The trade sending Lars Eller and Ian Schultz to Montreal for 25-year-old Jaroslav Halak represents a couple of important milestones for the St. Louis Blues.
First of all, it's probably the most aggressive move the franchise has attempted under the current leadership. Signing a mid-30s Paul Kariya when he wasn't in high demand is one thing. Trading for the hottest goaltender in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the man responsible for eliminating Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby from the playoffs, is completely different.
The Blues have been in the business of stocking draft picks and prospects and have been reluctant to part with many. Dennis Wideman has been the only young player to really make an impact after being dealt by St. Louis. Otherwise, the handful of trades haven't had an impact at the NHL level. That speaks more to the scarcity of deals compared to prudence in only trading crap players.
Team president John Davidson said at the end of the season to expect a very active summer. And of course we were skeptical. The front office has been more involved with signing prospects to their entry contracts and finding AHL-caliber players for Peoria. This is action. This is aggressiveness. This is the kind of thing Ron Caron used to do (anyone who mentions a certain trade with Vancouver is a prick).
The overriding sentiment around here Thursday afternoon was overly positive. Overly optimistic even. While it's impossible to judge a trade the day after it's made and without knowing how much the restricted free agent Halak will make, we can talk about potential. There is a good chance that Halak will be the best goaltender for the St. Louis Blues in 15 years. That timeframe represents the end of the Curtis Joseph era in St. Louis and a decade and a half of turmoil with the goaltending position. It's easy to assume that he'll be better than Chris Mason and Manny Legace before him and Patrick Lalime before him and...well lets plumb the depths of Blues goaltending since Curtis Joseph was traded to Edmonton.
1995-96: Grant Fuhr, Jon Casey, Bruce Racine, Pat Jablonski
Fuhr is a Hall of Famer. He's remembered fondly for trying to return to the ice after Nick Kypreos destroyed his knee in the playoffs. Ass. But he was decidedly average his first season with the Blues with a 90.3 save percentage and just two more wins than losses.
1996-97: Grant Fuhr, Jon Casey
I have attempted to block Casey's entire career from memory. Especially the playoffs.
1997-98: Grant Fuhr, Jamie McLennan, Rich Parent
Fuhr's save percentage fell three straight years, finally dipping below 90 percent. Did I say average? He at this point was below average.
1998-99: Grant Fuhr, Jamie McLennan, Rich Parent, Brent Johnson, Jim Carey
Johnson's debut represents the "future" of Blues goaltending and the team turning the page on the Fuhr era. Carey represents a failed experiment and overrated comedic actor.
1999-2000: Roman Turek, Jamie McLennan
Who remembers McLennan was a backup this long for the Blues? And the acquisition of Turek, a backup in Dallas, represents the first attempt to find a diamond in the rough goaltender just waiting to get ice time. Note the use of the word "first" and not "last."
2000-01: Roman Turek, Brent Johnson
The end of the McLenna era. And neither starter posted a save percentage higher than 90.7 percent.
2001-02: Brent Johnson, Fred Brathwaite, Reinhard Divis
Turek was labeled a playoff failure and the reins were given to Johnson, who was labeled a quiet, shy person even by goaltender standards. And get ready for the starter carousel.
2002-03: Brent Johnson, Fred Brathwaite, Chris Osgood, Curtis Sanford, Tom Barasso, Reinhard Divis, Cody Rudkowsky
You have all sorts of goaltender theories in this potpourri of crap. You've got the future spitting the bit (Johnson), a journeyman (Brathwaite), reclamation project (Osgood), veteran trying to hold on (Barasso) and young fill-ins who never had a chance (Sanford, Divis and Rudkowsky). And exactly none of the plans worked.
2003-04: Chris Osgood, Reinhard Divis, Brent Johnson
The fact that we have theorized that Osgood was paid by Detroit to be a secret double agent and that he would return to the Red Wings and win another Stanley Cup should be the only explanation about how we feel about this season.
2004-05: Blues goaltenders stopped every shot they faced this season. Which was zero thanks to the lockout.
2005-06: Curtis Sanford, Patrick Lalime, Jason Bacashihua, Reinhard Divis
Lalime flushed his reputation down the toilet, Sanford proved to be a backup that couldn't stay healthy as a starter and Divis extended his pro career about as far as he could. Don't blame him a bit.
2006-07: Manny Legace, Curtis Sanford, Jason Bacashihua, Marek Schwarz.
Because acquiring a former Wings goaltender who was accused at the time of being below average worked so well the first time...
2007-08: Manny Legace, Hannu Toivonen, Marek Schwarz, Chris Beckford-Tseu
Legace represented the Blues at the All-Star game. I have nothing else to offer.
2008-09: Chris Mason, Manny Legace, Ben Bishop, Chris Holt, Marek Schwarz
Legace spit the bit while Mason go the "lets bring in a career backup we think is feisty and see what happens" treatment. And unlike Turek, Lalime and Osgood, he pulled it off for awhile. Alas, his time was fleeting. Like his hair.
2009-10: Chris Mason, Ty Conklin
Notice how few seasons see only two guys play in net? That's pretty disturbing. And having Conklin under contract for one more season is a good thing. He could be a steadying influence on Halak this coming year.
That list of unmemorable goaltending with more than 20 names in 15 seasons. It's sad how many seasons saw Jamie McLennan and Reinhard Divis stick around sandwiched between a new plan to find a No. 1 goaltender about every season and a half.
Right off the bat, the 25-year-old Halak gives the Blues potential for longterm stability in net the Blues haven't enjoyed since Joseph became a starter during the first George Bush presidency - as in George Herbert Walker Bush. It's a legit attempt to improve in a killer Western Conference. There's still a gap between the Blues and the Red Wings and that one team that won the Stanley Cup. Will it work? We can't wait to find out.