Injuries, poor play, and financial issues have teams all over the NHL thinking about their immediate and long-term roster situations. Some teams, like the Blackhawks, are positioned to be buyers, while others are struggling and might become sellers.
One team that has been rumored to be selling this season already is the Montreal Canadiens. One player they are specifically mentioned to be shopping is goalie Jaroslav Halak.
Halak, 24, is sitting behind 22-year old Carey Price in net for the Habs but is an intriguing player for the Blackhawks’ radar. Considering the issues the Hawks have had with Cristobal Huet, goalie is likely on the wish list for GM Stan Bowman.
There are a number of issues with the Hawks and Canadiens becoming trade partners.
The biggest, obviously, is Huet. He has not played well, and has an albatross contract with a cap number of $5.4 million. Moving a salary like that in these economic times might be impossible, meaning the Blackhawks would either have to demote Antti Niemi, which is doubtful both because of his play on the ice and his growing popularity in the stands, or waive Huet.
Waiving Huet would be a bold statement, but might be a necessary evil for this Hawks team to progress into a legitimate Cup contender.
The second issue would be the future. The Blackhawks have Niemi and Corey Crawford under contract only through this season, and Halak’s contract also ends this coming spring. Considering the Hawks will have to negotiate with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and potentially two of those three goalies, the increasing cost of maintaining the roster could be an imposing task for Bowman.
Having three goalies with expiring contracts next summer could lead to more costly spending, or other players on the roster being in unnecessary jeopardy.
The third issue is who the Canadiens would want in return from the Blackhawks. One rumor that has swirled is that Chicago would send Cam Barker, and his $3 million cap number, to Montreal. The rumors about Halak’s availability and Montreal’s alleged interest in Barker have not been linked, but they could be a logical swap to help both rosters both this season and in the future.
Adding Halak, who is both younger and cheaper than Huet (and probably better), could give the Hawks young depth in goal to mirror the rest of the roster. I’m totally on board with exploring Halak, even at the expense of Barker.