May 05, 2010
Keep Halak, But At What Price?
Regardless of what happens the rest of these playoffs, the toughest decision the Montreal Canadiens faced this summer has already been made for them. Which goalie to keep and which goalie to move? Keep Jaroslav Halak, move Carey Price.
Halak has been nothing short of spectacular since say January 1st, leading Montreal to the playoffs, upsetting the NHL's best regular season team, and giving Slovakia a genuine shot at a medal at the Olympics. He has earned the job, and the fans demand it be his.
Now we should be careful not to anoint him as the next Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy just yet. A few great months does not make a career. While it may seem improbable that Halak will not be a star for years to come right now, Montrealers once felt the same about goalies named Steve Penney and Jose Theodore.
Nonetheless, Halak will head into the summer knowing he will get a healthy raise over his $800,000 salary. He is a restricted free agent (would another team dare give him an offer sheet?) which should allow Montreal to get him to a couple of years at a reasonable rate. $4 million per year maybe? That's just a guess.
Montreal will have to be salary cap-conscious. They've already committed $45 million in contracts next season, with the cap expected to remain around $57 million. That leaves $12 million to get Halak and/or Price, UFA Tomas Plekanec and approximately 8 other roster positions under contract. That's not a lot of wiggle room, and if there is one thing that is obvious this post-season it is that Montreal does need to overhaul their team somewhat, especially up front, as they are dreadful 5 on 5.
With a weak UFA class in 2010, one way of finding some NHL ready forwards would be to trade Price. Given his age, pedigree and potential, he would still command great interest from other teams. You could argue trading Halak would earn an even greater return right now, but doing so would not sit well with the fans. Besides, it is fairly evident that Price needs a change of scenery to reach his potential. Could you imagine the pressure on him next October if he is anointed as the Habs goalie instead of Halak? The Canadiens know that might ruin him altogether. They can't start next season by choosing Price over Halak.
There is the possibility that Montreal could return with both Halak and Price. Those in the know, SportsNet's Nick Kypreos being the one I trust the most, say there is no way Halak will return to Montreal with Price as the back up. He feels he has earned the right to be the undisputed #1. Montreal probably would prefer stability in net rather than the circus they've had at times in the past couple of years.
My guess is Montreal will sign Halak and move Price as their biggest move of the off-season, bringing in a couple of good forwards. Fan favorite PK Subban will replace Marc Andre Bergeron and Paul Mara on defense. Plekanec's future will be interesting, but with or without him the Habs will be looking to upgrade their forward depth