A Possible Trade Partner For Cristobal Huet?

The Blackhawks have moved a number of players since winning the Stanley Cup, and the one elephant that remains in the room is now-backup netminder Cristobal Huet. With a $5.625M cap number and after losing the starting gig in Chicago last year, it would appear that the only place for Huet’s contract to disappear would be Rockford.

But there could be a trade partner on the horizon for the Blackhawks that could move Huet’s contract off the books completely.

There are two numbers that concerns NHL teams: the salary cap, and the salary floor. Right now, the Blackhawks are one of a number of teams that are up against/over the salary cap, and could afford to move some salary. Because of the cap being a firm cap, it’s hard to find teams in the current NHL to eat a bad contract like Huet’s.

Unless they’re in danger of not meeting the salary floor.

Obviously, the salary cap is the top limit that a team can achieve with their salaries in a season. As you might assume from the wording, the “floor” is the minimum team salary that an organization must achieve in a season. This exists to keep teams from completely stripping their rosters of any big salaries (and talent), thereby using dollars to force at least some level of parity.

Enter the New York Islanders.

The Isles have been a hot team in rumors over the Fourth of July weekend with their rumored pursuit of top free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk reportedly wants a 10 year, $100M contract, which led the Los Angeles Kings to allegedly step away from the table (though my sources say they aren’t completely out of the bidding as many sites are reporting late on the Fourth). There are a number of reasons the Islanders would be able to stomach such a mammoth contract, one of which is because of their relation to the salary floor.

At the end of the weekend, the Islanders have only $35.993M committed to 16 players. This is a problem because the salary floor for 2010-11 is $43.4M; that’s a difference of over $7M that they need to make up. They’re working on a new stadium, and would love to have a superstar as the face of the franchise when they move into the new facility. Kovalchuk could be the face of their franchise.

However, what if the Islanders don’t/can’t land Kovalchuk. How will they get to the floor in time for next year?

One option could be Huet, and it might actually make sense on the ice for the Isles.

The Islanders have perhaps the worst contract in the history of hockey in net already in Rick DiPietro. His $4.5M cap number will be on the books for the Islanders until 2020-21, when he’s 39 years old. This for a guy that played in only eight games last year.

DiPietro’s health issues forced 40-year old Dwayne Roloson into action for 50 games last year, and he wasn’t exactly stellar. Roloson posted a 23-18-7 record with a 3.00 goals against average and .907 save percentage. He has one year left on a contract with a $2.5M cap numbers, but he’ll be 41 on Oct. 12.

Compare Roloson’s numbers to those of Huet last year. The French netminder was 26-14-4 with a 2.50 goals against average and a .895 save percentage last year for the Blackhawks. He’ll be only 35 on Sept. 3, and has two years left on his contract with the ugly $5.625M cap number.

In a perfect world, DiPietro will be healthy and earning his salary; that hasn’t been the case for the Islanders or their well-paid goalie, though. If he misses time again in the future, the Islanders would need a dependable backup. While Roloson had a better save percentage last year, his age will undoubtedly be a concern in New York.

This deal would only happen if the Isles cannot sign Kovalchuk, and there would certainly be other options for New York to look at. Philadelphia has asked Simon Gagne to waive his no-trade clause, and he could be an option as well. However, a young team might not be willing to part with the picks and/or prospects the Flyers would ask for to move a productive veteran like Gagne. The Blackhawks have, thanks to the moves over the last couple weeks, added enough depth to their organization that they could throw a mid-level prospect or draft pick into the deal to make it more attractive for the Islanders to eat Huet’s salary and achieve the floor next year.

Any deal that moves Huet out of Chicago (and not to Rockford) is a long shot at best right now. But the Islanders need to added enough salary to meet the floor and could add younger depth behind DiPietro in net for the next two years by adding Huet. If they can’t land Kovalchuk, this might be an option for the Hawks to get Huet off the books.

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