McKenzie: Which way will Gauthier go with goaltenders?

Bob McKenzie
2/10/2010 10:14:42 AM
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The potential for looking stupid in this business is huge.

And lately, it seems, I've been exercising my right to it in this world of limitless opportunity.

Anytime anyone asks me about the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens trading one of their goaltenders - Jaroslav Halak or Carey Price - before the March 3 deadline, I respond immediately and forcefully.

No chance.

Not going to happen.

Makes no sense.

And it doesn't, but that's another story.

I could cite new Canadiens' GM Pierre Gauthier agreeing with me because he made it abundantly clear in his introductory news conference on Monday that there are no immediate plans to trade Halak or Price. But to tell you the truth, that doesn't count for much. I mean, did you hear Calgary GM Darryl Sutter mock the media for suggesting Dion Phaneuf might be traded out of Calgary? We all know how that one turned out. And once upon a time, Gauthier told all who would listen he had no interest in being the GM in Anaheim…until he ended up as the GM in Anaheim.

So I have learned to take general managers' public pronouncements with the skepticism they deserve, but this notion of trading Halak or Price in the next few days or before March 3 still doesn't add up.

For starters, the Canadiens can't trade Halak under any circumstances right now. He's been, by a substantial margin, the better of the two goaltenders. The Canadiens obviously want to make the playoffs and, as of this moment, Halak is giving them the best chance to do that. If they trade Halak and get poor goaltending down the stretch and miss the playoffs, there may be rioting in the streets.

As for trading Price, conventional wisdom is that the moving of a goalie who was taken in the top five of the draft and has been pegged, rightly or wrongly, as a potential franchise netminder is better done at the NHL entry draft, when teams are more open to making sweeping long-range plans than at the deadline, when everyone is in scramble mode to make the playoffs or contend for the Cup.

Plus, as well as Halak has played, he has started just one NHL playoff game and he lost that one. One could argue Price's playoff performances in Montreal have been less than stellar and, at times, that has been true, but he's also taken a team, albeit in the AHL, on a magical run to a championship, too. It seems to me the Canadiens need to hedge their bet for awhile.

My theory is that the Habs' goaltending situation will come to a head this summer, not at the deadline, and that the decision, based on what happens down the stretch drive this year and possibly into the playoffs, will make itself clear and elementary by May or June and that's when we'll see the Canadiens make a move in net.

I think that's all logical. And, for the most part, that's how I believe it will unfold.

But, and you had to know there was a but coming, I do wonder a little bit. I now wonder because there was a fellow on Twitter who yesterday correctly predicted the Kari Lehtonen trade to Dallas, right down to Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick going back to Atlanta. Five hours before it actually happened. Five hours!

Now, that same fellow is reporting Stars' veteran goalie Marty Turco is on the block (that's a given), but that the Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens have made inquiries.

Chicago, I get. The Blackhawks can say whatever they like publicly but they're concerned about going into the playoffs with Cristobal Huet. This could be Chicago's golden moment and if they have to bury some money in the minors to give themselves a better chance to win the Cup for the first time since 1961, I don't think they'll hesitate to do it.

But if Montreal is indeed talking to Dallas about Turco, that would indicate the notion of trading Price, or Halak I suppose, is not as far fetched as I've been making it out to be.

I wouldn't want to read too much into one “tweet” but the guy's track record - he's only posted twice and the first one was nailing the Lehtonen trade perfectly hours before it occurred - suggests it can't be ignored either.

So now, I suppose, I'll modify my view when asked about Montreal's goaltending situation and the possibility of a trade before the deadline.

I think it makes no sense, but we'll have to wait and see if Pierre Gauthier feels the same way.

Bob McKenzie


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