(HockeyStL) -- It seemed as though the rumors surrounding the Blues and a goaltending mix-up had disappeared, for a while at least. The Blues had been involved in a multitude of rumors since the beginning of last summer, some of them likely true. The rumors died down as the Blues got off to a hot start, but they’re back after Sunday’s 4-1 defeat.
Jaroslav Halak was in net on Sunday, albeit for less than one period, as the Blues faced off against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Halak allowed three goals, two to Ovechkin, in less than 16 minutes before being pulled and replaced by Brian Elliott. Two of the goals were scored on second-chance opportunities created from misplays by Halak. It wasn’t a good night for the 28-year-old goaltender and his performance led to some concern.
Halak will be back between the pipes on Tuesday as the Blues face off against the Buffalo Sabres and he will be looking for a bounce-back performance. But no matter what Halak does, there will still be some doubt about his ability to remain consistent in net.
Since coming to the Blues in 2010, Halak has been subpar. He has battled injuries, inconsistent play, and the criticism that has been handed out to him. More criticism came after Sunday’s defeat, sparking rumors of a potential trade on the horizon.
Ironically enough, the Blues will be trying to solve goaltender Ryan Miller on Tuesday evening. Miller, who is expected to be in net for the Sabres, has been the goaltender of interest when it comes to the Blues rumors.
The Blues had legitimate interest in the goaltender this past offseason, and perhaps still do. Buffalo has begun disassembling their team, trading away elite goal scorer Thomas Vanek earlier this year. Next on the agenda is believed to be 33-year-old netminder Miller.
The Sabres have been shopping Miller for quite some time now, looking to relieve themselves of his massive contract, but also trying to get something for the goaltender before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Buffalo recently underwent an organizational shake up, firing head coach Ron Rolston and general manager Darcy Regier. Pat LaFontaine was hired as President of Hockey Operations, and is currently believed to be handling the general manager tasks as well while searching for Regier’s replacement. This means that any negotiating for the trade of Miller would be with LaFontaine. Because of this situation, the Sabres’ efforts to trade Miller may be put on hold until a new general manager is hired.
Miller is in the final year of his 5-year, $31.25 million contract and will almost certainly be moved sooner rather than later. But to the Blues? At one point that seemed possible, perhaps even likely, but not anymore.
Aside from the developing managerial situation in Buffalo, Miller isn’t seen as a perfect fit for the Blues. While Miller would be a nice addition to the team, the $6.25 million salary cap hit he would bring with him would be a bit much for a Blues team that sits just under $400,000 away from the National Hockey League’s $64.3 million cap ceiling.
Aside from his cap hit, Miller’s contract isn’t favorable for St. Louis. Unless the Blues are sure Miller would sign an extension with the team, they would not be willing to give up the assets, which would likely be at least a couple of high draft picks, to acquire the veteran goaltender.
According to a blog written Jim Matheson in the Edmonton Journal on Sunday, the Blues are still linked to rumors related to Miller. Those rumors picked up steam after Halak’s latest performance. However, for the time being the club will likely see how far Halak and Elliott can take them.
Both Halak and Elliott are in the final year of their contracts and will be looking for new deals next summer. With Jake Allen in the American Hockey League awaiting and ready for his shot, it is likely that one of, or perhaps both, Halak or Elliott won’t be returning next year. Both have played well to begin the season, but the looming situation leads to an interesting discussion about which direction the team will head, only adding to the rumors league-wide.
With the exception of Sunday’s game, Halak has looked solid in net early this year. Yet, his numbers are below par. Halak’s .900 save percentage is 34th in the NHL. His 2.48 goals against average is 23rd. Statistically, Brian Elliott has performed better than Halak. Elliott has a .921 save percentage and a 1.94 goals against average. However, Halak’s 10-3-2 record is an impressive one.
In the offseason, the Blues were believed to be shopping Halak, but a deal never got completed. Those second-guessing Halak were hushed by his new level of conditioning and his fast start.
Lately though, Halak has been just mediocre. The goaltender is 1-1-1 in his last three starts and has a .868 save percentage for the month of November. Having a good team in front of him has helped him put together his impressive record. But still, it appears as though outside help is not coming.
The Blues don’t see enough of an upgrade in any of the available options, at least not enough to warrant paying the asking price. While the rumors will continue to fly, that’s all they are, just rumors. The Blues see Halak and Elliott as two capable goaltenders, and until that changes, the goaltending situation will remain status quo.