The debate has been going on for months now in Montreal and will continue at least until Wednesday’s NHL Trade Deadline. Two things are for sure: if the Canadiens want a chance at the cup they need to improve at the trade deadline, and they have two excellent goaltenders that could interest a number of teams.
Jaroslav Halak has been underrated since the beginning of his North American career in 2004-05. In his first season, Halak played in 47 games with the Lewiston MAINEiacs starting ahead of the 16-year old Jonathan Bernier. The 19-year old Slovak had a 0.913 save percentage in his first season and its interesting to note that his teammate, and 2006 first-round pick, Jonathan Bernier averaged a 0.908 save percentage over his four-year career in Lewiston. The following year, Halak started the season in the ECHL stopping 93.2% of the shots he faced and was then promoted to the AHL where he was nearly as effective with a 0.927 save percentage. In 69 career AHL games, Halak has a 0.930 save percentage and in 86 career NHL games he has a 0.916 save percentage. Sure he has not yet proven that he can play well over an extended period of time in the NHL but Halak has been dominant in every league he has played in since crossing the Atlantic six years ago.
Carey Price on the other hand has been highly scrutinized since his first few seasons in Tri-City and has lived up to expectations, until this year. Many are disappointed by Price’s play this year despite his above-average 0.910 save percentage. One thing everyone seems to forget however is that he is still only 22-years old and that goalies take longer to develop. Here are a few stats you might want to consider:
Marc-Andre Fleury: 0.902 save percentage in his first 117 games (21-22 years old)
Roberto Luongo: 0.915 save percentage in his first 129 games (20-22 years old)
Martin Brodeur: 0.908 save percentage in his first 91 games (19-21 years old)
Carey Price: 0.911 save percentage in his first 129 games (20-22 years old)
It’s true that Brodeur played in a different era but still, none of these goalies were among the league’s best early in their career and Price’s numbers are very good for a goalie that age. The expectations are way too high on Price and in my opinion there’s no doubt that one day, he will be an excellent #1 NHL goaltender.
This then brings up the obvious question, what should Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier do? Both have very good numbers so far in the NHL, are very young and will be restricted free agents at the end of the year. The one difference between the two is that, in my opinion, Price has a much higher value than Halak on the market. If the Canadiens have the same evaluation as I do of these two goalies, the right decision would be to trade Price; not because Halak is better but because both are excellent and one has a higher market value than the other. Halak’s performance in the Olympics should have increased his value, and only GMs know how much they value each of these players, but, I believe, the consensus is still that Price has a much higher value because of his younger age.
The Vancouver Sun has an interesting article on the sellers and buyer at the deadline and it seems like the Blackhawks could be one of the very few teams in the market for a goaltender. There’s no doubt that Gauthier will test the market and see what he could get for both of his keepers but a decision probably won’t be made until the summer as there are very few teams, if any, that could afford to make a strong offer for Halak or Price at this point.