18 June 2010

Thanks For the Memories...

It has now been nearly 24 hours since Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues for prospects Lars Ulri Eller and Ian Schultz. As to be expected with any move made by the Montreal Canadiens, it has been a much-discussed issue that has seen many more negative comments than positive directed at Canadiens management.

After all, it is barely a month since Halak's playoff heroics against Washington and Pittsburgh, where he was integral to the team's success as the #8 seed. I have said to many people in recent weeks that it was likely the case that his performance is what assured him he would not be re-signed by the Canadiens. The Habs, like a lot of teams, are in a bit of a salary cap crunch and have about $44M committed to only 14 players. That leaves a mere $14 (estimated) to sign two goalies, possibly Tomas Plekanec, one or two more capable forwards, and probably a defenceman to fill the gap left by Andrei Markov's injury. Looking around the League, Kari Lehtonen got $10.5M for 3 years in Dallas; quick, how many comparisons to Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy did Lehtonen earn this spring? You'd have to figure that Halak and his agent would have been after at least $4M per season - the Canadiens simply can't do that this year, and given some of the guys that will be free agents next year (here's looking at you, Captain Josh!) they were very adroit in this move.

As a fan, I can see why there have been many emotional and irrational outbursts by a lot of Canadiens fans who feel as though we've just traded away our best goaltender and playoff saviour. There is absolutely no denying that Halak was the most important player on the ice for the Habs in this playoff run--not Cammalleri, not Gionta, not Gill--and without him, they would not have made it as far as they did.

Jaroslav Halak

Jaroslav Halak's Young Guns Rookie Card - it's definitely peaked in value now.

But, and there is a but, the organization had to keep an eye to the future when making their goaltending decision. Were Halak's heroics a flash in the pan (a la Michael Leighton) or was this going to be a level of excellence to expect for years to come? As good as Halak had been, could Carey Price be even better next year, and the year after? Which had the largest upside? After running through all of that, the Canadiens decided on Price as their future #1, and that meant Halak had to go. Both deserve the chance to be starting goaltenders, and since the Canadiens feel that Carey Price gives them a better opportunity than Jaroslav Halak in the long run, that opened the door for Halak to be traded.
Now, I am a Carey Price fan. In fact, I'm his #1 Fan:

Image courtesy careyprice.com

I am very happy to see my favourite player still with my favourite team. There is no denying that Carey had a rough season last year. There is also no denying that he has tremendous untapped potential and could be a superstar in the NHL. At only 22 years old, he's already got 60 wins, has won a playoff series, been to the All-Star Game, and so on. I believe, and apparently so do the Canadiens, that he has all the tools and talent necessary to be a part of a Stanley Cup winning team. He's going to have off nights, but he's also going to have spectacular nights, and I believe there will be many more of the latter than the former.

So thank you for the memories Jaro Halak. It was a magical ride. I wish him all the best in St. Louis.

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