” Maloney recounted to Newsday when reached by phone Sunday.
At the time, Montoya was playing for Phoenix’ farm team, the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, but Maloney believed he still had potential.
It was that potential that encouraged Maloney to draft Montoya as the sixth overall pick while working as assistant GM for the New York Rangers in 2004. Then as Coyotes GM less than four years later, Maloney brought Montoya to Phoenix in the Marcel Hossa trade with the Rangers in 2008.
However, injury and inconsistency prevented Montoya from cementing his spot on the Coyotes roster the past two seasons, and he fell to No. 3 on the goaltending depth chart.
“What separates the AHL and ECHL players from the NHL players is their consistency in performance.” Maloney said, admitting that Montoya’s play could be “frustrating.” “One period he might have been all-world, and the next he’d be racing out of the net and stumbling over the puck.”
Montoya has had few of those hiccups for the Islanders since being acquired last month for a sixth-round pick. With veteran Dwayne Roloson shipped off in a trade to Tampa and both Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin sidelined with injuries, Montoya has flourished in his first real opportunity as an NHL starter.
Facing his former Rangers team Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, Montoya has the chance to secure the team lead in wins for the season. He is 7-2-3 in 13 games played for the Islanders, with a 2.09 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.
Witnessing his success from afar, Maloney said he couldn’t be happier.
“I’m thrilled for Al, really,” Maloney said. “One thing I give him credit for is that he always believed in himself, believed that he could play with the best players.”
Unusual circumstances for the 26-year-old goalie?
Sure. But he’s made the most of it.
“I give him credit, taking advantage of a unique opportunity,” Maloney said. “If it weren’t for all their injuries, he’d probably still be in San Antonio.”