Jaroslav Halak Heads to St. Louis Blues: Why the Philadelphia Flyers Missed Out

Mark RitterSenior Writer IJune 18, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 24:  Michael Leighton #49 of the Philadelphia Flyers shakes hands with Jaroslav Halak #41 of the Montreal Canadiens after Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wachovia Center on May 24, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Way back in December the Philadelphia Flyers were rumored to be very close to a deal with the Montreal Canadiens that would have seen Flyers sniper Jeff Carter flipped to the Habs for goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

For the Flyers, Halak represented a means to an end to the goaltending soap opera that has been running since Ron Hextall left.

For the Canadiens, Carter would have fit in nicely on their top line and answered many of their goal-scoring inadequacies.

As much as this deal would have improved both rosters, neither side pulled the trigger, so the Flyers entered the postseason with veteran goaltender Brian Boucher and waiver wire pickup Michael Leighton between the pipes.

Halak was incredible for the Canadiens throughout the entire 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, emerging as the difference-maker in the Habs' upset wins against the highly-favored Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ironically, it was the Flyers who bested Halak and the Habs, defeating them in six games en route to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Flyers lost a hard-fought six-game series to the Chicago Blackhawks, who emerged as the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions.

Throughout the playoffs the Flyers' goaltending debate raged on, with many Flyers fans not completely sold on the merits of Leighton and Boucher, who, despite these criticisms, were both very good throughout the playoffs.

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After the Flyers' Stanley Cup loss, fans of the Orange and Black continued to discuss the merits of bringing in a more polished goaltender to offset the “shortcomings” of Leighton and Boucher.

While some discussions pointed towards looking at unrestricted free agents Dan Ellis and Marty Turco, many Flyers fans longed for Flyers management to turn its attention back to the Habs in hopes of landing either Halak or Carey Price (who, based on Halak’s strong playoff performance, seemed to be the odd man out in Montreal).

Then, right out of left field, the Montreal Canadiens surprised everyone by dealing Halak to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for two prospects: forwards Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.

Immediately after the trade was announced, numerous Flyers boards erupted with disgust at the Flyers management for not following through and dealing for Halak, who many Flyers fans see as the second coming of Ken Dryden.

The most popular question asked on these boards is/was: “How could the St. Louis Blues possibly have outbid the Flyers?” Well, I have your answer.

To be honest, without the benefit of knowing which players the Flyers offered to Montreal, my answer is pure speculation. That said, putting myself in the shoes of Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier, my short list of demands to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren for Halak would have looked something like this:

Halak in exchange for:

A) Claude Giroux

B) Jeff Carter

C) James Van Riemsdyk and a top prospect

If these were the scenarios that were put forward by Gauthier, it appears as if Holmgren said “no thank you” (which is not necessarily a bad thing).

Given the way Giroux played throughout the playoffs, it wouldn’t be a shock to hear that Holmgren balked at the thought of giving up his best young forward. Simply put, that deal wasn’t going to happen.

On the other hand, trading Carter for Halak would have freed up a couple of million dollars in cap space and definitely would have addressed the Flyers' goaltending “issues” (which I feel are not as bad as they appear).

That said, where the heck would Holmgren have found those 35-40 goals that Carter will likely bring to the Flyers in 2010-11? Answer: nowhere.

In this scenario, acquiring Halak for Carter would have been a case of two steps forward, two steps back; it would have improved the team defensively, but the expense offensively would have been too huge to overcome.

That brings us to the JVR and a prospect scenario. Fact is, while many Flyers fans are high on this kid, plenty of hockey experts feel he took a step backwards this season (especially in the playoffs where he was exposed).

Fact is, JVR was never going to be enough to pry Halak away from the Canadiens, not even with the added bonus of one of the Flyers’ top prospects.

When you look at what the Canadiens got in return for Halak (Eller and Schultz and clearing up their goaltending controversy) the Habs actually did quite well for themselves.

While neither Eller nor Schultz looks ready to jump into the Habs lineup right away, Eller is a very good prospect (in my opinion). Many Flyers fans will argue JVR is a great prospect, but the fact remains the Flyers do not have anyone on the farm that the Canadiens felt were better than Eller). As for Schultz, he is more of a project with decent upside, a big gritty forward—something the Habs clearly need.

In the end Holmgren didn’t have the horses to deal with the Habs, which is what I have been writing for months!

Sorry, Flyers fans, looks as if your goaltending controversy is alive and well…that is unless Holmgren can find an answer in the UFA pool…Chris Mason is looking for work!

For more NHL news and notes, check out my Web site at www.theslapshot.com.

Until next time,