The St. Louis Blues traded for Jaroslav Halak on June 17th, 2010. The Blues sent talented prospect Lars Eller and winer Ian Schultz to the Canadiens in exchange for the rights to Halak. Less than a month later, the Blues signed Halak to a four-year, $15 million contract.
With the trade of Halak and Chris Stewart to Buffalo in exchange for Ryan Miller and Steve Ott, the book is officially closed on the Halak era in St. Louis.
How will history remember Halak's tenure in the St. Louis net?
Halak came to St. Louis with enormous expectations. Coming off of a heroic run in the playoffs with Montreal, Blues fans assumed he'd bring that form on a regular basis with the Blues. From the beginning, Halak was under enormous pressure to live up to his incredibly high billing. Expectations were always too high from the moment the trade was announced. Halak was destined to underachieve.
Halak's first year with the Blues was his worst.
Save %: .910
Fairly average numbers, all things considered. At the very least, they were far off what Blues fans were hoping for.
Despite the disappointment, most were able to write off Halak's under whelming first year. It wouldn't have been fair to make an assessment after just one season.
Save %: .926
Halak was outstanding in 2011-12. Along with Brian Elliott, the Blues had the best goaltending duo in the NHL. This is what the Blues were hoping for when they pulled the trigger on a deal.
Things looked bright heading into the playoffs, but Halak was injured after appearing in two playoff contests. His only playoff action with the Blues over the course of his time in St. Louis resulted in this line: 2 games, 1-1 record, 1.73 GAA and a save percentage of .935.
The Blues crashed out of the playoffs, but you couldn't fault Halak. There were discussions that the netminder was prone to injuries (think Glass Carlo 2.0), but you couldn't really hold that against Halak and you'd be greedy if you asked more from him statistically.
Save %: .899
The 2012-13 season is a difficult one to analyze. Thanks to the lockout and the abbreviated schedule, it's tough to draw any firm conclusions. However, it seems like for many this was the make or break season for Halak. He again missed the playoffs and the Blues were once again bounced in quick fashion.
Confidence in Halak dropped to a new low and fans clamored for a change. The fact Halak's save percentage sat below .900 was worrisome. Add in some intangibles (appearing like he couldn't rise to the occasion or make the big save when it counts) and you have the makings of a change in net.
Save %: .917
That brings us to the present.
Halak hasn't been bad this season. He really hasn't. He owned the 9th best GAA prior to the trade. However, the concern with Halak has never been his GAA. It's best his save percentage. With one of the best defenses in the league in front of him, Halak wouldn't see an overwhelming number of shots. When one or two slip by, that results in a low save percentage.
What sort of grade does Halak deserve for his time in St. Louis?
I'm going to give him a B.
Overall, I feel Halak was a strong netminder for the Blues. While he didn't live up to some ridiculously high expectations, those expectations weren't fair in the first place. He was a goalie who stole some games for the Blues. He may have had confidence issues and may have let in some soft goals, but Halak was always fighting a losing battle. Even with a strong playoff run, fans would always label him as the weakness.
When it comes to playoff hockey, Halak never really had a chance to show off his capabilities. He only appeared in two playoff games with St. Louis. This may have been the season where Halak put it all together and was the playoff netminder the Blues needed. We'll never know.
Halak's time with St. Louis wasn't a failure. More, it was an incomplete. The biggest test – the playoffs – was one Halak never really faced as a member of the Blues.
The Blues traded for a great goaltender in Ryan Miller. He's an upgrade. However, goaltending wasn't one of the big issues the Blues needed to address. They could have used another guy who could play top-6 minutes and one who could be another consistent source of offense. It seems unlikely now, but the chemistry shown between David Backes and New York's Ryan Callahan made the Ranger an attractive option.
The pressure is on.
The Blues paid a huge price for Miller. They'll pay an even larger one when they give him a new deal. Miller has to be the difference. If the Blues crash out of the playoffs early (again) and fail to reach the Cup with Miller in net, this trade will be nothing but a failure. Miller's cost is too high and his salary will be too large to accept anything less.