After being unable to come to terms last summer, the Rangers finally got their man. The team officially announced today that they have signed goaltender Al Montoya to a three year entry level contract. The 20 year old netminder will forego his senior year with the University of Michigan and will likely split duties with Swedish prospect Henrik Lundqvist in Hartford.
After an impressive rookie season and gold medal performance at the World Junior Championships in 2003, Montoya struggled somewhat last year and admitted to a lack of focus at times. The Michigan goalie equaled his career high of 30 wins with the team last year, but had a disappointing .895 save percentage and saw his goals against average creep up over 2.50 for the first time in his career and came on top of a sub-par performance in the World Juniors as the United States failed to win a medal.
Montoya will have his work cut out for him this season as he is expected to face an uphill battle with Henrik Lundqvist for playing time, but was eager to make the transition after reportedly deciding just this past Tuesday to turn pro. Michigan coach Red Berenson was understandably disappointed that his starting goaltender had defected to the pros but appeared to have been prepared to see him depart. Montoya was selected sixth overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and became the second goaltender to be drafted by the Rangers in the top ten in just the past four seasons.