Jaroslav Halak's contract: Better for Halak, the Blues … or the Habs?

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halakbutterfly.jpgFour years from now, we’ll look back at this summer as a turning point for both the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues. The question is: will the Habs look wise for taking Jaroslav Halak’s impressive playoff run with a grain of salt or will the Blues point to that trade (and subsequent signing) as the moment they finally found their rock in net? Of course, it could always be a little of both …

It might be oversimplifying things a bit, but the Canadiens more or less chose to keep Tomas Plekanec (six years, $30 million) and still-unsigned restricted free agent Carey Price instead of Halak. This will put a massive amount of pressure on Price, in particular, unless something insane happens and Montreal decides not to pay their other RFA goalie. Can you imagine if the Habs end up being an out-of-the-blue answer for Marty Turco or Evgeni Nabokov?

Moving on to the Blues’ perspective, I think it’s a mixture of good news and bad news. Let’s pull the bad news band-aid off first: Halak is still a relatively unproven goalie. While his career regular seasons are pretty impressive in their own right (56-34-8, 91.9 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA), he’s only played in 101 regular season games so far. I’ve chided teams for making big investments in “contract year” goalies before, so there’s always that worry. Especially when you consider the fact that the Habs probably hope Halak will play in at least 60 games each year, or about 2.4 times as many appearances as he experienced in his entire NHL career so far.

Still, there are some big reasons to like this deal, too. For one thing, Halak is only 25 years old; if he’s the real deal then the Blues are getting premium prime years without any 30-year-old-flubber. The $3.75 million price tag isn’t half-bad, either, unless you compare it to the bargain basement deals signed by Chris Mason and Dan Ellis.

In fact, take a look at where he stacks up among starting goalie cap hits – plus some more analysis – after the jump.


lundqvisrt.jpgHere is a snapshot of what other goalies are making and where Halak falls. I won’t mention every goalie who makes less per year, though.

Lundqvist: $6.875M cap hit
Ward: $6.3
Miller: $6.25
Giguere: $6
Backstrom: $6
Kipper: $5.83
Vokoun: $5.7
Huet:$5.6
Luongo: $5.33
Brodeur: $5.2
M.A. Fleury: $5
Thomas: $5
Dipietro: $4.5
Hiller: $4.5
Bryzgalov: $4.25
Leclaire: $3.8
Halak: $3.75
Khabibulin: $3.75
Lehtonen: $3.55
Rinne: $3.4
Anderson: $1.81
Ellis: $1.5

So, by that count, 16 goalies make more money than Halak will earn, cap hit-wise. That’s also before we see what Turco and Nabokov might go for. When you consider salary cap impact, how many of those goalies would you choose over Halak?

Well over half the PHT readers polled thought that Halak was worth at least $4 million or more (a $5-$5.5 million range ended up winning the poll), so his deal is a dandy one in the light of public opinion too.

Does that mean that this is a slam dunk? Not necessarily. Still, the Blues put themselves on the map when they made that splashy trade and signed him to a reasonable deal. Halak gets some security in a four-year contract with a solid payday while the Blues avoided taking on a huge cap hit and didn’t go overboard in years with the inexperienced goalie.

These things can always change, but so far it looks like both Halak and the Blues came out as winners. But what about the Montreal Canadiens? Tell us how you feel about this contract – and the Habs’ decision to let Halak go – in the comments.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.