It was three years ago today when Canadiens management pulled the trigger on a controversial trade. That trade would clear up a goaltending battle and determine who take over in the crease for the Montreal Canadiens.
After working their way through the Canadiens minor league system, both Jaro Halak and Carey Price were seeking the number one role in Montreal. At first, it seemed the job was Price’s as he was handed the keys to the crease two years prior when the Canadiens dealt Cristobal Huet to the Washington Capitals.
It was Halak, however, who shone the brightest in 2009-10, taking the job from Price with an excellent regular season and carrying the Canadiens all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Halak was the sole reason Montreal made it to the NHL’s final four by absolutely stealing the first round series from the hands of regular season champion Washington Capitals before going on to knock off the heavily favored Pittsburgh Penguins, who just so happened to be defending Stanley Cup champions.
Both Price and Halak were due for contract renewals following the run to the semi-finals. The two young goaltenders wanted to be the go to guy for their team, and so it became obvious that one of them would be moved. On June 17th 2010, it came as a shock to the hockey world when it was Halak who was sent packing shortly after carrying the team on his back for most of the season and playoffs.
Halak was of course dealt to the St. Louis Blues for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. The trade was not met with much fanfare immediately, as many fans were upset to see their playoff hero dealt just weeks after the Canadiens most successful playoff run since winning the Stanley Cup in 1993.
Halak’s first season with the Blues was inconsistent, but he managed to win 27 games. He would form a phenomenal duo with Brian Elliott the next season, when his goals against average dropped below two and he recorded the best save percentage of his career at .925.
Jaro would battle injuries this past season causing him to struggle. Only suiting up for 16 games, he posted a save percentage below .900 and won only six games.
Lars Eller has been slowly developing with the Canadiens, finally breaking out and posting a career high in points during the lockout shortened season. Playing only 46 games, Eller finished the year with 30 points, besting the 28 he scored in 79 games the season prior.
Eller brings good size and has proven to be an excellent third line center. Finding chemistry with fellow youngster Alex Galchenyuk helped him to bring his offensive game to a new level. He showed flashes of offensive potential in the past while paired with players who could match his abilities such as Andrei Kostitsyn, but playing alongside creative players all season helped him to show off his talents.
His breakout season was cut short in the first game of the playoffs as a viscous Eric Gryba hit would result in a concussion and end his season. The Canadiens missed his production dearly as they bowed out of the playoffs in just five games at the hands of the Ottawa Senators.
Many fans were calling for former General Manager Pierre Gauthier’s head when Halak was posting Vezina type numbers in 2011-12 and the Montreal Canadiens sputtered to a last place finish in the Eastern Conference.
Eller, however has begun to reward Canadiens fans and new management for their patience and is showing potential to be a great two way center that could become an invaluable member of the Canadiens roster.
As it stands right now, the Blues likely hold the edge as winners of the trade, especially considering Schultz could not hold his own in the American Hockey League and was sent back to the ECHL this season. Halak formed an excellent tandem with Elliott and have combined to make the Blues a regular attendant in the NHL playoffs.
However, I believe that with Eller’s breakout campaign and extremely high potential, he will go on to prove Gauthier correct (for once) and swing this trade heavily in favor of the Montreal Canadiens.
Let us know in the comments section below who you think is the winner of the Halak for Eller deal.