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


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
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.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”