While many Montreal Canadiens fans will scream at general manager Pierre Gauthier for trading recent playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues, Gauthier actually made the right decision in moving the Slovak goalie.
And the timing couldn't have been better.
With Halak and Carey Price both under the age of 26, the question came down to which goaltender would offer better potential.
It was clear in Gauthier's mind, and in the minds of most people in upper NHL management, as well. But with Halak's starring role in a deep, surprising 2010 playoff run, his stock rose high enough to finally make the decision easy for management.
Just imagine if both had stunk it up during a short series against Washington in mid- to late-April.
Halak was due a large contract increase, including arbitration rights, while Price is not in for any contract increase whatsoever.
Now comes the pivotal question. Does Gauthier re-sign Price to a short-term deal (two to three years) or for a longer-term deal (four to six years)?
Price has immense potential, which is why he still wears le bleu, blanc, et rogue. Gauthier was not about to roll the dice on having Price become the next Canadiens youngster to leave and make it somewhere else in the NHL.
For Montreal, it is all about stability and patience.
Fans got a taste of an Eastern Conference Final for the first time in over 15 years. And they liked what they saw. But they have to understand the franchise is in no way set to repeat that feat year in and year out.
And that's where the deal to keep Price over Halak comes into play.
The franchise's future hinges on this single trade.
No pressure, eh?
And it is no way another comparison story of who Price will become—whether it be Dryden, Roy, or Plante—because it is time to put his mark on the franchise.
In hindsight, this could be the single greatest trade in Montreal history.
Not only did Montreal solve their goaltending issues for the first time since Patrick Roy left Montreal in 1996, but they acquired size and grit up front from the Blues in 6'0", 188-pound top prospect Lars Eller (13th overall, 2007) and 6'2", 200-pound Ian Schultz (87th overall, 2008).
The Canadiens rebirth continues, and the future looks bright with Price the only goalie to contend in the nets.
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