Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halak, Very Important to Blues

The Blues' big summer splash was the trade that brought Halak to St. Louis. The Slovak goalie was Montreal's playoff hero in the spring, leading the eighth-seeded Habs to improbable series wins over Washington and Pittsburgh. He was deemed expendable, though, because Montreal's management believes Carey Price is that club's goalie of the future.

Halak didn't come without a price. St. Louis had to sacrifice its top forward prospect, Lars Eller, as well as promising right wing Ian Schultz. The Blues also parted ways with Mason as a result of the Halak trade. Mason wound up signing with Atlanta.

Halak, who was a restricted free agent, agreed to a four-year contract extension July 6 that reportedly will pay him $3.75 million annually. He went 26-13-5 last season. His .924 save percentage was fourth in the NHL and his 2.40 goals-against average was ninth. Halak also won a pair of Game 7s on the road, in Washington and Pittsburgh.

Halak is set as the No. 1, but he has a nice warm blanket behind him in Ty Conklin, one of the top backup goalies in the NHL over the last couple seasons. Conklin won 10 games last season and posted a 2.48 GAA and .921 save percentage.

The Blues' brass believes Halak could start between 55 and 60 games this season (he started a career-high 43 last season), with Conklin filling in the rest. That looks to be the perfect amount of work for each goalie as Conklin stayed fresh last season with 21 starts and 26 appearances.

"I think we have one of the best goaltending combinations in the game," Blues GM Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch.

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