Windy City windfall

July 1. Let the dealing begin.

And the Chicago Blackhawks dove in feet first.

The NHL's free agency period officially got under way today, and there were some surprises - Jose Theodore to Washington? Erik Cole leaving Carolina for Edmonton's Joni Pitkanen? Wondering which team will overpay for Mats Sundin?

And then there was this: The Blackhawks signed goaltender Cristobal Huet. And later in the day, they announced Brian Campbell - one of the league's top offensive defensemen last season - is leaving the San Jose Sharks to join the 'Hawks.

Seems they're really serious about ending that playoff drought in Chicago.

Last season, Huet was 21-12-6 with a 2.55 goals-against average in 39 games with the Montreal Canadiens, who dealt Huet to Washington at the trading deadline in order to hand the starting job to highly-touted Carey Price.

With the Caps, Huet went 11-2-0 with a 1.63 GAA, helping them to the Southeast title. Not bad considering Washington was one of the worst teams in the NHL at the start of last season, and fired Glen Hanlon at Thanksgiving for AHL coach Bruce Boudreau.

Huet was 3-4 with a 2.93 GAA in the postseason for the Caps, who lost in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to the lower-seeded Philadelphia Flyers.

Huet wore No. 38 with the Capitals after donning No. 39 with the Canadiens. In Chicago, Nikolai Khabibulin wears 39, but perhaps not much longer. With Huet on board and Corey Crawford and Finnish netminder Antti "Fear The" Niemi (nod to STATS' Jeff Mezydlo) up in Rockford, it would stand to reason that the 'Bulin Wall's days in the Midwest are numbered.

The issue is Khabibulin is due $6.75 million this season, the last of a four-year, $27 million contract. he was 23-20-6 with a 2.63 GAA, but 9-14-2 with a 3.80 GAA when allowing at least three goals.

Heading into his 13th season, Khabibulin's best days as a starter may be behind him at 35. I just don't see too many teams willing to pay nearly $7 million for a backup.

With Campbell, the Blackhawks' defense - already strong with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brent Sopel - has just gotten better. Campbell was dealt to San Jose by the Buffalo Sabres at the trading deadline for underachieving Steve Bernier and a draft pick.

Campbell finished tied with Montreal's Mark Streit for third in the league with 62 points, trailing Sergei Gonchar of the Pittsburgh Penguins and six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom of the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

And this is only the first day of free agency. Let's see what unfolds.

Some random thoughts ... Curtis Joseph back to the Toronto Maple Leafs as Vesa Toskala's backup? Do they still make Geritol, and can it be bought at Tim Horton's? ... Gurnee, Ill.-based blogstatician Chris Altruda e-mailed to ask in what bizarro universe Bryce Salvador - eight season, 63 points, 424 penalty minutes - is worth $2.9 million PER FUCKING YEAR?!?!?! (yes, that's verbatim) ... How long before Colorado Avalanche fans turn on Andrew Raycroft. I say they start booing the second coming of Jim Carey around Thanksgiving. ... With Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston back with the New Jersey Devils, can Pat Burns be coming back behind the bench?

1 comment:

The Girl in Black said...

It's Canada Day, and you have a new hockey post. My job as inspirational muse is complete. Thought my blog pic might perk ya up a bit.

Hoser, back atcha

Word verification: fexnmen -- my thoughts exactly!