It seems like Jaroslav Halak has been within the St. Louis organization for many moons. In reality, the trade which brought in Halak and sent Lars Eller and Ian Schultz to Montreal occurred just three years ago during the summer of 2010. Shortly after the trade went through, the Blues signed Halak to a four-year, $15 million contract.
Three years down, one to go. It's time to evaluate Halak as he enters the fourth and final year of his current contract.
For starters, let's throw out all of the trade rumors. Let's move forward with this article assuming that Halak will spend the 2013-14 season with the Blues. A trade would render this article somewhat obsolete, so let's move forward with the notion that Halak will be spending time in the crease for the Blues in the upcoming season.
Before diving into Halak's statistics, let's take a look at his contract. If you haven't checked out his deal in a while, you might be surprised by the fact his contract is rear loaded. In other words, though Halak's hit against the cap has been constant ($3.75 million), the netminder will earn more in 2013-14 than he has in any previous season.
2010-11: $2.75 million
2011-12: $3.5 million
2012-13: $4.25 million
2013-14: $4.5 million
Considering Halak's cap hit remains constant, it doesn't really matter that Halak's salary is on the rise. However, his growing salary is worth noting when discussing whether or not the Blues should extend him a new contract.
On to the stats.
Halak's three years with the St. Louis Blues have been a mixed bag. The road has been a bumpy one, but that's not something his numbers will necessarily reflect.
Halak owns a 2.23 GAA, .915 save percentage and 16 shutouts in 119 appearances with the Blues. His three-year average GAA ranks 7th in the NHL, trailing Schneider, Lundqvist, Quick, Thomas, Fasth and Rask. That's some decent company. His number of shutouts over the last three years, 16, are good for third most in the NHL.
So, where's the bumpy road come into play? Time and injuries. Halak has been a strong netminder for the Blues when he's been in the crease. The issue here is that he hasn't spent as much time between the pipes as the Blues would like. Halak has suffered several injuries over the last few seasons which have forced him to miss considerable time. Some have been the result of bad luck (Jackman collision) while others have fans concerned that a troubling trend has developed (Halak's groin).
The other aspect that's a bit worrisome is Halak's save percentage. Specifically, Halak's save percentage in 2012-13 was much lower (.899) than we'd all like to see. Halak was able to maintain a strong GAA in 2012-13 (2.14), but his low save percentage speaks volumes. As the Blues improved their defense and cut down on the number of shots directed at their own net, Halak's focus was often called into question. Speculation grew that as Halak faced fewer shots, his attention wandered, resulting in a low save percentage.
Halak's save percentage over the last three seasons isn't anything to get excited about either. His average of .915% ranks 23rd in the NHL over the last three seasons.
Playoffs. Halak has only appeared in two playoff games for the Blues. This number needs to change. Halak built his career on playoff success with the Montreal Canadiens, but he has yet to demonstrate the same success with the Blues thanks to injuries.
Overall, I think most people would agree that Halak has been a strong goalie for the Blues. He hasn't lived up to some of the hype that was placed on his shoulders upon first arriving in St. Louis, but most of that hype wasn't based in reality. Fans hoped Halak would come in and dominate his goal crease. That hasn't always happened, but he has tied the franchise record for most shutouts in just two and a half seasons.
Does Halak deserve a new contract from the Blues?
This is an incredibly difficult question to answer. At 28, Halak should be in the prime of his career. Thankfully, Halak has one more year on his contract before the team has to make a decision. This year will not only shine more light on what Halak can do on the ice, but more importantly it should determine whether or not Halak's injuries are random acts of bad luck or something more serious.