The Montreal Canadiens have traded goalie Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for centre Lars Eller and Canadian junior right-winger Ian Schultz.
The move certainly settles the goaltending question in Montreal, as it’s clear that Pierre Gauthier has elected to stand by Carey Price. But it also seems somewhat strange, especially considering the goaltending performance Halak offered in the post-season. He was the key reason to the success the Canadiens were able to enjoy in the playoffs.
It is essentially a deal that puts long-term potential in front of rewards, though, and from that perspective it makes perfect sense. Gauthier went with the younger Price and sent Halak off to a club on which he’d see a lot of ice time, solving the problem of splitting the position in Montreal.
“I think they did the best thing they could do — keep one goalie and give the other one a chance to play most of the season,” Halak said. “It’s best for everyone that I was dealt and can start on a new beginning.”
St. Louis locked down Halak after telling goalie Chris Mason that he wouldn’t be signed to a new deal. GM Doug Armstrong was happy with the trade and wanted to ensure Habs fans that he didn’t get Halak for a mere song.
“When you look at the young defencemen and forwards we have, we feel we dealt for a young goalie who can fit in and grow with this team,” he said. “I think he’s excited to go to a team that will use him as a clear-cut number one. I think we gave up great value to get Jaro. It’s difficult for fans in Montreal because they haven’t seen Lars, but I think they’ll like him.”
The trade doesn’t change the fact that Halak is up for free agency on July 1 and that he has the right to arbitration if the Blues can’t sign him to a deal that works. Having earned $800,000 in the 2009-2010 season, it’s fair to say that Halak will probably earn a bit of a pay raise. The whole controversial offer sheet scenario could also technically come into play, so Halak’s future with the Blues isn’t set in stone just yet.
As for Price, he’s set to become a restricted free agent in the summer but he won’t be eligible for salary arbitration yet. He’s the top dog in Montreal now, whether fans like it or not, and Gauthier made no bones about his faith in the goalie by trading Halak. The only thing to settle now is who’ll back up the youngster. Gauthier has hinted towards scouring the free agent market for that position.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.