Halak trade bold but unpopular move

Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier showed he’s not a man to shy away from a bold, unpopular decision when he traded playoff hero Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for two unproven prospects.

The stunning deal announced Thursday afternoon moves Carey Price back into the No. 1 goaltending job, a position he lost to Halak this year.

“We had two good, young goaltenders, and we still have one, and we’ve added two prospects, one who’s ahead of the other,” Gauthier said on a conference call from an undisclosed location.

The prospects are 21-year-old centre Lars Eller and 20-year-old right-winger Ian Schultz . Eller is the one who’s ahead in the race to establish himself as a National Hockey League player. A former first-round draft choice – the 13th overall pick in 2007 – he spent most of last season in the American Hockey League, but had two goals in seven games with the Blues.

Schultz , the younger brother of Washington Capitals defenceman Jeff Schultz , was a third-round pick in 2008, and wrapped up a junior career with the Calgary Hitmen. He had 24 goals and 31 assists last season, but the Canadiens might have been most impressed by his 150 penalty minutes and his willingness to drop the gloves.

Gauthier conceded the salary cap played a role in the decision to trade Halak , but it appears the team was determined to give Price another chance to show why the team made him the fifth overall choice at the 2005 draft. Both goaltenders were restricted free agents this summer, but Halak had arbitration rights and was due for a substantial raise from the $775,000 he earned in the past season.

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