In the first major move of the offseason, Montreal
traded Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis
for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz earlier today. Halak, who stole the starting goalie job from
Carey Price and carried the Canadiens for much of the playoffs, will be a
restricted free agent.
The return for Montreal
isn’t overwhelming, but considering the quantity and quality of the goalies set
to hit the free agent market in July, it isn’t overly surprising. What is a bit surprising is that Montreal has chosen Price
as their goalie of the future over Halak. Once the most hyped young goalie in the league, Price has endured a
rollercoaster ride since the outset of his career. Considering Halak’s dominance in the playoffs
and in pressure situations, many thought that he was the safer choice. But Montreal
evidently still believes in Price’s considerable potential and could not
stomach seeing him turn into a franchise netminders elsewhere.
Make no mistake GM Pierre Gauthier’s job is tied to Price’s
development over the next few years. If
he continues to stumble along and Halak has even a little success in St. Louis, Canadiens fans
will be calling for Gauthier’s job in no time.
Still, Gauthier deserves some credit for making a
controversial decision that has such boom or bust potential. Gauthier’s faith in Price is reminiscent of to
Mike Milbury’s faith in Rick DiPietro in 2000. You remember, June 24, 2000 when Milbury chose DiPietro first overall
ahead of Marian Gaborik and Dany Heatley and then traded Roberto Luongo and
Olli Jokinen for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha? That series of moves crippled the Islanders for years, but at least
Milbury was honest that the day would make or break his career.
Milbury’s gaffe is now considered one of the worst in sports
history as Gaborik, Heatley, and Luongo all became superstars while DiPietro
has suffered through an endless string of injuries. Gauthier’s move today was not nearly as
dramatic as Milbury’s, but just like Mad Mike, Gauthier’s legacy in 10 years
will be directly linked to his choice in young netminders.