ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Blues now have a goalie who fits right into their youth movement, acquiring Jaroslav Halak fresh off his star-making playoff run for Montreal.
The Blues picked up the 25-year-old Halak, whose play helped the Canadiens make a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals, on Thursday for a pair of minor league forwards, former 2007 first-round pick Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.
"When I got the news, obviously I was surprised," Halak said from Slovakia on a conference call. "I'm very happy to be a part of a new organization and I'm very excited about a new start. It's a new beginning."
Halak won a pair of Game 7s and helped Montreal, the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, bounce heavily favored Washington and Pittsburgh out of the playoffs. He won three straight games and eliminated the Capitals by stopping 131 of 134 shots.
But both Canadiens goalies, Halak and 22-year-old Carey Price, are due to become restricted free agents on July 1, and Montreal decided on Price. The chance to acquire Halak persuaded the Blues to cease negotiations on a contract extension with 34-year-old Chris Mason, their starting goalie the last two seasons who had been due for unrestricted free agency.
The Blues stopped well short of calling the deal a steal, forecasting a solid future for Eller.
"I think we've given up great value," general manager Doug Armstrong said. "Lars was not a prospect we wanted to give up. It's a good deal for the Blues and I think it's a good deal for Montreal."
Eller was the 13th pick in 2007 and Schultz was a third-rounder in 2008.
"Jaroslav's play in this year's regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs was remarkable," Blues president John Davidson said. "He has had very impressive numbers in the NHL and we are thrilled that he will be wearing the Bluenote for us."
Halak was originally picked by Montreal in the ninth round (271st overall) of the 2003 entry draft. He was 26-13-5 last season and ranked fourth in the NHL in save percentage (.940), ninth in goals against average (2.40) and was tied for fifth with five shutouts.
Halak said the Canadiens had not discussed a contract with his agent but wasn't surprised because "it's still early."
"I was the one that got dealt," Halak said. "I'll try to make the new organization proud that they got me."
St. Louis missed the playoffs last season and was just 18-18-5 at home, among the worst marks in the NHL. Mason got most of the starts in goal for the Blues, sharing time with Ty Conklin.
Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier will get two players who toiled mostly in the minors last season.
Eller played in seven games with the Blues in 2009-10, scoring twice. He spent most of time with the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria, Ill. The 20-year-old Schultz played for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen last season. His older brother, Jeff, plays for the Capitals.
The Blues also acquired forward T.J. Hensick from the Avalanche in exchange for forward Julian Talbot.