The Great Blackhawk Goalie Controversy

The Chicago Blackhawks, as of the Olympic break, have the number one goaltending tandem in the NHL according to their goals against average; and they are also tied for first in wins. Yet, perhaps no team in the NHL has its goalies under the microscope more than the Blackhawks. Are changes afoot?

It seems possible. Hardly a week goes by when the questions about the Hawks goaltending being ‘good enough’ or ‘an Achilles’ heel’—among other descriptions—aren’t raised.

The loudest skepticism comes, surprisingly, not from opponents, but from very vocal Hawks writers and fans. No matter how many games the team wins, the losses and ‘soft goals’ are endlessly discussed and dissected.

Perhaps only the Montreal press and fan base subject their netminders to more ruthless scrutiny.

The expectations being what they are for a Chicago franchise that shows so much promise after almost fifty years since the last Stanley Cup Championship, one can understand the level of anticipation and emotion.

That emotion is stoked by the flow of rumors, and amplified by the actions of Hawks management. At the beginning of last season, former Hawks GM Dale Tallon, having signed free agent Cristobal Huet to a rich $5.625 million annual contract, turned around and tried unsuccessfully to waive Nikolai Khabibulin, who he had signed to an even richer $6.75 million per year free agent deal just a few seasons prior.

The drama persisted throughout the 2008-09 season, as the Hawks played musical chairs with their two high-ticket ‘tenders. While Huet showed signs of justifying his salary, the inconsistency he also showed opened the door for Khabibulin down the stretch.

After regaining his form, ‘The Bulin Wall’ led the Hawks deep into the playoffs, before mysteriously imploding in the Conference Finals against the Red Wings. Huet came on in relief but could not pick up where Khabby had left off. The Russian was cast adrift in June, and the Hawks announced they were ‘comfortable’ with Cristobal, now seconded by unknown quantity, 26-year old Finnish prospect Antti Niemi.

Former Hawk star Jeremy Roenick, who shone in Chicago during the Eddie Belfour years on teams that barely missed bringing home the big one, was blunt. He declared publicly that he didn’t know if the goalies with the current squad are good enough to win those critical sixteen playoff games.

Meanwhile, Craig Anderson, a Hawks castoff, has gone on to be the leader of a revived Avalanche team; and another former Hawk, Michael Leighton, has helped haul the Flyers back into the playoff picture. Both of these men are paid a pittance compared to Huet and Khabibulin’s Chicago deals.

To compound this, Antti Niemi—who makes less than a million dollars a year—has posted a superior record so far. With four straight starts and wins right before the March break, Niemi appears to have stolen the number one job away from the much maligned Huet.

The irony of all of this is highlighted by Huet’s own record. With a GAA of 2.29, he’s ranked 7th overall in the NHL, as he is with four shutouts; his 24 wins are good for 12th spot. But his save percentage of .903 is an unimpressive 32nd.

Some observers point out that having a capable tandem is actually a strength, citing the Stanley Cup success of past duos like Resch-Smith and Hasek-Osgood.

Detractors insist that having a true Number One is incontrovertible, and that neither Huet nor Niemi can credibly wear the Superman cape.

This is compounded by the questions about Huet’s mental toughness. He has never played more than 52 games in a regular season; and his playoff record has been challenged, not having won the series in which he appeared, for the Habs, Caps and Hawks respectively.

In conversation with the guru of hockey writers, Stan Fischler, about a year ago, Fischler told me he saw Huet’s contract as a ‘disaster’. More than a few writers and fans agree with Stan’s unsparing critique.

I examined the Huet conundrum in an October 2009 article featured at Kukla’s Korner, “Are The Hawks Hogtied with Huet?”
http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/are_the_hawks_hogtied_with_huet/

Statistically, Huet has carved out a place among NHL goalies that appears to place him in the top ten since the lockout. But for those who watch him time and again, there is something that has emerged in the last few years about Huet’s game that undermines one’s confidence, at least as a hockey fan.

A mercurial goalie like Dominik Hasek, or Patrick Roy, could have you biting your nails; but their sheer talent—some would say genius—would dazzle even their most savage critics. Of course, winning a Stanley Cup is a salve for all wounds.

To listen to current Hawk GM Stan Bowman, there is no lack of confidence in Cristobal Huet. But Bowman is quickly becoming known as a man who parses his words, very carefully.

And just this past week, the respected ESPN and Hockey Night In Canada commentator Pierre Lebrun announced the Hawks had been inquiring around the league about available goalies.

Is it any surprise Blackhawks loyalists are nervous about how their team is managing the netminding issue?

During the two-week trade hiatus, the discussion is already heating up as to whether or not the Blackhawks will or won’t make a move for another pipe patroller.

On the eve of the Olympic hockey tournament, a rumor was apparently floated on ESPN Chicago that Cristobal Huet was being packed off to a willing buyer.

GM Stan Bowman’s inscrutable manner will do nothing to dissuade the speculation; after all, no one foresaw d-man Kim Johnsson being obtained for the disappointing Cam Barker.

And the keynote for this year’s trades seems to be unpredictability. Who had predicted Dion Phaneuf and Jean Sebastien Giguere to the Leafs? Jason Blake to the Ducks? Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils? And not so long ago, Dany Heatley to the Sharks? Scott Gomez to Montreal?

What we have seen, is that the improbable is as possible as the probable.

Those who maintain that Cristobal Huet’s contract makes him ‘untradeable’ may underestimate the importance, and impact, of what has taken place quite recently. The aforementioned deals prove that if two GMs really want to do business, they will find a way to make the numbers work.

Whether it means adding incentives like prospects and picks, taking back salary in various ways, or even including players who never even get a chance to put on their new jersey, NHL GMs are proving to be as creative as they need to be.

If the Blackhawks really want to trade Cristobal Huet and bring in another goalie, chances are they can also find a way to make the numbers work.

Taking into account that moving Huet’s contract can free up needed cap space, the Hawks might be even more motivated sellers.
Huet’s contract, while expensive at $5.625, has a relatively short term, ending June 2012. Given the uncertainty of the market, Huet’s undeniable ability—and more importantly, his relative durability— a motivated buyer may not be that difficult to find.

Another thing to remember is that a significant number of teams currently have issues regarding their goaltending. These issues range from goalies having disappointing seasons to the void left by those due to become free agents.

So what we may have is an environment where GMs are willing to help other GMs solve their problems, or at least have those problems change address.

It’s also been suggested that Chicago might ‘bury’ Huet and his salary in the minors by waiving him, or hope someone would claim him on re-entry. As odd as that might sound, they tried to do it with Khabibulin. So, not so odd, maybe.

Here’s an overview of the options, trading partners and players that Stan Bowman and the Blackhawk brain trust might be considering.

The teams and goalies listed here are either pending UFAs or RFAs (source NHLNumbers.com); or have been mentioned as being on the market by mainstream media sources (such as ESPN and TSN).

Atlanta: Johan Hedberg ($1.087 cap hit, UFA 2010); Ondrej Pavelec ($1.43MM cap hit, RFA 2010)
Once Kari Lehtonen was traded to Dallas, the assumption was made that the young Czech star, Olympian and ex-Chicago Wolf Pavelec would become the Thrashers’ goalie of the future, seconded by the able veteran Hedberg. But does Atlanta GM Don Waddell have other plans? If the Thrashers are driving for the playoffs, would he take on a Cristobal Huet who was instrumental in similar situations with Washington and Montreal? Does Bowman have enough faith in Niemi that he would install Hedberg as the backup? Could such a transaction be part of a larger exchange of assets as Waddell seeks to re-shape his team? Waddell has the cap room to make a move of this scope, and Bowman has some young talent to help sweeten the deal.

Boston: Tim Thomas ($5MM cap hit, signed through June 2013)
Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner on the trading block? Unthinkable, some say. Yet the rumor, whatever the origin, is out there. While Thomas has struggled, the poise of Tuukka Rask, another young Finnish netminder, has taken precedence as the former Eastern Conference champs are scrambling for a playoff berth. Does Peter Chiarelli commiserate with Stan Bowman and engage in contract-swapping in the hopes of sparking the Bruins—and divesting himself of Thomas’ long term commitment? As T2 has an NTC, that may be a non-starter. Or not.

Colorado: Peter Budaj ($1.25MM, UFA 2010)
While Budaj is a reliable number two and a Slovak Olympic choice, there are no evident reasons for the Avalanche and the Hawks to do business. And at least not until June prior to the draft. But that doesn’t mean something doesn’t happen between Chicago and Colorado. The Avs have a few pending UFAs, in Marek Svatos and John Michael Liles, they may want to move. The Hawks can use another defenseman and a scoring forward. Huet and Versteeg for Budaj, Svatos and Liles? The numbers match, and stranger things have happened.

Dallas: Marty Turco ($5.7MM cap hit, UFA 2010); Alex Auld ($1MM cap hit, UFA 2010)
Apparently, Dallas wants to move Turco, but they can’t find any takers. According to reports, they also want to reduce their cap exposure, so chances of them taking Huet in trade seem slim. And is Turco, with inconsistency being chronic over the past two years, a solution for Chicago? Or is Auld, who seems to be a career number two—and a rather good one at that—a man on the move again? Gambling on Kari Lehtonen is less than a safe bet for Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who strikes one as risk-averse.

Edmonton: ?
The Oilers are a bizarre case. They let the dependable Dwayne Roloson walk and signed Nikolai Khabibulin to a $3.75 million a year contract for the next four seasons. However, Khabibulin has had to undergo back surgery and is out indefinitely. It was also reported today that he was arrested for DUI in Arizona. At 37, is he done? And if so, what do the Oilers do for a goalie? Jeff Drouin Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk, and Duncan Tokarski don’t add up to strength in goal. Steve Tambellini has a few players who can help the Blackhawks. Maybe Stan Bowman can help him, too.

Florida: Tomas Vokoun ($5.7MM cap number/signed through June 2011), Scott Clemmensen ($1.2 MM cap number, signed through June 2012)
Vokoun has said he will waive his NTC for the ‘right situation’. Panther GM Randy Sexton has the mandate from ownership to do a total teardown of the Panthers. Vokoun has one of the best save percentages in the league and he’s the starting goalie for the Czech Olympians. Sexton would save half a million dollars next year in a Huet-for-Vokoun deal, and get himself some cost certainty for the following year. Is it possible, especially if Stan Bowman throws in good young forwards like Kris Versteeg? Or is Scott Clemmensen being looked at a backup for Niemi, assuming Huet is otherwise disposed of? And what about Florida’s superb goalie prospects, Alexander Salak and Jacob Markström? Which one of them may be ready to be groomed for prime time with a veteran as a mentor?

Los Angeles: Erik Ersberg ($750K cap hit, RFA June 2011), Jonathan Bernier ($765K, currently in the AHL)
Huet was originally drafted by the Kings. Would they take him back, to provide veteran insurance for Jonathan Quick, who has carried the load almost singlehandedly for them this season? Dean Lombardi has a mandate to win, and he has the budget and cap space to make big moves. Erik Ersberg is promising, but he doesn’t get enough work to show what he can do, and when he does, the numbers have not been good. Jonathan Bernier is an exceptional talent who played with the big club, but probably too early; and he probably has little chance of unseating Quick anytime soon. Do Ersberg or Bernier go to the Hawks in this kind of potential deal?

Minnesota: Josh Harding ($1.1 MM cap hit, RFA 2010)
Harding is another excellent young goaltender who has little or no possibility of unseating the incumbent. He’s also a pending RFA. Chicago and Minnesota have already made a trade. Will Bowman and Fletcher continue as dance partners?

Montreal: Jaroslav Halak ($775K cap hit, RFA 2010); Carey Price ($2.2 MM cap hit, RFA 2010)
If there’s anywhere where the expression ‘goalie controversy’ has more resonance, it’s Montreal, where the sports pages, TV , radio and Internet boards in both English and French are sizzling with debate over who should stay and who should go. The consensus among the pundits is that Montreal can’t keep both. If Price stays, they think he needs to be pushed by a veteran standby. Huet was a fan favorite among supporters of Le Canadien until Gainey exiled him. With Gainey gone, does the ‘Count of Monte Cristobal’ return? And how would Habs GM Pierre Gauthier make the money match up with his creaky cap?

Nashville: Dan Ellis ($1.75MM cap hit, UFA 2010); Pekka Rinne ($725K cap hit, UFA 2010)
Preds GM David Poile has two first-class goalies. They are also both pending UFAs. By his own admission, he can afford to keep one. He also needs players who can score. Should Stan Bowman call him? Being a Division rival, would it amount to anything more than conversation?

New York Islanders: Martin Biron ($1.4Mm cap hit, UFA 2010); Dwayne Roloson ($2.5MM cap hit, signed through June 2011)
The goalie situation on the Island is still muddled. Rick DiPietro is back, but is his back, back to where it needs to be? Does Garth Snow have a goalie, in Biron or Roloson, the Hawks would be comfortable with? Would he take Huet off the Hawks’ hands as more insurance in case RDP is SOL? And do the Blackhawks have players that can help the Islanders get back to the playoffs? They do indeed…and Snow has enough cap room to help relieve Stan Bowman’s cap migraine.

Ottawa: Mike Brodeur ($520K cap hit, UFA 2010), Pascal Leclaire ($3.8MM cap hit, UFA June 2011)
One of the bizarre twists in the world of hockey is how players rejected by one organization become life-savers for another. Brodeur, no relation to Marty, was released by Chicago because of chronic back trouble. He came back through Ottawa’s minor league system to sub for the Sens when both netminders were injured and promptly stoned the opposition. But Brodeur’s fling with fame was brief, and he’s in the minors again because the Senators have two NHL goalies. Senators GM Bryan Murray likely won’t touch Huet with a ten foot pole, unless, that is, he wants to move oft-injured Pascal Leclaire. Is there any common ground between Ottawa and Chicago? Probably not enough to transact.

Philadelphia: Michael Leighton ($300K cap hit, UFA 2010); Brian Boucher ($925K cap hit, UFA 2010)
Yet another Blackhawk castoff, Leighton’s finally landed on his feet in Philly and is backstopping the Flyers as they have surged into a playoff spot. With Ray Emery injured, and another former Blackhawk, Brian Boucher, seemingly forgotten, is Paul Holmgren looking for veteran help? Could Leighton—or Boucher–go for the right deal? And how could the Flyers possibly shoehorn Huet’s contract into their salary structure?

St. Louis: Chris Mason ($3MM cap hit, UFA 2010)
The Blues don’t look like a playoff team, but then they didn’t look destined for the postseason at this time last year either. Does Blues GM John Davidson become a seller? Does Stan Bowman have players or prospects of interest to the Blues’ agenda for the future? Will St Louis try to extend Mason who can command a hefty raise as a UFA? Is Huet a goalie that former goalie Davidson would trust?

Tampa: Antero Niittymaki ($600K cap hit, UFA 2010)
Niittymaki has re-launched his reputation in Tampa. But he’s a free agent in June. The Lightning have just been sold. GM Brian Lawton needs to add some scoring talent, and he may be ready to entertain Bowman’s overtures.

Toronto: Joey McDonald ($650K cap hit, UFA 2010)
McDonald, developed in the Red Wings’ systems, did stalwart work in Long Island and in Toronto. He’s another asset Brian Burke can use to re-stock with draft picks. And as Burke constantly reminds his fellow GMs, he’s more than ready to assume any excess salary teams want to trim. But as the Leafs now have Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson, taking Huet on, is, logically, out of the question. Isn’t it?

Washington: Jose Theodore ($4.5 MM cap hit, UFA 2010)
Theodore is, in many ways, ‘Turco North’: a high priced goalie whose best days seem behind him. Reviled in Washington, he has nonetheless stepped in and patrolled the pipes for the Capitals as they’ve roared to the top of the standings. Theo, though, was and remains the stopgap solution. Caps GM George McPhee never wanted to let Huet go to Chicago. Would he take him back, and would Bowman have to take Theo in return?

In summary: the Blackhawks may say they are ready to go forward with the personnel they have in net, but recent actions suggest otherwise.

Watching the broadcast of the Columbus game, the look on Huet’s face as he walked through the tunnel ahead of his teammates to the locker room during the second intermission was more telling.

It looked that of a man who appeared to have lost his job.

They say hockey is a sport of redemption…but does Huet still have time to redeem himself?

And will that be, in Chicago?

Niemi & Huet: partners or rivals, and for how long?

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About the Author: David Morris' hockey writing has been featured at KuklasKorner.com and Chicago Sports Then & Now. He is also the North American correspondent for leading Swiss hockey site, Planete Hockey.

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  1. Nick V says:

    Great write up, Dave!
    To me, it looks like the only 2 teams that the Hawks should ponder talking to if they were to really make a move for a tender would be with Florida or Dallas.  Turco could be a “rental” goaltender, for next season give the reins to Niemi, though I think if Dallas wants to spend Turco money, its not going to be right another goalie, especially Huet.
     
    Florida could be very fitting.  The Panthers need forward depth, and Huet, to me personally, would be a good fit in an organization like the Panthers.   Versteeg and Huet in Florida could be a very nice fit.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    Nick, thanks…the more I look at the entire range of possibilities, the less I am sure about what might happen.

    I agree with you that Florida is the most logical prospect.

    Minnesota is a team one hadn’t seen as partners with the Hawks…and look what took place.

    Colorado could be a possible playoff rival, but would they trade with Chicago if they get Versteeg–a player who could thrive under Joe Sacco–as part of a Huet deal?

    And what IF Bowman traded for a value price goalie like Harding or Ellis…and waived Huet?

    Or maybe nothing happens. And maybe Cristo gets his act together and plays like a 5.6 million dollar goalie.

    It’s very hard to guess what GMs are thinking…and very difficult to predict how hockey players respond to trade rumors.

  3. Nick V says:

    Hahaha no problem Dave.
     
    I think if Bowman makes a move, its going to be for a sure valued tender.  Ellis IMO is not anything to deal Versteeg for, keep the squad in tact till next season if that is all they can work with.  Not sure if I would like Harding either for the playoffs, though Huet to me is just as scary of a bet.
     
    The only goalies that I think the Hawks should try to upgrade to would be for either Turco or Vokoun.  Anyone else, and you might as well ride out the Huet/Niemi train.

  4. Al Cimaglia says:

    Very good recap Dave…

    There really aren’t many feasible possibilities in my opinion…in the summer it could be different.

    Becasue of ownership and salary cap issues I think the only possibilities could be Atl. and Fla.
    But Versteeg, Byfuglien,Skille or similar would have to be included.

    The most compelling partner for Chicago is Atlanta because they could get a a less expensive goalie back in return.

    If done soon the Hawks would be all in on Niemi for the playoffs, although Pavlec might be able to contribute this season.

  5. Dave Morris says:

    Al, thanks. I am really curious about what might happen with Khabibulin in Edmonton. My understanding is that if he is convicted of DUI he could be refused entry to Canada under this country’s immigration laws. See this link:

     http://www.americanlaw.com/canadadrunkdrivingduidwi.html

    If this is the case, is there a scenario whereby Bowman helps Tambellini with a contract or two he’d like to unload in exchange for one or two of his own…one possibly being Huet?

  6. Milbury Sucks says:

    I would have to say the Isles.
    Roloson and Sutton packaged in a deal for Huet and a player….a real good player.  (If not the Blackhawks the Caps for sure.)
    Biron will get traded to a contender too.

  7. vito says:

    good post dave, could distraction be the reason the hawks are not playing great and maybe doubting their goalies? last year the team rallied around khabby even though his save percentage was not great he made some big saves to win games. you know i like both goalies i’d would keep both but niemi looks more hungrier and quicker to me but i’m not understanding all these rumors unless its more about the salary cap. the capitals dont seem to make their goalie situation a big issue as compared to the hawks and their goalies are not better than niemi or huet

  8. Al Cimaglia says:

    If Khabby can come back next year they will figure out a solution.

    If he wants to keep playing and the Oilers compensate him enough maybe he plays back in Russia if they want out of his deal.

    They are in a much worse position  than the Hawks.

  9. Al Cimaglia says:

    The Isles would have about $10 mill in goal keepers in that case…I don’t thinks so.

  10. vito says:

    i hope sharp does not get into any deals they make,  he looks like a good team guy.

  11. Dave Morris says:

    Al, if Khabby is convicted of DUI he may not be able to travel to Canada…so one wonders if that would void his contract with the Oilers. In that case, Edmonton needs a goalie to replace him.

    This may be moot as there’s no guarantee he can come back from the surgery and play effectively…in the NHL or KHL. 

    Does Bowman offer to take someone like Staios and/or Moreau (and say, Deslauriers) off Tambellini’s hands in exchange for Huet and perhaps another salary/prospect?

    Actually, I would find Grebeshkov (RFA 2010) an interesting addition to the Hawks’ blueline.

    The possibilities are intriguing. 

  12. shruew says:

    I somehow think a hockey player playing for a Canadian team will find a way back into the country unless his team ditches him.  Given his contract, I doubt it.
    Anyway some stats:
    GAA:
    Niemi 2.16 (3)
    Huet 2.29 (7)
    Sv%
    Niemi .913 (tied 3 way at 21st)
    Huet .903 (tied 2 way at 33rd)
    What does that ratio tell you?  The ratio of good GAA and middling Save%?  Defense and a high powered offense that keeps the puck out of the defensive zone.  That is why the Hawks are looking for a potential upgrade in goalie to bring home the trophy.
     

  13. Dave Morris says:

    @Shruew> Canadian immigration law may be applied severely in the case of impaired driving, which is considered a very serious offense in this country.

    Without trying to suggest a legal opinion, here is an excerpt from a paper by the international firm of Chang and Boos which cites the Canadian Criminal Code:

    “Where a foreign national is convicted of impaired driving while in Canada, the punishment described in the Canadian Criminal Code (“CCC”), R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46 is considered when making a determination of inadmissibility under IRPA 36(2). However, the CCC is also considered in cases involving foreign convictions.


    “In order for a foreign conviction to result in inadmissibility, it must first be found to be the equivalent of an offence in Canada. Once the Canadian equivalent of the foreign offence has been identified, the Canadian equivalent must fall within the parameters of IRPA 36(2) to result in inadmissibility.

    “Foreign nationals convicted of a single minor offence outside of Canada (such as one foreign impaired driving conviction) may also be eligible for deemed rehabilitation after a period of ten years has elapsed.”

    Being a Russian national, and requiring a visa to work and live in Canada, this may further complicate the situation.

    That said, Khabibulin has been arrested for DUI, but not convicted at this point.

    Nevertheless, the situation bears watching.

  14. Al Cimaglia says:

    That one seems like a stretch for many reasons.

    I doubt the Oilers would want to commit to another goal keeper now….why?

    They finish last and they get a top three pick…the Khabby situation will unfold…don’t know about DUI.

    Best thing for thr  Oilers would be to move in another direction if he was unable to return…then  they would have a lot of money to put toward any goalie they want…and there will be some available.

  15. vito says:

    wow cullimore might help the team push for the cup why not chelios he’s better even at the age of47. cullimore cant skate, think sopel is slow. at that point why not play a rookie now give him some reps and take a chance on those young players that have athleticism and the hunger yo win its pretty much the same as using those old guys in a system that does not fit them  

  16. Fred Poulin says:

    Benoit Pouliot was also convicted of DUI in September in Canada, but was able to play for the Wild in the USA, so don’t worry for Khabby with playing in Canada.

  17. Dave Morris says:

    Fred> not to stay too long on the Khabibulin case, and again, not to offer any kind of legal opinion here, but immigration laws in Canada and the US have a variety of differences.

    Pouliot, being a Canadian, is subject to cross-border travel and work permit requirements which are arguably less stringent than those for a Russian national like Khabby. 

    Also, Pouliot was traded by the Wild to the Canadiens not long after his DUI conviction.

    It remains to be seen what will happen in Khabby’s case.

    In any event, the situation will unfold of its own accord.

    @Al> I don’t know if the Oilers would be interested in Huet, but they could be in the goalie market if Khabby can’t return from surgery. As you say, though, an Edmonton trade with the Hawks now or later, might be a stretch.

  18. Dave Morris says:

    There have been a number of rumors floated about a Hawks deal that supposedly was about to happen before the Olympic break.

    Vokoun and Seidenberg to Chicago for a package possibly including Huet and Versteeg has been mentioned.

    It seems to me that a package including Huet and Versteeg (and someone from Rockford like Skille) to Atlanta for Kubina and Pavelec or Hedberg might also be possible, but the Florida option seems more logical given that the Thrashers are on the playoff bubble.

  19. jt19 says:

    if JJ’s rumor is correct – “eastern team, olympic goaltender and D coming back to chi”… could be nittymaki and more in tampa…  (but vokoun is my choice!)

  20. shruew says:

    @jt19 There you go, the “Alphabet Trade” (as it will surely be known).
    Meszaros and Nittymaki
    For:
    Huet, Versteeg, Skille, one Deluxe Taco Grande and Aliu
     
    Hey, did you realize Meszaros is an anagram for Mass Zero…

  21. shruew says:

    In other thoughts, in NHL10 I traded Versteeg and Huet to Washington for Mike Green.  Washington is an East Coast team… Throw in Varlamov and it fits the rumor!

  22. Al Cimaglia says:

    The only wat Meszaros coning here makes any financial sense is if it is part of a huge trade.
    Otherwise when the dust settles the Hawks are in worse cap shape going forward.

  23. Dave Morris says:

    @Al> I tend to agree with you re: Meszaros…however IF Huet and Versteeg were swapped for Niittymaki and Mesz the Hawks come out ahead dollar-wise.

    $8.625 out, $4.6 in…

    Lots of different possibilities for sure.

  24. Dave Morris says:

    As a footnote, Eddie Olczyk said something interesting when he was interviewed on NHL Radio about a week ago. He was asked about speculation regarding Hawks trades and he mentioned “a shot-blocking defenseman” as being on Bowman’s radar.

    Seidenberg is the leader in shot blocks this year…so was Eddie referring to the presumed Vokoun/Seidenberg for Huet, Versteeg et al. deal?   

  25. vito says:

    cool i believe in simulating!!!!!!! maybe all the GM do too ; )

  26. vito says:

    the other rumor i saw is goalie  Ellis from nashville but for who? is he a UFA at the end of the season? why trade with a division rival?

  27. shruew says:

    Seidenberg is the leader in shot blocks this year
    It is expected that someone from Florida would lead the league in stats as they are last in the league in shots against per game (34.2)!
    Hawks, by the way are first with only 24.4…  This again reflects the strength of the Hawks defense and the fact they often have the puck in the offensive zone.  And way some might be questioning the goalies.
     
     
     

  28. Al Cimaglia says:

    Dave,

    As far as the TB rumor the Hawks would be worse off in some ways.

    Mesz is signed through 2013-14 at $4 mill a year…he has under achieved.

    The Hawks traded Barker cuz they couldn’t afford to pay a #5-6 dman
    $3 mill.

    Smith is signed through next season for a lot less thn Huet…$2 mill.

    Nitty can be re-signed for a lot less than Huet’s $5.6.

    So unless there is a lot more to this one… maybe involoving another team it doesn’t make financial sense for anyone.

  29. Dave Morris says:

    @Al> I agree with you that Meszaros doesn’t seem to fit the Hawks’ m.o. or their agenda. However–Scotty Bowman was reportedly scouting the Lightning in Tampa a few weeks back. 

    If Stan Bowman is looking for another GM to take Huet’s contract off his hands, it’s reasonable to think he could be asked to take someone else’s big contract in return. 

    But it’s just another scenario to ponder.

  30. Dave Morris says:

    Looking at all of the candidates listed above, and scanning the rumors and reports,  Tomas Vokoun appears to have emerged as the ‘prime suspect’ in a Hawk goalie hunt.

    To recap:

    League leader in shutouts with 7, a .931 SV %, and a 2.36 GAA, (and starting goalie for Czech Olympic Team 2010)Vokoun’s a definite upgrade over Huet. His contract is also one year shorter, though effectively the same cap hit.

    It’s possible the Hawks also want shot blocking d-man and German Olympian Dennis Seidenberg.

    The prognosticators appear to agree that Kris Versteeg–and possibly more–might be needed to persuade Panthers GM Randy Sexton.  

    Hawk fans are watching and waiting…

  31. Al Cimaglia says:

    Dave,

    Scotty probably attends as many or more TB games in person as the Hawks…..he lives in Fla. in the winter.

    The real issue is the taking back money….and what isn’t considered as much as it should be.

    Mesz is signed to a longer term than Huet…..if they have to move the money they will find a way so they don’t acquire players on long term deals.

  32. Al Cimaglia says:

    Versteeg and Huet for Voukon and a prospect is a trade the Hawks would make yesterday….

    Do the Panthers value Versteeg that much?

    Becasue Huet for Vokoun is not a trade the Pantheres make…..unless Vokoun has told them he wants out……… which ahsn’t been reported.

  33. Dave Morris says:

    @Al, I agree with the points you’ve made above.

    The ‘Scotty Scouting In Tampa’ report from the Tampa-St. Petersburg Times may have been the origin of the speculation, which was then fueled by Darren Dreger at TSN who said the Hawks were interested in Meszaros.

    I think a Chicago-Florida trade has some credibility, but given Vokoun is the best goalie out there who might be available, Randy Sexton would have all the leverage. In my view, Stan Bowman would have to put together quite a package to make this work.

    As you say, Vokoun’s agent says his client hasn’t been asked to waive his NTC…yet. Vokoun has said, though, that he is open to the possibility.

  34. shruew says:

    Al, Dave, I hope you guys are baking some new topics for discussion next week :)

  35. Al Cimaglia says:

    Shruew,

     I am getting sick of some of this stuff but tis the season.

    Really not much of anything else going on…

    I won’t tease stuff to just create a rumor story….as I think you know by now.

  36. Al Cimaglia says:

    All of the levaerage is with players who have no trade/ no movement clauses thses days.

    I would bet Vokoun will ok the right deal…BUT he probably would want an extension….as his contract is up after next season.

  37. RJF says:

    If Vokoun comes to Chicago and wins a cup, I would think his value for a new contract would be that much higher?  I wonder what the monetary value of winning a cup would be for his next contract.    

  38. Al Cimaglia says:

    RJF,

    Thats the next situation…He would want an extension before he goes anywhere is my point.

  39. Dave Morris says:

    @Al> excellent point. If Vokoun is asked to move, it’s fair to expect he would like some kind of long term security, i.e. an extension, from the proposed new team.

    On another note, I have to wonder what effect all the trade talk  has had on Huet. He was reportedly being shopped last year, and he’s been the subject of constant and increasing speculation this season.

    Sam Fels at Second City Hockey has a theory that this is part of a strategy to motivate Huet, and Fels uses some rather colorful language to do so:
    http://www.secondcityhockey.com/2010/2/14/1310602/2010/2/14/1310602/what-ever-hawks-4-jackets-4-hawks

    At the end of the day, Huet’s contract, as much as it may seem to be an impediment to the Hawks making a change, isn’t necessarily an insurmountable challenge.

    Blackhawks management gives one the impression of being ready to do whatever it takes to make the franchise a winner.

    The solution may well be something none of us could have expected.

  40. Dave Morris says:

    The rumor pot continues to be stirred, with both Pierre Lebrun at ESPN and Lyle Richardson at SpectorsHockey reporting information today from sources that alternately assert, and dismiss, Hawk interest in Vokoun.

    Just seven more days until the trade freeze is lifted…

  41. shruew says:

    If the Hawks can manage to move Huet’s contract Vokoun can be extended in the $6mil range.  But, that means the Niemi spends one more year tops as a Hawk.

  42. RJF says:

     Al has said in the past that it is unlikely that both Huet and Niemi are here next year (obviously because of money), and if you got Vokoun, then Niemi isn’t going to be playing the rest of the year or playoffs anyway, so would you not let him go now as a higher quality sweetener and then you give Vokoun an extension, and you have definite cup worthy goaltending for the next 4 or 5 years? 

  43. Dave Morris says:

    @RJF> IF the Hawks acquired Vokoun,  that could change management’s plans for Niemi, or they might simply have him develop for the next few years sharing the load with TV…as the Ducks did with JS Giguere, in order to bring Hiller along.  

  44. vito says:

    dave that makes more sense to keep niemi with the potential he  has and vokoun is in his 30′s sure thing is letting go of niemi after trading crawford thins out the goalie position but then comes the cap issue

  45. Dave Morris says:

    @Vito> Niemi has been spoken of very highly by Scotty Bowman, and he’s moved past Crawford (and, it appears, past Huet as well) on the depth chart…so it makes sense that Niemi would be the goalie they want to develop long term.

    Again, if Vokoun is the trade target for the Blackhawks, it also makes sense to have Niemi platooning with him for a full season or two. 

    As far as cap issues are concerned, Stan Bowman and Kevin Cheveldayoff have their work cut out for them.

    But if getting Vokoun is possible and it gives the Hawks their best shot at the Cup…

    The latest version of the Vokoun rumor has Huet, Crawford and Versteeg going to FLA.

    However, I’m not sure why Crawford would be part of this alleged transaction, when the Panthers already have Salak and Markstrom in their system. 

    My guess is that Randy Sexton would want a package that includes some offense, as this has been a fundamental problem for Florida.

    That could mean both roster players and prospects, and maybe a draft pick as well from Chicago. Patrick Sharp would, logically, be a player Sexton would want.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that Stan Bowman–if he is indeed making a move–may decide to go with a less expensive goalie than Vokoun, or one who is a UFA or RFA next year.

    And if Bowman finds himself with three goalies, could Huet be waived if he can’t be traded?

    We’ll know in the next ten days.