Thursday, June 17, 2010

Everyone breathe deeply

I know that on the face of it, today's trade of Jaroslav Halak to the St Louis Blues looks like a total ripoff. But if you go a little deeper underneath the surface, you'll see that Pierre Gauthier was not dealing from a position of strength.

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.

12 comments:

MathMan said...

Gauthier trading Halak is a sign that he's not reading a lot into the ECF finish, which bodes well.

From a pure hockey standpoint, trading Halak was the right thing to do. His value was the highest it was ever likely to be, and he was going to ask for a lot of money (4 million, if Andy Strickland is to be believed, which is too much). Price is likely to be about as good next year, cheaper, and his rights belong to the Habs for longer.

The org had to be cold-hearted to make this very unpopular decision, and that's something that in a strict hockey sense is a good thing.

Now about the return... well, goalies are tough. There's always a lot of bodies for way too few jobs. Halak is likely better than anyone on the UFA market, but that still doesn't necessarily amount to much if he's not going to save you cap dollars.

Anonymous said...

Gainey is still there along with his 7 year assistant Gauthier. And this stubborn mule Gainey who must be FIRED along with Gauthier and Boivin, THIS STUBBORN FOOL Gainey insists he made the right pick at #5 with Price - he has always disrespected Halak right from when the bonehead used Huet that last game in Toronto to this year where Halak solely saved Gainey's sorry behind and was the ONLY reason Habs even made playoffs ad got that far in them. And now with no rush does not even get teams to get into a bidding war for the 25 year old 4th best goalie in NHL. And on June 17 accepts 2 minor leaguers in exchange putting even more pressure on Price than this dimwit did when he traded Huet and Price cracked under pressure. Imagine the pro-Halak crowd how they react to the first bad goal Price allows. This is a disgrace.

Arpon- You are now part of the media - ask the question that media is too timid to ask - When is Gainey going to stop assiting Gauthier and really resign?"

Leila said...

Arpon,

To what extent did the 'Walsh factor' play into this? For one, Halak requesting a trade which was made public through his agent. Secondly, Walsh's tweet about Price. Those two things are the last things the Habs needed at the time (or ever).
Seems to me that this agent's behaviour and tactics didn't fit well with the private, secretive Montreal management. It also didn't fit with the culture the organization tries to foster amongst its players. For the record, Halak did handle the incidents very well but did choose to remain with Walsh even though he might have given him the grounds to make a change.
I am curious in general about the role of agents in regards to particular teams. Are there some agents that the organization prefers not to deal with? or would it just be a minor consideration? I'm trying to understand why Halak was never approached with an offer.

E said...

I'm taking it that the guy who posted anonymously was far too timid to post his screen name because the only thing he comes off as is an idiot band wagoner who thinks that being negative is a sign of intelligence.
Hey buddy, you are in a position to critique the decision the Canadiens made yesterday, but I promise you would be the same mindless whiner had we paid Halak $5 M a year, not been able to resign Tomas Plekanec or ANY free agent for that matter, and struggled out of the gate. You say Carey Price cracked under pressure after we traded Huet in 2008? Since when does a 12-4 record down the homestrech constitute cracking? Oh an you are so right my pessimistic friend, we would be so much better with Cristobal Huet, the man who has NEVER won a playoff round starting, but was INSTRUMENTAL in riding the bench for the Hawks. Losing his job to Anti Niemi, a guy playing division two Finnish hockey last year. Bob Gainey's acquisitions of Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill & Dominic Moore (because he's still calling the shots)created the offense and defense needed to win playoff games. You really think Jaroslav Halak would have still been a hero had headcases and flakes like Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay still been on our first line? You want to see a mule of a GM? How about checking out Gauthier's track record when we wasn't being "assisted" by Gainey. In Anaheim he promised the fanbase he would not trade superstar Teemu Selanne, only to deal him to the Sharks for a paltry amount, Steve Shields and Jeff Friesen.
Think about things before you speak, and if you don't have the Cojones to put your name on a comment, you shouldn't be speaking at all.
E

dc said...

I agree that cap-wise this is a way to go. I don't see a Cup in re-signing Plekanec over keeping Halak though. I just don't. There was plenty of dead wood on this team to clear out to keep Halak that this move will turn out a loser unless we bring in a Kovalchuk or something.

Anonymous said...

I think this was a good trade. His hands were tied. He had to get rid of one of them. Had it been Price, and Price ends up standing on his head next year, then we all sit here and say he should have traded Halak. Time will tell who won. They get back two prospects....one of which was a first round draft pick. Ask the Leafs how important draft picks are. Your future depends on your young players...if these two develop then everyone forgets about Halak. Go Habs.....and lets get behind Price.

Anonymous said...

Halak didnt want to be in Montreal. He (and his Fiancée) wanted to be away from the pressure and in the sun - more specifically California sun. he would have stayed if we gave him something like 5 years at 5 a year, but c'mon - we werent going to give him that. right or wrong, we have invested in Price, and we havent seen enough negative(on the ice) to give up on him. We got a lot for Halak, and we traded him at the right time. Chicago may have won this year, but Huet's salary is forcing them to clean house the day after the parade. we dont need to be stuck with that, we already have committed to bigger salaries that are, right or wrong, what they are.

if anyone wants to be mad about something, its the fact that we have decimated our scouting department and chosen to go to a video scouting style. this is the worst thing to happen to us.

Anonymous said...

This is a move that reminds me of the Rejean Houle days as GM. Trade the playoff hero for a player who some thing may lead this team in the future. Please give me a break. How many teams have been led in the playoffs by a Dane! Give your head a shake people this was a horrible trade. The problem is the team is stuck with players who can lead the team and are making over 5 million. So now they have the trade the young players who can lead us in the playoffs. Watch next year as Price further self destructs. I sure hope they bring in a good back-up as they will need it. I have been a fan for over 45 years and this is one of the worst moves in my time. Those trying to spin it by talking about salary cap etc get real. Stupid, stupid stupid.

Arpon Basu said...

Anon - It was Guy Carbonneau that decided to start Huet in that final game against the Leafs, not Gainey, though I'm sure he helped in the decision.

Leila - The agent does have an impact in the sense that he can influence his client, and I'm sure the whole Twitter-gate incident didn't go over well with the Canadiens. But Allan Walsh never leaked Halak's trade request, Bob Gainey did that. Still, you got the sense that Walsh did not like how his client was treated by the organization, and that the organization didn't particularly like him.

Anonymous said...

It is still a bad deal. Period. A terrible decision.

Worst trade in Habs history since 1995 and Roy to Colorado fiasco. Having been a Habs fan since 1967, I have seen a lot of things, but this takes the cake.

Trading Halak for two prospects, and no draft picks is a joke and a travesty. I had hopes of a some new free agents and Price being traded for draft picks. That is up in smoke.

Price is not unproven. He has proven himself to not be an NHL starter. He isn't even a quality backup. He is a choker and gives up on the team in front of him. He lets in too many soft goals at inopportune times. He team in front of him cannot count on him in the clutch. Halak was the very opposite of him.

I hope the coaches don't lose the room over this trade. Halak was the consummate professional and had the support of the team in front of him and in the room. He was steady and consistent and a tower of strength who gave his all for his team. Price was the opposite.
Now we have to live with a GM who is perhaps worse than Gainey! Who could have imagined that. I don't think the Habs recover from this and finish tenth or twelfth in the Eastern conference this coming season. They likely won't see the post season for two seasons.

Price will have to choke all over again in order to be traded, and we fans will have to endure a team as mediocre as those dreaded and hated Leafs. Currently I loath and despise Habs management, almost as much as I loath the Leafs and their management. Gauthier is right up there with Burke as one of the most hated GMs in the NHL. Man this is going to be really tough.

Oh well, I can keep tabs on the Blues and how they make their play off run this year and how Halak will lead the Blues to the Western Conference final. Wait and see, and then feel the fury of Hab fans at Hab management. Gauthier will pay for this idiot move, and the sooner he is gone the better.

Price will NEVER EVER be an NHL starter. He is a choker and a loser. What a horrific day for Hab Nation.

Darksyde said...

Wow, Anon...negative much? Pissed that you spent $100+ on a Halak jersey during the playoffs? Let's face it, this was a no-win situation for Gauthier:
Scenario #1: Keep Price and Halak - Halak plays decent hockey, but with no Pleks, and a rookie as our #2 centre behind Gomez, there's no goal support, and the Habs miss the playoffs. Carey Price asks for a trade so he can get a chance to play. Media jumps on it and Price is sent out for low end draft picks. Verdict: Gautier loses doing this.

Scenario #2: Price traded - Gauthier gets a paltry prospect and a 3-4th round pick for a devalued Price. Gauthier spends 4+m on Halaks new long term contract. Again, little money left to sign Pleks. Habs struggle down the stretch as the Habs are forced to rely heavily on Halak, who may or may not perform to last years standard, especially when he plays 50+ games and may very well burn out. Still no goals coming w/ the rookie/Gomez combo. Verdict: Gauthier loses.

So you can see, with his other options, the Habs are really screwed. He did the best he could with what he had. The market for a goalie is flooded, and we need to AT LEAST re-sign Pleks or someone else in his cap/talent range to fill the #2 centre spot in order to compete offensively.
Am I sad to see Jaro go? Of course. Does Price have a lot to prove? Definately. (By the way....a Junior Gold medal winner and a Calder Cup winner is hardly what I would call a, "choker and a loser", Anon. He's 22. Even your boy Halak didn't accomplish anything NEAR that by his age.) Now we wait and see what else happens in the off season. I have faith in the team, not just one player. The second you rely on one player to win games, and forget about the team, you are truly lost.

Anonymous said...

Gainey,Gauthier and Martin = the 3 stooges.Halak didn't have a chance to stay in Mtl