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Jaroslav Halak trade analysis

Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues Thursday for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. (Getty Images)

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Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues Thursday for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. (Getty Images)

There’s no THN Radio this week on XM Home Ice 204, but our biweekly summer schedule begins next Friday from 3-4 p.m. Eastern. No break in the relentless rate at which your mailbag questions come in, though.

Such off-season dedication is impressive. And a little bit troubling. Let’s consistently check in with one another over the coming few months, just in case that dedication festers into full-on hockey withdrawal derangement syndrome.

We’ll kick of this week’s submissions with the obvious question of the moment:

Adam, after an astonishing trade that dealt Jaroslav Halak, their future all-star goalie, to the Blues, do the Canadiens make the playoffs or play to the par of any team? I mean, unless they sign a better unrestricted free agent goalie, Carey Price will play and this would truly be an embarrassment. Thanks.
Shai Reef, Montreal


Shai,

There’s still enough talent in the Canadiens organization to keep them competitive regardless of the result of the monstrous gamble GM Pierre Gauthier just made. But considering how the Habs barely squeaked into the playoffs this spring, Montreal’s margin for error is thinner than a model’s thigh.

All it will take to send the locals into paralyzing fits of delirium next season is a prolonged slump by Price or a sizzling streak by Halak. And if both of those things happen at the same time, Quebeckers will revolt as if their government outlawed smoking.

You raise an interesting point regarding their No. 2 netminder. With the UFA goalie market so flooded, there’s really no excuse for Gauthier not to sign a veteran with some degree of success – i.e. Dan Ellis, Martin Biron or even Antero Niittymaki – to guard against a complete collapse by Price.

Give Gauthier some credit for flying in the face of public opinion and making the deal that he did. Certainly, the asking price for goalies was going down each minute before the July 1 start of free agency – as I twittered on The Hockey News’ account yesterday, Bruins fans should scale down their expectations for any Tim Thomas trade – and it takes a confident GM to push all his chips behind a mercurial youngster on a learning curve in a fishbowl environment.

If the gamble fails, however, Gauthier will need the rest of his days to satisfy Habs fans’ screams for atonement.

Adam, I just want to know what you thought about the comments made about Chris Pronger by Adam Burish. He talks a lot of crap for a guy who doesn’t play a lot. Burish could never make the kind of money Pronger makes. I saw all the interviews by the Flyers and did not hear them say negative stuff about the Hawks. Hope you print this and enjoy your work.
Warren Vaughn, Philadelphia


Warren,

Thanks for reading. I’m the kind of guy who enjoys a good verbal throwdown between athletes, even when those battles are between two players of differing skill levels, so I didn’t mind the feud in the least.

Pronger was right – it was obvious he had wedged himself under Burish’s skin – yet I also think it wasn’t a mortal sin for the Hawks part-timer to speak his mind. He had just been through an exhausting emotional ordeal and victorious exuberance likely led to his cocky tone.

This sport is neutered enough in its displays of passion. One thing you regularly hear from hockey insiders is “this is a man’s sport” – yet most of them want 23-man teams of automatons afraid to throw so much as a stink-eye in an opponent’s direction because of a rather wimpy fear of being quoted on a dressing room whiteboard. This is manly?

You may think so, but I don’t. And remember: as always, the spoils go to the victors. If the Flyers had won that series, I’d imagine Burish would have stayed silent.

Adam, now that it is free agent season I have a question that is confusing me. What is the difference between an unrestricted free agent and a restricted free agent? Hope you can help clarify. Thanks!
Ken Boris, Roscoe Ill.


Related Links

Ken,

Not only can I help clarify – by directing you to this earlier AA column in which I answered the question – but I also can increase the number of page views on THN.com! Consider yourself shamed, anybody who says I can’t multi-task.

Hey Adam, with the season over, I was wondering, what part of the year (the draft, July 1st, the Cup final, etc.) do THN writers get most excited over?
Mike Collins, Stormville, N.Y.


Hey Mike,

There are different reasons to love every part of the hockey calendar – for example, at the draft you get to see the lifelong dreams of kids (at least partially) realized; and in the final, you see them fully realized – but for me, the kickoff of unrestricted free agency is especially thrilling.

Granted, that may not be true with this summer’s lackluster free agent crop. But even the smaller transactions that get made are analyzed with a microscope by hardcore fans – and the sheer amount of player movement provides for intrigue on a league-wide level that I think is hard to replicate at any other time of year.

Hi Adam. Love your column, and I have a question that no one in this small California town seems to want to help me out with...maybe you can help?

In this salary cap world, I'm curious: why are there not more trades involving bad contracts to free up money? As a transplanted Leaf fan I look at a part-timer like Jeff Finger with his $4 million-a-year contract and wonder if there would be any benefit to trading him straight-up for someone like Brian Campbell with his $7 million a year contract (or any of a number of other over-priced players who are still better than Finger)?

The way I see it, Chicago dumps Finger either into the minors, or buys him out, and gains up to $7 million in much-needed cap space...or maybe even play him as the full-time No. 6 that they need next year while still saving $3 million. The Leafs, on the other hand, can look at it like they are only paying $3 million for a decent puckmover who could help replace Tomas Kaberle if/when he's traded.

And my question isn't really just looking at this particular scenario. Why don’t more of these types of movements happen? Thanks,
D. Rijff, Rio Vista, Calif.


Hi D.,

The Hawks might not mind that trade. Unfortunately for them, given that the Maple Leafs already have $26.3 million (before bonus clauses that also count against the cap) tied up in their defense corps, Campbell is not a luxury Toronto can afford.

Beside the financial hit, teams are reticent to bury onerous contracts in the American League because of the way it would affect their reputation among future free agents. If a player is choosing between two teams – one known for banishing guys to the minors, and one known for fulfilling the spirit of the contractual commitment – it isn’t tough to guess what his decision will be.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on TheHockeyNews.com. Proteau also answers readers' questions in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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