Elliott Friedman of CBC has an intriguing couple bullet points in his latest blog. He says:
“… Strongly believe there was one, possibly two teams who were willing to take Cristobal Huet from Chicago. (Should clarify: I’m more certain about one than the other.) But the Blackhawks decided to stand pat, much to the surprise of other GMs. Unloading Huet’s contract (two years remaining, $5.625 million cap hit) would have cost at least a first-rounder and an established player. (I know you’re going to ask, but I’d be guessing on whom. The source wouldn’t tell me.)…
Why did Chicago decline? Scotty Bowman believes strongly in the Detroit model: If you don’t have a top-three goalie, you protect him with great team defence and puck possession. The Blackhawks – disciplined and talented – have a shot. But, to duplicate the Red Wings’ success, they will have to show two things: their forwards are as committed to back pressure as Detroit’s and their defensive corps is as good. As great as the Blackhawks look, we’re talking Lidstrom/Rafalski/Kronwall/Stuart here. What a tough, tough call to make.”
This will raise red flags all over Chicago. “You mean to tell me the Hawks could have dumped that piece of garbage at the deadline and didn’t?” Let’s hold that emotional response for a moment…
Note that Friedman says the Hawks would have to part ways with “at least a first-rounder and an established player” to make the deal happen. The gamble of GM Stan Bowman is not only dealing with Huet’s contract moving forward, but those two other crucial pieces to the deal.
The reality for Blackhawks fans is that there are players on the NHL roster right now that won’t be in Chicago next year. We’ve discussed it; Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Dustin Byfuglien and others might be wearing a different sweater on Opening Night next year. If the Hawks are going to be in a tight financial situation next year and in the future, the replacement for players like Versteeg, Sharp and Byfuglien are going to need to come from within the organization. But players like these don’t magically show up in August with a gym bag looking for a contract; draft picks, especially high ones, are critical to the Hawks sustaining any success.
The second piece of this gamble is the on-ice cost of dumping Huet. Friedman doesn’t speculate what the Hawks would have received in return for Huet, but what if they weren’t receiving an NHL player in return? If the Hawks’ current playoff outlook is questionable with Huet and Antti Niemi, how much more/less comfortable would you be with Niemi and Corey Crawford as the only netminders ont he roster?
Furthermore, what if the roster player had to be Sharp? Versteeg has struggled with consistency this year, and Byfuglien as hot/cold as anyone on the roster. While Byfuglien’s presence in front of the net was a big part of last year’s success, it’s clear that the player of these three that the Hawks could least afford to be without moving forward is Sharp. Whether it’s his ability to be an effective center or quality play at the point on the power play, Sharp has a big role in the Hawks’ rotation.
Moving Sharp and Huet would have actually hurt the Hawks’ depth.
The other consideration to make is that, if a team was willing to take Huet’s contract now, what are the odds that there will be an available partner to move his contract this summer? As the draft draws near, the Hawks will have to make decisions about current NHL players that will be restricted free agents (Andrew Ladd) and will also have a better grasp of the value of their first round pick. There is still potential for a move to happen that clears the cap space.
This is an interesting piece of information from Friedman, but needs to be digested with a grain of salt.