Thursday, June 17, 2010

Habs trade Halak to Blues: Gauthier gives Walsh the FU


If there’s any hockey insider that says they called today’s events long before they happened, they are lying through their teeth.

Nobody expected to see the Montreal Canadiens trade away goaltender Jaroslav Halak on Thursday afternoon. Correction, there was always strong speculation that Halak would be moved in the off-season, but nobody saw the St. Louis Blues as a destination. Nor did anyone see it coming over a week before the NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

Well they did, and the Blues will send prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz to Montreal.

Clearly the two sides of the bargaining table, the Canadiens and Halak and agent Allan Walsh, were nowhere close to financial numbers. In fact they weren’t even talking to each other. Walsh stated that there was no contact between him and the Canadiens, since the end of the playoffs.

With the threat of arbitration, Walsh’s Twitter and trade demand antics during the season, and a tight cap as it was, Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier confirmed there had been no negotiations and pulled the trigger on a deal.

Essentially Gauthier and the Canadiens were not going to give Walsh the time of day.

“We sat down and we evaluated how we want to go forward,” said Gauthier in a conference call on Thursday. “When it comes to the cost of a player, we don’t need an agent to get an idea what a player will cost in a cap system.”

Gauthier said that he did call Halak on Thursday to let him know of the situation, “He was a solid citizen for our club, both on the off the ice. We appreciate what he did for us.”

Halak said he was surprised, but happy about the new start in St. Louis. The Blues still have to negotiate a contract with the 25-year-old goaltender.

Many question why the Canadiens made the trade when they did. Why not wait for the Draft, when typically a player’s value hits peak potential?

Gauthier replied, stating that the deal was an easier process than many would think. “The GM’s are well aware what is going on with other teams,” he said. “People that are interested in certain players will call each other. Some are just kicking tires, but there was enough time for anyone interested to call and we made the deal that was best for both clubs.”

The role of the number one goaltender now falls on 22-year-old Carey Price, also a restricted free agent come July 1. In all likelihood a deal to resign him should be imminent now that Halak is out of the way.

“When we discuss players, we discuss what we think they will do in the future,” Gauthier said on deciding Price over Halak. “We look at the following year and other years.

“We are very comfortable with Carey Price. He brings a lot to the table. He has over 150 games in the league, and some playoff experience, a Calder Cup, and he’s only 22. We think he will be a very good goalie in the league and can carry the load.”

The next concern will be who takes the role of the No. 2 goaltender in Montreal. Will it be through the system, or via free agency or trade?

“We have a good idea of who is available, come July 1,in free agency,” said Gauthier. “We’ll keep evaluating as people get moved.

“You need two good goaltenders, and we’ll make sure we have two next year.”

In the prospects coming to the Canadiens, Gauthier said that taking two young players fits into the success formula needed in the cap-era NHL.

“You need the young players that don’t cost too much to offset the cost of the veterans, such as the Chicago Blackhawks.

“You need players that will play well through their entry level contracts. It becomes very important.”


The 21-year-old Eller, deemed the Blues No. 2 prospect, could be a solid second line centre within a year or two, according to Gauthier.

Eller was the 13th pick overall in the 2007 NHL Entry draft and had 57 points in 70 games with the Blues’ AHL affiliate on Peoria.

“He’s a big centre man, with a good shot, he skates well, and he competes,” Gauthier said. “He’ll fit well with our quick forwards and be a very well-rounded player.”


Schultz, 20, spent last season with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and could bring size and toughness down the line.

The concern amongst fans now is did Gauthier do the right thing?

Halak’s numbers in 2009-10(via the Blues press release) speak for themselves.

“Halak, 25, was 26-13-5 in 2009-10 for Montreal and ranked 4th in the NHL in save percentage (.940), 9th in goals against average (2.40) and was tied for 5th with five shutouts.
In his 26 wins this season he had a GAA of 1.68 and a save % of .948. He was 4-2-0 vs. the Western Conference with a GAA of 2.19 and a .928 save %.”

There always has to be the notion too that it was a contract season for Halak. If Gauthier is right in the trade, he avoids dumping the teams financial future on a goalie that could pan out like Cristobel Huet did after he was traded.

It also leaves cap space to possibly resign centre Tomas Plekanec, an unrestricted free agent July 1, or go fishing elsewhere. There clearly would not be room for both Halak and Plekanec or other.

If it works and Price flourishes in Montreal, he’s GM of the year. If it doesn’t, it’s the biggest blunder since the Patrick Roy trade.

In any event, you have to admit that Pierre Gauthier has balls.

1 comment:

Yves said...

Great write up Kevin.

And you're right... Gauthier has balls.