On the surface, the Habs picking up Curtis Sanford, on a two-way contract, appears to be a solid depth move. Sanford has shown that he can be a capable back-up goaltender in the NHL while also being at a level where he is comfortable going up and down between the NHL and AHL. While I'm sure playing in Hamilton is not his first choice, right now that looks like the place that he is destined to play in 2009-2010. Marc Denis is likely gone by way of free agency, Price is the starter in Montreal and Halak is the backup. Right? That seems to be that case. Or is it?
Montreal's current goaltending depth charts look something like this:
1 - Price
2 - Halak
3 - Sanford
4 - Cederick Desjardins
5 - Jason Missiaen
6 - Robert Mayer
The thing to keep in mind, however, is that BOTH Price and Halak are up for new deals at the end of this season. From what I can tell, there is NO WAY that Halak will hang around in Price's shadow for anything longer than this year. Yes, they are only RFA's next year, so Montreal still holds their rights, however I believe that under the right circumstances, Halak can be a good #1 goalie somewhere in the league. More importantly, I think that HE believes that too. Gainey, while not necessarily doing what the fans always want, is still a very smart man. I think that he too knows that Halak's day in Montreal are numbered, but also that he has solid value on the trade market.
If I were Gainey, I would be trying to move Halak AND Plekanec right now, in order to get a big centerman. But maybe that's just me. However, if we look at the rumblings around the league, theres seems to be a lot of talk of Montreal potentially making a trade with either Chicago or San Jose. Chicago because they are up aginst the cap and won't be able to keep all of thier great, young players, going forward beyond this season, and San Jose because it looks like Wilson wants to blow that thing up, or at least a significant part of it, in order to stop the trend of being a perennial Stanley Cup failure.
So back to Sanford. IF Montreal were to make a deal with, say, San Jose, for Marleu, I believe that Halak would be part of that deal. Why? Well, it looks like three players in particular, take most of the brunt of San Jose's playoff failures, and that is Joe thornton, Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabakov. There is no question that Nabakov was just not up to snuff, in these past playoffs. To San Jose's credit, however, they drew probably the WORST first round match up aginst the rolling Ducks team. But I digress. Perhaps Gainey's move, in bringing in Sanford, was to act as a backup to Price, in the eventuallity that Halak is traded. Who knows. Personally, I would like to see Olaf Kolzig backup up Price. He knows Price and has mentored him in goaltending schools in the past, and he would be a great 'older brother' figure to help get Price's head on straight, but that is another story.
All of this is, of course, pure speculation based on info I see and read online and hear on the radio, so don't go placing your bets on it! All I know, is that there are a few players on the team that seem like they are moveable pieces. Halak is one of them, so is Plekanec, in my opinion, Hamrlik would be a great contract to move, although that is unlikely, and then there is the Kostitsyn brothers. How will they react, this year? Will they progress or regress, again? wil they have matured through all of the strife of last season or will they continue to be bad eggs? Only time will tell. The last note I want to leave you all with is regarding Sergei Kostitsyn and it is two-fold. First, with all the new players and new potential line combinations, where does Sergei fit, on this team? Second question is, can you trade Sergei and keep Andrei or are they a packaged deal?
My next blog will be all about Sergei....