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Halak deal was really about Price

The Montreal Canadiens' trade of Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues set the Habs' fans to wringing their hands en masse. Of course, any move by the Canadiens in Montreal elicits beaucoup emotion. Coming off such an unexpected playoff run in which Halak was the central figure, though, it stands to reason that shipping him out of town for prospect Lars Eller would elicit some debate.

Part of the rancor comes from the fact that the Canadiens have once again handed Carey Price, the other young goaltender in Montreal, the keys to the crease. Price went from prospect to anointed one in short order after the Habs selected him with the fifth pick in the 2005 entry draft. Factor in some off-ice shenanigans and immature responses by Price and now the locals are looking at him through a prism of petulance more so than promise. All this and the fact that Halak's heroics are freshest in mind.

Still, did anyone really think this would turn out any differently?

Price is younger, bigger and has quite a nice body of work for someone who is just 22 years old. (Halak is 25.) Further, this is more about the function of the goaltending position and the dynamics of having two young goaltenders vying for starting status at the same time in the same organization. Rarely does it work to any great degree. Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s is the exception. Kelly Hrudey making Rollie Melanson expendable on Long Island in that same era is more the rule. Ed Belfour's arrival in Chicago made a Sabre out of a guy named Dominik Hasek.

More recently, the San Jose Sharks had Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala in the pipeline when only one could be between the pipes at any one time. Eventually, the Sharks stuck with Nabokov as their starter. The other two have gone on to become starters in their own right elsewhere, with Kiprusoff a standout in Calgary and Toskala now his backup after an uneven stint as the number one netminder for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's actually the first time the Flames have addressed the need for a capable backup for Kiprusoff during his tenure there.

All of which brings us back to what Montreal is dealing with. Not only did they face the situation of having two emerging number ones arriving at roughly the same spot at the same time. They are looking to manage the money. No team can afford to have two young goalies on the same step of the salary escalator at the same time in today's cap era. Such a thing just doesn't make sense. The best scenarios have a proven veteran behind an established twenty-something number one. The best example is Marc-André Fleury and Brent Johnson in Pittsburgh.

Ultimately, the Canadiens need scoring help and Halak is an asset that netted them Eller, a first round pick in 2007. Halak's playoff performance made him a known commodity, which made the trade easier for the Blues than the Habs, really. Halak was headline news in the springtime. His NHL numbers are solid and with the recent notoriety, he is an easy sell as the in-coming number one in St. Louis. In Montreal, Halak reduced Price to understudy in the short-term. Now it is up to him to prove he learned some things and matured through it all and is ready to carry the Canadiens dependably.

So, despite the nagging question of whether or not Price is right, it had to happen this way for the Habs. For so many reasons.