June 18, 2010
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But no, he was traded.
Judging by the world's reaction on Twitter, it will go down as the worst transaction the greatest franchise in the history of hockey ever made.
(Stick-tap to @walsha, who doesn't endorse this message.)
After that almost-miraculous late-season and postseason run by Jaroslav Halak, it's understandable that many Habs fans would want to find Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier and stage the kind of mutiny not seen since the days of William Bligh; and I thought Twitter would feature many declarations that so-and-so was so done with this team.
But this was not the case. Many, instead, considered it a "fail" (though only a few dubbed it epic). This may have been partly due to disbelief, since there were many Tweets with lots and lots of repeating capital letters, like "NOOOOOOOO" and "WHAAAAAT" and "DAAAAAAAAMN."
But the most interesting thing you learn about trades from Twitter is as the details emerge.
Blues beat writer Jeremy Rutherford was, of course, all over this and offered a number of illuminating details as they happened, including reaction from the agent of now-former Blues goalie/free agent-to-be Chris Mason(notes). The agent was disappointed that his 35-year-old client couldn't get a three-year deal at nearly $4 million per.
There were rumors that the deal would have included David Perron(notes) and a first-round pick, which was a bit ridiculous since Halak's still an unsigned restricted free agent. Instead, the return for Montreal was a more-reasonable package of Lars Eller(notes), a highly regarded center who played 77 games between the AHL and NHL this year, and Ian Schultz(notes). All well and good.
And surely you're thinking the Habs could've gotten more for Halak, but no. Turns out they never even talked to him about re-signing, which I'm not sure I understand, even if Gauthier says they knew what the numbers would have been. The move was about politics as much as it was anything else. As good as Halak was, he was also one of those low-risk late-round picks that just so happened to work out for the Habs.
That they got former first- and third-round picks for him is, in some way, a great return on investment. Yes, they're jettisoning a player that pretty much dragged a resistant, mediocre Habs team kicking and screaming into the playoffs, and one that stole more games and earned more plaudits from Habs boosters and deriders alike than any Montreal goalie since Patrick Roy, but like Gauthier said in his conference call, you gotta look at this big picture.
Carey Price(notes) was always going to be The Goalie of the Future, regardless of how sure he was he'd still be with Montreal come training camp, and trading Halak to the Blues is politically expedient for two reasons:
1. If Carey Price, a former No. 5 pick, had turned out to be the superstar all the experts thought he would, the outcry over the return — a mid-first-round pick that will probably be a good NHLer and a third-rounder who, well, is pretty OK — would have been much louder than it was Friday, one of those many, many things Habs fans bitched about for-ev-er.
2. Even if Halak does keep playing like this, and lights up the Western Conference (which there's no guarantee he will any time soon behind that Blues defense), it doesn't hurt the Habs more than one game a year, unless the teams meet in the Stanley Cup Finals, which we all know will never happen.
And hey, remember what happened with that whole "the Habs should have kept Huet" thing? Yeah, exactly.
The Canadiens will say Price is their guy and always was, and that'll make for some nice slow-motion back-story for a CBC montage if he ever does anything with his career, but it's not true.
What is true is that Gauthier probably made the best decision he possibly could given his team's particularly unenviable circumstances.
Apparently the Minnesota Wild have put Josh Harding(notes) in a really nice window display in the hopes that some passing GM with the slightest need for a goalie will walk by. No one is falling for it, says Michael Russo. While I disagree that there are "only a few teams" looking for goalies, that may just be semantics.
What that should read is only a few teams may be stupid enough to trade for a career backup with one good season in his last three (and that sandwiched between a couple of real stinkers) for whatever Minnesota is asking. Oh, what's that? They're asking for Lars Eller, centerpiece of the Halak trade? Yeah, OK Chuck Fletcher.
Count Phoenix Coyotes goon Paul Bissonnette(notes) among the world's newest Tweeters, and boy, he's busy. As of this writing, he's at 15 Tweets in about three days. He's also among the best Twitter users in the NHL already.
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