Thursday, June 17, 2010

Halak Traded! Montreal to Riot?

carey price jaroslav halak trade habs
I guess my last post is completely obsolete now. Well, not totally, but certainly the part about a hypothetical Jeff Carter-Carey Price swap. That’s because there was a shocking trade made between the Montreal Canadiens and the St. Louis Blues today.

The Montreal Canadiens traded Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for Lars Eller, formerly a 13th overall draft pick, and Ian Schultz, the younger brother of Washington defenceman Jeff Schultz.

Lars Eller is a 21-year-old centre drafted in 2007. He’s a playmaking centre noted for his two-way ability. Eller projects as a second-line player with the potential to play on the first line. He’s 6’0 and 198 lbs, so he is a giant compared to most other Montreal forwards. Eller is ranked as the 27th best prospect in hockey according to Hockeys Future.

Ian Schultz is a 20-year-old right winger drafted in the third round in 2008 and projects to be a third line grinding type player.

That’s a former first round pick and a former third round pick traded for Halak.

It’s likely that once Pierre Gauthier began negotiating a contract with Halak it became clear that Halak’s demands were way too high for the Canadiens. Halak is an arbitration eligible RFA, which means he would be at risk of being given an offer sheet by another team. But the Canadiens still have the right to match that offer or accept the compensation for Halak.

Let’s just say Halak was asking for $5 million and the Canadiens weren’t willing to commit that sum. (I think $5 million is a low figure considering his playoff performance). If another team was to sign Halak to an offer sheet for this amount the Canadiens would be compensated with a first, second, and third round pick.

Of course both Eller and Schultz are further along in their development than any first and third round pick in next year’s draft, but I think the minimum asking price should be what you would receive as compensation. Obviously, Brian Burke didn’t know you’re allowed to offer less than what the RFA compensation will be. Of course, maybe Halak wasn’t asking for $5 million per season. But if he was asking for less than I don’t see why the Habs wouldn’t re-sign him.

The true value of this deal will lie with the play of Carey Price and not with how well Eller and Schultz turn out. If Price is able to reclaim the form that made him so good during his rookie season then the Canadiens will be fine. However, if Price plays more like he did in his sophomore year then the trade will be a disaster, especially if Halak excels in St. Louis.

Price had a decent year this past season and was unfairly judged by Montreal fans who compared every little mistake Price made to Jaroslav Halak’s better play. Price had a 2.77 GAA and .912%. He only won 13 games, but the team did not play very well in front of him on most nights.

I think Price has more upside than Halak (he was drafted fifth overall), but I just don’t know if Montreal is the place where he can get his career back on track, especially if Montreal is less than receptive of Halak's ousting.

It will be interesting to see the reaction Price gets in Montreal. Will they be more accepting now that they know Price is the only option and they have to cheer for him? Or are Montreal fans anxiously awaiting the first goal that Price gives up to run him out of town. Montreal fans are nuts, so if Price wins his first game maybe Jesus Price mania will be back in full force.

There’s even a Maple Leafs connection in the deal that could potentially make Leafs Nation sour if Lars Eller develops into a talent. Lars Eller was picked with one of the first round picks that Toronto traded to the San Jose Sharks for Vesa Toskala. I don’t care about things like that. My reasoning is simple. If the Leafs had that pick they would have wasted it on someone awful. That’s what a poor draft history will do to you.

What do Montreal fans think? I guess there will be no more Halak stop signs put up in Montreal.

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