Jaroslav Halak, who backstopped the Montreal Canadiens to a surprise run to the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, has signed a four-year contract with the St. Louis Blues.
Acquired in a trade June 17, Halak had been a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Halak opted not to take the club to arbitration, and Tuesday agreed to a deal that reportedly will pay him $15 million -- $3.75 million against the salary cap.
"I was really happy we didn't have to go to arbitration and we made a deal," Halak said. "From the day I was traded, I was hoping I would sign here and I'm really happy that it happened that way."
"Jaroslav will be a big help for our organization moving forward," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "He has made a great commitment to the Blues as he enters the prime of his career."
Halak, 25, had split goaltending duties the past two seasons in Montreal with Carey Price. However, Halak emerged as the team's No. 1 goalie this past spring and led all playoff netminders with a .923 save percentage in 18 games. He backstopped series wins against the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins, and went 9-9 with a 2.55 goals-against average.
Halak went 26-13-5 with a 2.40 GAA, .924 save percentage -- fourth in the NHL -- and five shutouts in 45 games. He also was the starting goalie for Slovakia at the 2010 Olympics.
The Blues acquired Halak from the Canadiens in exchange for forwards Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.
"I've been looking forward to playing in St. Louis ever since the trade was announced," Halak said. "I believe in my abilities and hope to do some good things for the Blues.”
Halak's 53 saves against the Capitals in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series set a club record for a 60-minute playoff game. Halak was voted the 2010 Molson Cup winner as the Canadiens' most valuable player.
Halak was asked if he's been to St. Louis since the trade and if he's started to acquire Blues paraphernalia.
"I was at home in Slovakia with my family and haven't had a chance to go to St. Louis yet," Halak said, adding that he and his family are looking forward to building a new St. Louis-geared wardrobe, because "my Montreal stuff isn't any good anymore."
Halak said he is working out in a gym and won't be on the ice again for about a month.
"I'm going to prepare myself the same way I've done it in past years," he said.