Sunday’s Super Blues

While the NHL’s only game on Super Bowl Sunday might have been one too many for Cristobal Huet‘s liking, it was one too few for Jaroslav Halak.

With the Habs up 3-0 over the visiting Rangers, Huet allowed 5-straight goals over the final 37 minutes of play. The goals were not entirely his fault as the Rangers managed to use their muscle and their hustle to completely dominate a weary Montreal team. The Habs got off to a great start thanks to a sizzling powerplay that went 3-for-5, but they were unable to cope with the bruisin’ Blueshirts during 5-on-5 play.

 

Midway through the second period, after Brandon Dubinksy cut the Habs’ lead to one - 24 seconds after Michal Rozsival had broken the ice for New York – Jaroslav Halak took a quick glance in the direction of his coach. The back-up netminder, who very nearly saved Montreal’s season last year, has not had the chance to start a game in the NHL this year. And it looks like he might not get that opportunity.

 

Less than a month after getting the call to come up to Montreal, Halak is heading back down to Hamilton.

It will be interesting to see how the young Slovakian netminder handles this latest setback. Disappointed with being assigned to Hamilton straight out of training camp, Halak quickly regained his form after a slow start to the season; he posted a 9-7-2 record with a 2.26 GAA and a 0.922 save percentage before being called up to Montreal.

 

The 22-year old is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and it was earlier rumoured that he was thinking of playing in Russia if he did not see quality ice-time. While it is extremely unlikely that another NHL team will send Halak an offer sheet during the off-season, it is a real possibility that he could decide to sign a lucrative contract with a Russian team, in the same way that Alexander Perezhogin jumped ship after last season and signed with Russian Super League team Salavat Yulaev. Perezhogin’s salary jumped from $627 000 with the Habs to nearly $1.8 million.

The Canadiens’ organization obviously has tremendous faith that Carey Price has the potential to become a franchise goaltender. The only reason that Halak was even called up to Montreal was so that Price could log heavy minutes down in Hamilton. While Price’s development is important for the Canadiens, they should be careful not to alienate their other assets.

Yann Danis, who broke into both the AHL and the NHL with shutouts, now finds himself assigned to back-up duties for the Bulldogs. The 27-year old Lafontaine, Quebec native becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and will most certainly end his relationship with the Habs and look for opportunities elsewhere.

 

While Huet’s position right now as the Habs’ number one goaltender is unquestionable, he may not see much of a future in Montreal if Carey Price is stealing away starts down the stretch. The French goalie has done a good job of answering the critics who have questioned his ability to be a reliable netminder in this league. Last year he was named to the Eastern All-Star team, the previous year he led the league with the best save percentage (0.929), and last month he was the NHL’s Third Star, posting an 8-2-1 record, a 2.40 GAA, and notching one shutout. Huet has great skill, an uncanny calmness, and is a great team player. If he remains unsigned by July 1, he may be one of the hottest item’s in this year’s free agent market.

Imagine this worst case scenario:

As an unrestricted free agent, Huet signs long-term contract with another NHL team.

Jaroslav Halak, disappointed with his ice-time, bolts for Russia.

Yann Danis signs a one-year deal with a club willing to take a chance on him.

That leaves Carey Price as an untested number one puck-stopper and maybe Cedrick Desjardins as a backup? Not the most inspiring of situations – and that’s not even mentioning the fact that those 3 players could leave without the Habs getting any form of compensation.

The next few weeks will be telling as we’ll see how Halak reacts to being snubbed in Montreal, how Price fairs with the big boys again,and how Huet deals with the pressures of being the go-to netminder on a team hoping to capture the top spot in the East.

36 Comments

  1. teamplayer says:

    so part of the worst case scenario, we pick up any one of those goalies but i dont see gainey letting all 3 other tenders walk out

  2. aungthwin says:

    It looks like Huet will be getting the start tonight against the Sens. And unless he gets a 50-save shutout, I’m guessing that Price will play against the Leafs (why else the call-up?).

    My question is:

    If Price does in fact play Thursday and has a poor outing (say 4 or 5 goals against, a save percentage below .900) what should the Habs do? Should Price be shipped back down again? Do you give him another chance right away? Do you let him sit a few games and then give him another start?

    I think that if Price wins or is stellar in his first start, then nobody will second guess the switch with Halak. If Price lets in a few softies and loses, however, I think their will be a lot of (justifiable) second-guessing about the move.

  3. likehoy says:

    i have my reserved doubts over this whole ordeal. It’s quite possible BG is losing sleep over this situation, or he’s hell-bent carey price will pan out as the Brodeur of the future. And if he’s not? and if he’s Jose Theodore? BG will be out of the door so fast. BG’s life as the Habs GM has all of a sudden come down to Carey Price’s ability to win games, and it’s something I don’t think he should have done to himself. This all goes back to the beginning of the season where Carbo wanted Halak but BG wanted Price.

    The sad truth is that there are plenty of teams out there that are wishing they had 4 capable goaltenders in their system, but we’re giving ourselves headaches in our desire to win, yet develop goaltenders appropriately. There is no sense of how Halak has developed because he doesn’t play. As I said before, trade the poor-kids career over to a team that can use him.

    Alex Semin for Jaroslva Halak + Ryder + 2nd rounder? Think they’d bite? Olie the Goalie is at the end of his career.

  4. smart42 says:

    Chris,

    Interesting scenarios.

    Goalies, like all professional athletes only want to play in the big league, they have sacrificed everything and spent their entire careers getting there. Halak like so many other second-third line netminders have the same insane desire to win cup rings, and make as much do-re-mi as possible, before they are relegated to old timer Viagra beer league status.
    I couldn’t find the average number of seasons played for a #1 backstopper in the NHL, but if I were Halak,
    I’d get my agent to move me to a starting spot, somewhere, anywhere, before I needed little blue pills and Attends.

    Just a thought.

  5. aungthwin says:

    Zamboni:

    The loss of your posts must have been a glitch of some sort… sorry about that. I did see the comments before they disappeared though, and they were much appreciated!

  6. 24 Cups says:

    RH – Further to your last message. Other lesser light goalies that will be UFAs this summer are: Holmquist, Toivonen, Hedberg, Thibault, Grahame, Lalime, Aubin, Ellis, Valiquette, Dobbie, Conklin, and Hasek. (not saying Hasek is a lesser light, it’s just that I wouldn’t see him going anywhere else besides Detroit).

    The Original 24 Cups

  7. zamboni says:

    That’s what I thought.
    Thanks for the update Chris.

    z

  8. krob1000 says:

    Just found your blog here ….hell of a scary possibility. I can honestly say I never thought of that happening…..I was happier person before reading that. I sure hope Gainey has kept the communication lines open with these guys all along.

  9. zamboni says:

    Chris,

    I just noticed that my posts were removed from this blog.
    Did I offend anyone by suggesting that your blog deserves to be more visible?
    Or was it a victim of a mishap.

    One would hope it was the latter rather than the former.
    Either way I’m curious to find out.

  10. Mr.Hazard says:

    I hope Danis gets out of here and makes a name for himself. I feel bad for Halak, who I really like, but its even worse for Danis. And I agree, the Canadiens organization seems to be putting a lot (too much?) faith in Monsieur Price. We shall see what we shall see.

    Ex nihilo nihil fit

  11. The Teacher says:

    I’m guessing this ghost’s next post will come after the Leafs game?

  12. G-Man says:

    Bryzgalov. Waived by the Ducks and not 1 team took him until they recalled him. The goalie market price has dropped big time.

    Gilbert

  13. The Teacher says:

    Oh come on Chris, One game? Are you a bandwagon fan? :P

  14. likehoy says:

    dipietro is 26…he was a first overall draft pick and only started playing amazing last year…

    marc-andre fleury is also also a first overall pick and is 23…he still sucks

    cam ward 23, still inconsistent and seems like his cup form has eluded him.

    kari lehtnonen 24, a second overall pick, he’s been the quickest to develop as he has a svpct over .912 career-wise, not to mention playing on a perenially poor atlanta defence.

    Roberto Luongo 4th overall pick and started in the league at a tender age of 21 and has dominated ever since

    if that’s any indication on how long it takes a goalie to develop…it’ll be a while before we see price at the peak of his game…unless he’s like a certain mr. luongo.

  15. likehoy says:

    backstrom nylander and kozlov aren’t too shabby themselves…

    With the way BG has handled the goaltending situation…if we don’t win, it will be one of the biggest reasons that we will bring up for our inconsistency…

  16. TheCharles says:

    Truth be told I don’t like the idea of Price being called back up. I think he should have stayed in Hamilton and give Halak a few looks. Price has the talent, but he was also playing for the Tri-Cities Americans last year. The boys should take their time and let the kid develop. It worked for half the current roster that has come up through the system, and it should work well for Price. Leaving him sitting on the bench is not gonna make a future #1 goalie.

  17. projectpete19 says:

    To me the only goalies worth talking about are Huet and Halak (Price isnt going anywhere even if he tanks this year). One of them arent going to be with the Habs next year. IMO Huet should be the one traded, I have said it many times, Huet is a decent goalie but you cant rely on him for long stretches, and thats what the playoffs are, a very long stretch of games.

    I am not saying Price or Halak are capable, they might be, they might not be. But if Huet cant play consistently for long stretches of time why let him walk at the end of the season for nothing? Many teams will take him as they believe him to be a #1 goalie, so trade him at the deadline for what we need, a top 1st or 2nd line center and some size (of course package ryder with him)

    I dont think there is a chance in hell that Price will be traded if he underperforms this year, at least not for a few years. When he was chosen instead of Kopitar, Gainey will not throw away Price until he has exhausted every chance to help Price shine. (Interesting article, old, but interesting http://wwwrealitycheckeyesontheprize.blogspot.com/2007/10/could-carey-price-become-better-draft.html)

    Danis is not even an option, he hasnt even been a regular starter in Hamilton so he is not going to be a candidate for either starter or back-up with the habs. He played 6 games in the NHL going 3-2.

  18. nightmare_49 says:

    GM Bob has been juggling four balls all season and hasn’t dropped one yet , though each ball could possibly be a regular in the NHL. You would think that he would drop one soon but you never know with Bob. About Halek and his pouting early in the season was justified , i guess , but after seeing what Ilya Bryzgalov signed for i’m sure now he’ll have a little more patience down the road as Bryzgalov patience paid off and the Russian league may be a thing of the past for him , i hope. Good scenario , Chris.

  19. RH says:

    If Price doesn’t start showing signs of brilliance almost immediately, I’m not sure it would be that easy for you to convince a GM to give up the barn for him. However, if he comes out and instantly steaks his claim to the #1 job in net, why would you trade him? Wouldn’t he become a proven talent?

  20. Ian G Cobb says:

    Koivu has been benched next game, hope he gets the message.

    Sorry, I thought I was the coach for just a min.

  21. HotHabs says:

    So what you’re saying is you’d be willing to get rid of the only goalie that has a proven record of winning and who is improving as the season heats up in order to take a risk on a couple of AHL goalies who’ve yet to show any consistency at an NHL level?

    Now that’s what I call taking a risk! Huet is a #1. He’s playing consistently well and making some clutch saves like vs. Ottawa on Tuesday night on a Robitaille shot that had eyes for the back of the net. Why would you send a veteran tender to pack his bags only to drop a couple of rookies in the crease approaching playoff time when everything heats up? If the guy shows fatigue then use a backup for a game – that’s what they’re there for!

    enjoying the high’s of being a Habs fan

  22. CDK says:

    I would deal Price in the near future for a raft of draft picks and proven talent and then ride Huet and Halak for the next 5 seasons while grooming Desjardins in Hamilton. I would be more content with realized rather than potential talent. The question is: Will Price be the next Roy or Penney? If the latter, then what?

  23. N.B.habs fan says:

    I think they should play Price win or lose try him for 3 straight games and see if he has it for the NHL.If he fails send him back for the rest of the year,that way he will understand we have faith in him and if he plays well keep him up.

  24. HotHabs says:

    Good observation, but I think we all know that one game does not a great goalie make! Price may have an amazing outing on Thursday (if in fact he gets the call), but it’s the stringing together of W’s that brings out self-confidence and the confidence of team mates and lastly fans.

    Personally, I don’t see this kid being ready for the pressure and talent level of the NHL for at least another 2 years. He’s young and full of potential. But, goalies are like kites: if they catch the right wind at the right time they soar, but they can just as easily nose-dive and crash. Timing is the key and management pulls the strings: finding the right moment to enable Price to soar will not be an easy task with so many variables in play. Developing young goalies is a complicated affair.

    My suggestion (previously posted) was to offer Huet a 2-3 year contract. Play as #1 in year 1, then ease up and slowly allow Price to take the reigns over the following season(s) – giving Price 25-30 games the first season or two then in the last year of Huet’s contract play minimum of 50 games. Just a thought, again with many variables like progress and performance over that period…

    enjoying the high’s of being a Habs fan

  25. 24 Cups says:

    Chris – Interesting piece, the Habs coronation of Carey Price could quickly turn one of the team’s strengths into a problem. I guess the chain of events will flow from what Huet decides to do at the end of the year.

    Everyone talks about what kind of money/term he will get but the real question is who would sign him (outside of the Habs)? LA and Tampa are the logical choices. Colorado and Washington are secondary markets for his services. After that, I’m not sure there are any other teams that would pursue him. He will have competition for those four jobs. Theodore and Kolzig will be UFAs and Ottawa and Dallas may move one of their two goalies (Emery/Gerber and Turco/Smith). I believe that Montreal has the right to negotiate with Huet before July 1st so if they are going to sign him then they should move quickly. If that happens, then I can’t see why Halak or Danis would re-sign. If the Habs are going to cut Huet loose, then we would need to re-sign one of the other guys immediately so we have an adequate backup to Price for next year. Desjardins has potential but he’s a few years away from the NHL at this point in time.

    The real question in Montreal is do we feel that we can win a Cup this year or on our anniversary. If the answer is yes, then it’s difficult to believe we will do that with Price in net. That’s really asking a lot. We would then have to re-sign Huet. If we are going to methodically move along and make a run down the road (when all our kids are more seasoned) then we should cut Huet loose and re-sign Halak for two or three years. Price and Halak would then gain experience along with the rest of the young players.

    The Original 24 Cups

  26. RH says:

    Just started to wonder which goalies are going to be on the market this year, when I came across your post. Since we’re theorizing, let’s assume Huet doesn’t agree to contract terms with the Habs, and both Halak and Danis bolt for other teams, but Price is ready to play in the bigs. Does Gainey go out and get an experienced goalie to challenge Price or, does he get a career back-up, like a Clemmenson or someone of that sort?

  27. P St. Pierre says:

    I’m also a little disappointed in the way the team has handled Jaroslav Halak. He deserved to get the start against a weak, flu-ridden Islanders team on Saturday. I hope they don’t let him get away, as I have a feeling he could turn into a special goalie somewhere else…Tomas Vokoun anyone?

  28. likehoy says:

    echoing my sentiments exactly…”tomas vokoun anyone?” posted the exact comment in the “halak sent down thread”

  29. Wencz says:

    Excellent points, Dru.

    We could really elevate the discussion if we started to interpret what’s going on more than talking about what we think should go on. We’re computer chair bloggers, Bob is arguably one of the best GMs and hockey minds in the game.

  30. Dru says:

    Interesting. I was thinking that BG was keeping all these goaltenders (Danis and Halak) out of play to a) keep their bargaining leverage minimal while b) maintaining bargaining leverage vis a vis Huet.

    In other words, keeping as many options open as possible. Assuming that Habs management aren’t less well informed that your average HIO commenter, it seems worthwhile to try to figure out why a certain plan of action *makes* sense, rather than jumping to conclusions about why it doesn’t.

    That said, it seems to come down to how much weight you put in how these players *feel* toward the club. If they get a bad taste in their mouth, does that seal the deal in terms of leaving, or is there some kind of transcendent ego-free professionalism in play?

    Fascinating to speculate, but impossible to know; perfect fodder for online discussions!

  31. JF says:

    Good piece to start your blog, Chris. I imagine Halak is pretty upset about being sent to Hamilton again. He did not react well at the beginning of the season, and I would understand him giving up on the Canadiens’ organization. I don’t really think they’ve treated him well. After his performance last year, he deserved some ice-time this season, at the very least to show-case his skills so other teams might be interested.

    My guess is that Price’s return has been timed so that he’ll face Toronto on Thursday. Hope he’s ready!

  32. Guy21 says:

    Actually Danis is worse off than Halak.He is the backup no matter who is down in Hamilton.If Halak is there or Price.Montreal seems hard on goalies….but I don’t think Gainey would ‘not’ play them in order to have better bargaining power.He doesn’t seem to be like that to me.Huet’s worth is not how much the backup’s play its how much the going rate for goalies of his age and ability would demand..
    I hope the Habs sign Huet for at least one more year to give Price a gradual taste of the big game….

    Welcome Chris and remember all……GO HABS GO

  33. HotHabs says:

    The goalie situation is a good problem. But, it’s a dilemma that will have to be figured out sooner rather than later.

    Personally, with the lack of demand for goalies right now I believe Habs should make Huet an offer for 2 years: next year #1 goalie but giving Price 25-30 games, year 2 transition that would put Price as #1 and Huet getting 25-30 games. The contract numbers would reflect that strategy, too. Then, after those 2 years are over, Desjardins, another AHL tender, or a near retirement acquisition will become the Habs backup with Price playing 75% of the games. Huet would then look for greener pastures.

    Halak will go elsewhere soon, but do you blame him? Who wants to be stuck in the AHL for the rest of their budding career? Some of the NHL teams struggling ‘between the pipes’ may be looking for a young goalie who’s ready to take off and affordable. Or, as mentioned in the above blog, Halak will pack his bags and head over to Russia.

    enjoying the high’s of being a Habs fan

  34. Ed says:

    Chris, you are too good. As I was reading down through your blog, I was getting ready to speculate about the possibility of losing three goalies. Then, you throw in the punch line and outline the possible scenarios. I can see this happening, and it could be disastrous.

    Why would Halak not leave for the big dollars in Russia? Obviously Montreal is not going to use him. As for Huet, if he gets a big offer from another team, more than likely he will accept it. People are fooling themselves if they think there is no demand out there for a goalie of Huet’s abilities. Danis also must feel snubbed by the treatment he has received from the Organization. He would gladly jump at an opportunity with another team.

    This leaves Price who is still only 20, and may not be ready to take over full time next year. Many of us thought he was ready this year, but look at how quickly things went downhill.

    The one good thing is that I am sure that Gainey has thought about this long ago, and has planned a course of action. Time will tell how it works out.


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.