Halak trade has Habs fans singing the blues

Montreal Canadiens fans were in shock Thursday after the team announced it had traded goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues.

Star goaltender says trade should satisfy everyone

Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak looks downward after giving up a goal in the team's 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on May 24. ((Matt Slocum/Associated Press))
Montreal Canadiens fans expressed shock and anger Thursday after the team announced it had traded star goaltender Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues.

The news quickly made the list of most popular topics on the microblogging site Twitter as fans expressed surprise at the announcement.

Outside the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal, many fans had trouble believing that the team had traded the goaltender many credited for the Canadiens' best playoff run in nearly two decades.

"[I'm] very, very disappointed," said Nancy Awad. "If they went that far in the playoffs, it is mostly because of him."

"I think they made a big mistake," said Pierre Coté.

There was even reaction from two Quebec Liberal MPs commenting on the deal through their Twitter pages.

"WHAT!?!? Halak for two hockey sticks and a bag of magic beans ... I miss Bob," Liberal MP Justin Trudeau wrote, referring to former Habs GM Bob Gainey.

On his Twitter page, Denis Coderre tweeted part of an obscenity, followed by: "Nice way to thank Halak, who took us so far in the playoffs. Pathetic."

Halak, 25, was hailed as a hero by fans and local media when the Canadiens made it all the way to the Eastern Conference final in the 2010 NHL playoffs. They were finally defeated by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Portrayed as Jesus

In one editorial cartoon, Halak was portrayed as Jesus. In another, he was compared to a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.
Jaroslav Halak memorabilia adorns the window of a store in downtown Montreal. ((CBC))

Fans even posted pictures on the internet of stop signs with "Halak" written in the middle.

But Halak, who was with the Canadiens for four seasons, was forced to share the spotlight with goaltender Carey Price. 

It was a situation Price, who like Halak is scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer, had acknowledged was uncomfortable.

Halak said he was just trying to play hockey and never paid any attention to all the media stories about him and Price.

The decision to trade him should satisfy everybody, he said.

"I played more and more and got more respect from the organization and the coach, too," said Halak. "The only way to do it is to get a chance and win games and that's what I was trying to do.

"Now there's a new start."

In return for Halak, the Canadiens acquired prospect forwards Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.

A native of Denmark, Eller, 21, scored two goals and had a plus-2 rating in seven games with the Blues, who drafted Eller 13th overall in 2007.

Schultz, 20, who hails from Calgary, recently completed his third full season in the Western Hockey League for the Calgary Hitmen.
Montrealer Jamal Smaidi says he had hoped the team would keep both Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price. ((CBC))

In Montreal, most Canadiens fans said they had never heard of the pair.

Habs GM defends trade

In a teleconference with reporters, Habs general manager Pierre Gauthier defended the move.

"We had two good young goalies, now we still have one good young goalie. We have somebody that should contribute next year," he said. "We manage our dollars at the same time … where we're going to distribute our resources."

But, his arguments didn't wash with fans including Jamal Smaidi, who works at the Boustan Lebanese restaurant on Montreal's Crescent Street.

"I really hoped they'd sign both goalies," said Smaidi. "In the new NHL, you need good goaltending and the duo of Price and Halak together is like Batman and Robin — it is beautiful.

"Now we're back to square one."

With files from The Canadian Press