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Jaroslav Halak's contract: Better for Halak, the Blues … or the Habs?

Jul 6, 2010, 2:40 PM EDT

halakbutterfly.jpgFour years from now, we’ll look back at this summer as a turning point for both the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues. The question is: will the Habs look wise for taking Jaroslav Halak’s impressive playoff run with a grain of salt or will the Blues point to that trade (and subsequent signing) as the moment they finally found their rock in net? Of course, it could always be a little of both …

It might be oversimplifying things a bit, but the Canadiens more or less chose to keep Tomas Plekanec (six years, $30 million) and still-unsigned restricted free agent Carey Price instead of Halak. This will put a massive amount of pressure on Price, in particular, unless something insane happens and Montreal decides not to pay their other RFA goalie. Can you imagine if the Habs end up being an out-of-the-blue answer for Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov?

Moving on to the Blues’ perspective, I think it’s a mixture of good news and bad news. Let’s pull the bad news band-aid off first: Halak is still a relatively unproven goalie. While his career regular seasons are pretty impressive in their own right (56-34-8, 91.9 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA), he’s only played in 101 regular season games so far. I’ve chided teams for making big investments in “contract year” goalies before, so there’s always that worry. Especially when you consider the fact that the Habs probably hope Halak will play in at least 60 games each year, or about 2.4 times as many appearances as he experienced in his entire NHL career so far.

Still, there are some big reasons to like this deal, too. For one thing, Halak is only 25 years old; if he’s the real deal then the Blues are getting premium prime years without any 30-year-old-flubber. The $3.75 million price tag isn’t half-bad, either, unless you compare it to the bargain basement deals signed by Chris Mason and Dan Ellis.

In fact, take a look at where he stacks up among starting goalie cap hits – plus some more analysis – after the jump.

lundqvisrt.jpgHere is a snapshot of what other goalies are making and where Halak falls. I won’t mention every goalie who makes less per year, though.

Lundqvist: $6.875M cap hit
Ward: $6.3
Miller: $6.25
Giguere: $6
Backstrom: $6
Kipper: $5.83
Vokoun: $5.7
Luongo: $5.33
Brodeur: $5.2
M.A. Fleury: $5
Thomas: $5
Dipietro: $4.5
Hiller: $4.5
Bryzgalov: $4.25
Leclaire: $3.8
Halak: $3.75
Khabibulin: $3.75
Lehtonen: $3.55
Rinne: $3.4
Anderson: $1.81
Ellis: $1.5

So, by that count, 16 goalies make more money than Halak will earn, cap hit-wise. That’s also before we see what Turco and Nabokov might go for. When you consider salary cap impact, how many of those goalies would you choose over Halak?

Well over half the PHT readers polled thought that Halak was worth at least $4 million or more (a $5-$5.5 million range ended up winning the poll), so his deal is a dandy one in the light of public opinion too.

Does that mean that this is a slam dunk? Not necessarily. Still, the Blues put themselves on the map when they made that splashy trade and signed him to a reasonable deal. Halak gets some security in a four-year contract with a solid payday while the Blues avoided taking on a huge cap hit and didn’t go overboard in years with the inexperienced goalie.

These things can always change, but so far it looks like both Halak and the Blues came out as winners. But what about the Montreal Canadiens? Tell us how you feel about this contract – and the Habs’ decision to let Halak go – in the comments.

  1. Matt Reitz - Jul 6, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Should be interesting to see what happens with the Blues next year. I expected them to be one of the better teams in the West last year, but they took a GIGANTIC step backwards because… well, they’re young forwards took a gigantic step backwards.
    I love the signing because for all the young talent they’ve had spread throughout the organization, goaltending was the glaring hole (and now, Ben Bishop wasnt the answer). I love that Davidson and Co. were proactive and MADE something happened. Even if it doesn’t work out, they went out and made the move they thought would help them the most. Gotta respect that kind of management.

  2. David - Jul 6, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    I think if MON ever reached out to Halak this offseason to gauge what is asking price was, he’d be the one still in MON. I don’t think there’s any way they trade him if they knew they could get him at this price. Doesn’t look good for management, trading a valuable playoff hero. If Lehtonen 3 yrs @ $3.55 million in Dallas is generally considered a good deal, this has to be a steal.

  3. moustache - Jul 6, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    This could have a big impact on Niemi’s arbitration. There really isn’t a good player to compare Niemi to, but Halak is probably about as good as any. Had then situation been left to the FA market, the Hawks would have had a pretty good chance of resigning him for under the $2.6M draft pick compensation level. If the arbitration awards Niemi a similar contract it would be difficult for the Hawks to sign him if they also intend on retaining Hjalmarsson. On the other hand Halak was a bit more impressive, and while both players are relatively inexperienced Halak still has about twice as much although no Stanley Cup.

  4. j2 - Jul 6, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    I think you mean St Louis wants Halak to play 60+ games.
    From the Montreal perspective, if Halak would have wanted the same take home pay it would have meant he would have wanted more money. Taxes in Quebec are higher than Missouri. This would have cost them Plekanec, the second line center, as well as Carey Price, the as-yet unsigned “chosen one” goalie who vied with Jaro for the number one spot.
    Fans in Montreal are pretty rabid about trading Halak but the club was in an untenable situation as far as the cap and weak offensive production. For all that Halak was amazing, he can’t do anything about three shutouts.
    The final contract is equivalent to the offer sheet amount so I have no problem with how the situation turned out. I wouldve loved another year to watch everything play out, however.
    Everyone wishes the best for Halak with the Blues.

  5. Always Habs Fan - Jul 7, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    I think Montreal was right by not re-signing Halak, there is no reason to doubt the decision until we see how both play. Remember the last time Montreal was faced with the same decision how it worked out (Jose Theodore), believe you me, Montreal knows their goaltenders and never seem to be short of them. Is Carey Price the answer? I don’t know, I don’t think anyone knows, he’s still pretty young and only time will tell, but hopefully last year was an eye opener for him, being put in the #2 position instead of being praised as the next coming of Patrick Roy. I believe (hope) he realized the goaltender’s are a dime a dozen these days and he can be replaced at any time. Look at M.A Fleury at the start of his career, people were question Pittsburgh taking him, but the stuck by him and is now one of the best goalies in the league with alot of years ahead of him. As a Habs fan I hope everything goes the way I think and Carey Price works out, if not I’m pretty confident that there’s a goaltender in Montreal’s system that no one has heard of that will come out of nowhere and step up and take the job.

  6. Razamanaz - Jul 7, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    I don’t think you have seen Halak since his 1st. game as a Hab to his last. Since the beginning he has played great, his 1st. year when Huet was injured he came in and kept us fighting for a playoff spot. When price was given the #1 spot for 3 straight years, he never once earned it. When price was injured Halak came in, played great got us into the playoffs but Boob Gainey played his unproven price, who went on to lose 4 straight games and looked like he did not belong in the NHL!! On top of all that, price could play 5-6 or even 8 games, even if he played poorly, Gainey would still play him, where as with Halak who, even if he lost 1-0 and played great, he never got to play the next game (what I mean is, when he played with price, he never got to play after a loss,NEVER, but price could lose 8 straight and all bad but would keep getting the next start). Halak was treated very poorly by the Habs even though he was 10 times better than price and they are going to miss him!! Price has gotten worse year after year and that will not change! The Habs kept the wrong goalie and it’s us, the fan who will pay for it. With price we won’t even make the playoffs.

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