Trading a Hero
Sure there's going to be extra angst in Montreal today. That's extra, because when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful team in the history of hockey, angst is a daily reality no matter the circumstances.
But the trading of goalie Jaroslav Halak today to St. Louis for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz is sure to cause dismay among those who saw in Halak this spring the next Ken Dryden or the next Patrick Roy, rather than the next Steve Penney.
The Habs, way back when, didn't deal Dryden right after he stunned the Boston Bruins in the '71 playoffs, did they?
Well, that was then is and this is now, a salary cap era in which tough decisions that don't necessarily have to do with the respective talents of players have to be made regularly. The Chicago Blackhawks are going to demonstrate that in the coming weeks as they are forced to partially dismantle a championship team that simply can't be kept together even if the cap, as expected, goes up by $2 million for next season.
With both Halak and Carey Price heading to free agency, the Habs just couldn't keep both. It would have meant that every night upwards of $3 million of valuable cap money would have been parked on the bench wearing a baseball cap rather than a mask.
There was no easy answer here for Habs GM Pierre Gauthier. Whether he kept both or traded either, there was going to be disagreement with his decision.
If anything, Habs fans should be pleased that he probably made the hardest choice by moving Halak given his terrific spring. Gauthier, if he's going to have a more successful run in Montreal than he did in Anaheim or Ottawa, needs to make exactly these types of hard decisions that will cause controversay in a hockey man city like Montreal.
This was a deal, you see, as much about the GM as the player being moved or the players being acquired. Gauthier made a tough choice that he knows will have a great deal of fallout in Montreal, and in doing so acquired young, cheap talent that the Habs needed.