Hawks and Leafs Can Both Get What They Need

The Chicago road show continues tonight in Edmonton.

The lowly Oilers trail the Blackhawks in the standings by a total of 40 points. On their journey Chicago has won three games and lost two, a win tonight would assure them a decent road trip. If the Hawks could manage just two more points in the last two games, the longest road trip of the season would be a successful one.

Joel Quenneville is at the controls and has named Cristobal Huet as the starter versus the Oilers.

Edmonton is 0-8-2 in their last ten games and they should serve as tonic for the road weary Hawks. Huet will get an opportunity to chalk up a win while Antti Niemi will learn that at times you are only as good as your last outing.

Huet will probably get every opportunity to keep his number one status at least through the Olympic break. When March begins Quenneville will zero in on which goalie to ride into the playoffs.

For the perfect Blackhawk script to play out for the rest of this season and into the summer.…

Niemi would get to play in close to 30 games and merit strong consideration for the starting job. In that way the Hawks front office will know how far to bend when it comes to re-signing him this summer.

Niemi is eligible for salary arbitration which makes a big difference. If not the Hawks could have played hard ball and then hope an offer sheet would not be tendered to their promising young net minder.

Niemi would have fewer options if not for his salary arbitration status. But now he could put some additional painful strain on the Blackhawks salary cap concerns. If Niemi continues to play frequently, it would be easier for the Hawks brass to decide his value.

To complete a perfect scenario for the Blackhawks, Huet would perform well enough to win in the playoffs. As long as Huet can win a post season series or two, he could solidify his status as a top flight starting goal tender.

If my script plays out the Hawks would decide to sign Niemi to a contract extension with a nice a raise. Because Huet performed well in the post season he would then become an interesting trade option. The end result is the Hawks would solidify their starting goal tending position while creating salary cap space for next year.

Huet would only have two years left on his contract which is set to pay him $5.6 million each season. He would be expensive but still could be an attractive option for the right suitor. The opportunity to trade Huet would become more likely if an interested party also has other available Hawks on their shopping list.

There could be one NHL general manager desperate to quickly rebuild his forlorn franchise and in need of a proven starting goalie.

Toronto’s general manager Brian Burke has let the word out he will be active before the trade deadline.

It has been mentioned Burke will be willing to take on expiring big dollar contracts in exchange for draft picks. He will also be looking to deal some of his veterans in exchange for 2010 draft selections.

Burke’s draft pick cupboard is bare because of the acquisition of Phil Kessel, so he needs to accumulate selections to use in trades this summer. That will provide the opportunity for Hawks general manager Stan Bowman to swing a big deal with the Leafs.

If Burke can maneuver out of his corner and acquire draft picks he could be in position to take on salary this summer. He would be a likely trade partner for Chicago.

The Blackhawks will have skillful, experienced, reasonably priced players on the trade market by draft day. It is unlikely Burke will choose to rebuild slowly, only through the draft.

The Hawks have trade chips to sweeten the pot to entice Burke to take on Huet’s hefty contract. Toronto’s management and fans realize their current goal tending situation is sketchy.

If my script sounds far fetched, consider the following.

Burke has nine upcoming UFA’s on his current roster and a big checkbook. Toronto fans want to win yesterday. The Leafs needs proven young players to help jump start their rebuilding process. The Blackhawks will be dealing players fitting that exact profile this summer, for draft picks.

Toronto has a promising young goalie that appears not ready for prime time yet while UFA, Vesa Toskala has struggled and will likley be gone .

Rookie Jonas Gustavsson is only 25 years old, and has a heart condition. Hopefully his medical concerns won’t cut short his playing career. In any event, it appears Gustavsson would have a better chance of success if he can be brought along slowly in the Toronto media pressure cooker.

Huet could give the Leafs a legitimate, veteran starting goal tender and a mentor for Gustavsson. Burke could help the Hawks salary cap struggles and leverage another player or two from them which would immediately help his rebuilding cause.

The Leafs would get better quickly and the Hawks could solve their salary cap problems with limited roster changes. Although a Blackhawks roster turnover is coming, trading Huet would make things a lot easier for Bowman.

Everything would have to fall into place for my script to play out.

So far Burke is looking to acquire draft picks and Gustavsson is 0-8 in overtime games.

If Huet and Niemi continue to shine the Hawks and Leafs could become perfect trade partners.

My script ends with a rare outcome. Everyone gets what they need.

Al’s Shots

From the Blackhawks media department…

The current road trip will span some 7800 miles.

The Hawks have outshot their opponents a league high 44 times.They also lead the NHL with a .682 winning percentage when doing so.

Chicago has the best GAA (2.23) in the Western Conference.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the top scoring defensive pair in the league (14G-53A).


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  1. Dave Morris says:

    Al, thanks for your observations and very logical conclusions regarding this situation.

    Brian Burke also has interest in players like Patrick Sharp, Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien.  In fact, there are quite a few Hawks who would help the Leafs both in short term and long term.

    Burke only has 37 million dollars committed for 2010-11 (source: NHLNumbers/CapGeek) so in principle he has plenty of cap room–$20 million dollars, at the very least.

    As you say, he can easily afford to take on Huet and at least one other multi-million dollar contract from Chicago.

    With Gustavsson and Huet,  the Leafs would have solid goaltending and a realistic shot at playoff position next year. 

    While this may be a long shot, Burke and Stan Bowman could actually do business this year. Burke could swap Tomas Kaberle for Cam Barker within the existing cap parameters.  

    Though acquiring Kaberle could make Bowman’s cap management slightly more challenging, his addition would certainly help Chicago’s Cup aspirations this year.

    There are plenty of win-win scenarios for these two teams as trading partners, and their future dialogue bears watching.

  2. shruew says:

    So if you’re script plays out the ‘Hawks have a Niemi/Crawford tandem?  Not sure that inspires confidence.

  3. Al Cimaglia says:

    No… Crawford not in my script….although a possibility.
    Bowman can find a solid veteran backup.

  4. The big Smoke says:

    the blackhawks should smoke a peace pipe with the islanders and get one of their goalies on the cheap… other than Dipi of course.

  5. Al Cimaglia says:

    I don’t think they acquire another goalie now…they will strengthen the defense…that’s my take.

  6. Jeff Benson says:

    The Hawks are one of the best, if not the best, team in the NHL this year with the Huet/Niemi tandem in goal. I don’t think it makes sense to trade either – If Huet does struggle in the postseason the Hawks know they can win with Niemi and vice versa.
    I don’t think the Hawks would want to entrust their playoff run with Turco or Biron if Niemi isn’t playing well.
    I understand the cap considerations with Huet’s contract, but the most important thing to the Hawks seems to be winning the Cup this year. It’s risking shaking up such a good team at the trade deadline. If they had one contract they’d want to unload, I would think it would be Campbell’s.

  7. Chemmy says:

    Huet has a .904 SV% behind one of the best defense corps in the league. Gustavsson is a rookie with a .902 behind one of the worst.
    The Leafs would be delighted to take prospects with Huet to get him off Chicago’s hand but they certainly won’t be upgrading their goaltending by adding him.

  8. Al Cimaglia says:

    Not an upgrade?

    Toskala looks like a beer league goalie on many nights…

  9. Al Cimaglia says:


    Neither are going anywhere this season.

    It is highly unlikely both will be back next year.

  10. NMHHawk says:

    Huet is only as good as his forwards and defensemen. Chicago has a team that can make a goalie look really good on most nights. Every once in a while if the forwards and defense have a off night like the one in Vancouver. It does not matter which goaltender is between the pipes the results will be the same. The Leafts need to play better defensively in all aspects of there game. Too many defensive lapses have left there goaltenders to stop not one but several shots in a row. Untill they can turn this part of their game around Huet or any other goaltender will not be the answers to Leafs woe’s.

  11. Dave Morris says:

    Al, as you say, it seems unlikely both Huet and Campbell will be in Chicago next year given the fiscal implications. However, it’s not out of the question.

    Campbell is having a strong year and is proving to be a key component of the Hawks attack-0riented style. He is also a robust player who misses very little time due to injury. With top d-men commanding $6-7 million nowadays, Campbell’s contract is consistent with market value.

    Niemi is seen by management as the eventual Number One, but the process of transition does not appear to be complete yet.  Perhaps the Blackhawks will stay the course with Huet and Niemi for another year.

    Value-priced veteran backups like Roloson, Conklin, Garon, and Brent Johnson are becoming less and less available, and their price is rising. A Craig Anderson is a rarity.

    The Maple Leafs get slammed by critics right and left, but they have some good young players and have improved in a number of areas. Adding a veteran goaltender like Huet–who has been a significant positive in Montreal, Washington and Chicago despite the criticism–would be a wise move for Toronto.

    One also wonders if pending FA players like Ponikarovsky, Stajan and White might be of interest to the Hawks.

    If Bowman and Burke do sit down and hammer out a deal, there are picks, prospects and big contracts that could change addresses between the March deadline and Draft Day 2010.   

  12. Mike says:

    Where will Toronto get meaningful ( 1st round ) draft choices ? What does Toronto have that might interest Chicago ?

  13. [...] are not just a better team than the Oilers they’re in a different league than the Oilers. As Al Cimaglia said in his post today “the lowly Oilers trail the Blackhawks in the standings by a total of 40 [...]

  14. Dave Morris says:

    @Mike> Not to speak for Al, who surely has his own view, but Toronto has several players who could be of interest to the Hawks.

    Viktor Stalberg  and/or Christian Hanson could provide needed size and skill on the wing, should someone like Sharp be dealt. 

    Nik Kulemin is another player with a suitable skill set.

    Ian White or Tomas Kaberle could be a fit on defense.

    Presumedly the draft picks Al alludes to, are Hawk picks who would be going to Toronto as an inducement for Burke to take a big contract.

  15. Al Cimaglia says:

    The Leafs are what the Hawks need to find… a franchise with deep pockets and the ability to absorb $3-4 million players onto their roster.

    If Burke can accaumulate 2nd-4th round picks he can set himself up with a nice nucleus of young players from Chaicago. Becasue a few of those here now won’t be next season.

    Burke has the motivation and the need to win now and the Hawks have proven players who would be considered top six forwards on the Leafs, and Barker who would be a top four dman.

    In return the Hawks would want prospects/picks because they can not take back a lot of salary….and possibly Huet to go to Toronto as well.

    Bowman needs to open up around $13 million in cap space and not destroy the competitive level of his team for next season.

  16. Chemmy says:

    So to be clear here, your guess is that in exchange for bad players with big contracts and late 2nd round picks (that will be marginally better than most team’s 3rd round picks because Chicago is a good team) the Leafs will also give up their good young prospects?
    Good luck with that. Really.

  17. Al Cimaglia says:

    Let’s be real clear..Really.
    The Leafs would get a much quicker fix by getting established younger players. The Hawk have and will have to trade those type of players because of their salary cap situation for next season.
    I am not aware of an abundance of NHL ready prospects the Leafs have currently….they are one of the worse teams in the NHL and I haven’t noticed any youngsters being called up which have been noticeable.
    That being said the Hawks are not in a position to demand the most  highly touted prospects from anyone.
    They will listen to offers and respond.
    Some teams will offer prospects and picks….that fits the Hawk needs as they can’t take back a lot of  salary.
    My thinking is….  Burke is looking to accumulate picks by dealing veterans now. Then he will have some ammunition to go after proven players that the Hawks will have to deal.
    In my scenario no one holds anyone up….everyone can get what they need.

  18. Bob M. says:

    I would agree with Jeff Benson that we shouldn’t trade Huet unless we can get a better veteran goalie in return, which of course is unlikely.  Yes salary wise there will be tough decisions for bowman to make after June, but the focus has to be on how to win it all this year instead of 2010-11 offseason.  If we have to take a hit next year and years going forward for sacrifices to win the 09-10 Cup, i’ll gladly take that!


  19. Al Cimaglia says:


    Agree….this blog had to do with summer trades.

  20. TOM COTNER says:

    I WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED in sending CHRIS HUET, PATRICK SHARP, TOMAS KOPECKY, and a 2ND ROUND DRAFT PICK to the LEAFS for VESA TOSKALA and TOMAS KABERLE.   in that manner, BRIAN BURKE could send that 2ND to BOSTON to partially complete the PHIL KESSEL deal.   HUET has a 5.6 contract, and I believe that TOSKALA is between the 5.0 and 5.5 region.   SHARP and KOPECKY would equate to KABERLE’S salary, and if we had to sweeten the pot somewhat, okay, include a player from our AHL team from a selected low tier group.  

  21. observer says:

    Huet? Your joking right?

  22. hockey tips says:

    I would be very interested in getting Huet and Sharp for Toskala and Kaberle. The leafs need a good goalie and a sniper. I think toskala for huet would be good.

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