We’ve had some discussion about the Oilers’ goaltending situation over the past couple of days. I’ve advocated a two-goalie tandem system, but despite that I’m convinced that most fans would prefer to see one bona fide starter. Based on how Craig MacTavish has used his starters in seasons past, I’d guess that he feels the same way. Kevin Lowe has generally employed one starter as a general manager, and during most of Tambellini’s tenure in Vancouver the Canucks did the same thing.
The difficulty of course is finding a goaltender who is both capable and available; an order that’s often difficult to fill. However, there’s a good chance that at least one candidate will be available this summer: Cristobal Huet.
According to Pierre Lebrun, one of the most connected journalists in hockey, Nikolai Khabibulin is interested in staying in Chicago and the Blackhawks are interested in keeping him there. That fits with recent comments from Joel Quenneville indicating that Khabibulin is his preferred option down the stretch and into the playoffs. The situation which raises an interesting dilemma: what would the Hawks do with Cristobal Huet?
Huet, you’ll recall, was signed to a long-term 5.625-million per season contract this past summer. He was signed because Nikolai Khabibulin had proven unreliable after the Blackhawks snatched him from Tampa Bay, but he’s fallen out of favour after a subpar season. I think the Hawks would be mistaken to prefer Khabibulin to Huet, but hockey is a “what have you done for me lately” sport, so there’s little reason to doubt LeBrun’s report.
Huet’s .910 SV% this season is his worst number since the NHL lockout – he’s consistently been one of the better goaltenders in the NHL, posting .920, .916 and .929 save percentages since the lockout (just for the sake of contrast, Nikolai Khabibulin’s current save percentage (.919) is his best mark since 2001-02). He’s signed long-term to a pricey but not outrageous contract, and he would be a long-term solution in net.
The Blackhawks would need to be willing to take on some salary in return, but here again the Oilers would seem to be a legitimate partner – this is complete speculation on my part, but wouldn’t it make sense for the Oilers to take Huet off the Blackhawk’s hands if they in turn were willing to take on the cheaper contract of Dustin Penner?