Only two weeks from today, a bevy of goalies were going to be made available in unrestricted free agency. None of those goalies would cost a prospective team needing a starter anything in terms of players. And Halak's salary will probably rival what's given to guys like Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco et al.
Gauthier said today that the "majority of teams have established goalies" and their own personal evaluation made it clear that Halak was going to cost the team too much money. Carey Price, on the other hand, can be given a qualifying offer of less that $1 million.
But Gauthier also wanted to make it as clear as possible that this was a "big picture" trade, that he and the organization felt that Price will mature into a top-end goalie in the coming years, perhaps as soon as next season. I would have to agree with him, but it's admittedly a big risk. Price still has a question mark next to him, and Halak doesn't, or at least not nearly as big of one.
But how come Halak, practically single-handedly responsible for the Habs trip to the Eastern Conference final, could only warrant two prospects in return? Gauthier made it pretty clear the interest was limited.
"We listened to all the possibilities that were presented to us by teams that were seriously interested, and we made the best trade available to us," he said. "And we're very happy with the trade we made with the players we got in return."
Some might say Gauthier can't say anything else, and it's true we'll have to take his word. But with the goalie market about to be flooded, I can see where he was coming from. My initial reaction was why Gauthier didn't wait until the draft, when teams suddenly get a little more desperate and might be willing to give up a little more. Here's what he had to say on that.
"We had a good idea of what the market would bear as soon as we started talking with interested teams," he said. "We can't leave a good trade on the table waiting for something we knew would never come."
Blues president John Davidson and new GM Doug Armstrong seemed pretty pleased with themselves in speaking to reporters today, and why shouldn't they be? They removed no one from their roster and added the hottest young goalie in the league. But Davidson said it was a very difficult decision to let Eller go and that he will be very exciting for fans in Montreal.
"But we had to give to get," he said.
Again, what else is he supposed to say? But I think this trade will need some time before it can be fully evaluated. First, how much will Halak get from the Blues? Second, how well will he play for St. Louis? Will Carey Price be able to shoulder the load, now and in the future? Which free agent goalie will Gauthier pick up to be his back up? Will Eller make the Canadiens this season?
That's a lot of questions, some of which won't be answered for years. But right now, Gauthier has put himself on the hot seat by making a very difficult call, one that has the fan base frothing mad. For that, he should probably be applauded.