In a surprisingly busy NHL news day, the Blues might’ve made the biggest splash in years. Yes, you read that right. A team that John Davidson vehmently stated would not be in play for any big stars traded Lars Eller and Ian Schwartz, an AHL and WHL prospect, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the city’s savior – Jaroslav Halak.
Wait, I’ve been traded where? Whaa? Why are they calling me the “first starter in ten years?” What is this place?
Yes, that guy. The goalie who was an absolute wall during the playoffs, stunning the Presidents’ Trophy winning Capitals and Stanley Cup champion Penguins. The goaltender that still finished with the highest save percentage (.923) of the playoffs despite his team being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals. The goalie that led the Habs down the stretch when Carey Price folded under the immense pressure of playing in that hockey mad city.
I’m in shock.
The Blues were in reported contract talks with Chris Mason for an extension in case the free agent market wasn’t shaping up to being something the Blues liked. The only goalie who was going to be on that market who was an upgrade from Mason as far as statistics go was Evgeny Nabokov – who Davidson directly said no to because of cost. Apparently Montreal started shopping Halak after determining that they wanted to give Carey Price every chance to be their new Goalie of Tomorrow (or give him a nervous breakdown, either or), and the Blues stepped up with some pieces that the Habs liked.
Habs fans are justifiably freaking out (witness the Wikipedia entry about 20 minutes ago for Paul Gauthier) because they didn’t get an NHL roster player in return – this is, of course, the same reason Blues fans are thrilled. Lars Eller was our 13th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and was set to be another speedy addition to the Blues front lines. An AHL all star last season, Eller 18 goals and 39 assists for 57 points in 70 games. He’ll be a nice forward for Montreal – St. Louis realized that he had another year of development left and that the Blues already had David Perron, so Eller was expendable.
Ian Schultz is a firecracker, with 150 penalty minutes in 70 games to go along with 55 points. He has a while to go, since he’s still with the Calgary Hitman, but the Habs should be very comfortable with him as well. Calm down, Montreal fans. You got a good deal too, if you have patience with them. The Blues needed to make that jump to playoff team this season, and filled a weak spot. The Central Division just got a hell of a lot harder. Sorry, Columbus.