Chris Mason surprised by the Jaroslav Halak trade

Mason1.jpgYesterday’s trade that sent Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues
sent shockwaves throughout the hockey world. After all, Halak was the
promising young goaltender that the Canadiens have been looking for and
the one that carried the Habs on his back past the Capitals and the
Penguins. Yet Pierre Gauthier made it known that the Canadiens were
sticking with the frustrating Carey Price.

According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

But when Blues incoming general manager Doug Armstrong contacted the
Canadiens recently, he learned the unexpected. “The initial call was
just to say, ‘We may be in the market for a goaltender,'” Armstrong
said. “They had two young goaltenders. I asked (Pierre Gauthier) what
direction he was going to go in. He told me he was going to keep Carey
and make Jaro available. That spurred the conversation to the first
phase of the assets he would need back.”

The trade also ends contract negotiations with Chris Mason, who had
hoped to work out an extension with the Blues before becoming a free
agent in July. Both Mason and his agent were surprised by the trade as
they were under the impression that the Blues wanted Mason back.

“It was just a matter of getting confirmation and getting everything
in order. It was delayed a couple of times and now we know the reason
why. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was disappointing. I loved being a
St. Louis Blue and I thought I was going to continue to be.”

Still, once you get a look at what has happening behind the scenes
the fact that he Habs traded Halak should come as no surprise. Doug
Armstrong hinted that the Habs had made the decision to stick with Price
early on in the offseason, and agent Alan Walsh has said that he had no
negotiations with the Canadiens on a contract for Halak — even after
he took his team to the brink of the Stanley Cup finals.

But what about the return? Halak is set to be a RFA, but you would
have expected the Canadiens to be able to get more than a few top
prospects for his rights. James
Mirtle of the Globe and Mail
says that the goaltender market had a
say in what the Habs could get for Halak:

There are
going to be a lot of servicable goalies available and it could even be
that the players are fighting each other to try to get the few No. 1
roles out there. Here’s a quick idea of the 10 top netminders set to
become free agents on July 1:

Nabokov, Turco, Niittymaki, Mason,
Ellis, Leighton, Theodore, Biron, Hedberg and Emery

There are also
a few backups beyond that as well, meaning that it’s quite likely we
see several goaltenders unable to find NHL teams this summer.

The
number of goaltenders that will be on the move this summer is
astounding, so it’s no wonder the return wasn’t exactly what the Habs
fans would hope for if Halak was traded.

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    Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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    He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

    The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

    From the AHL:

    With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

    Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

    Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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    The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

    And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

    With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

    Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

    Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

    “Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

    The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

    Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

    What is wrong with the Sharks?

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    Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

    On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

    The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

    San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

    At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

    Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

    “When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

    This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

    The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

    Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

    The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

    Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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    Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

    It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

    The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

    Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

    The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

    However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.