Analysis: Khabibulin’s days are numbered with Huet signing

There must be a second part to this move.

The Chicago Blackhawks signed goaltender Cristobal Huet to a deal worth $5.625 million per season for four years, THN has learned.

Now, the Hawks still have No. 1 goalie Nikolai Khabibulin on the books for a very cap-unfriendly $6.75 million next year, so something’s gotta give here.

Not only do the Hawks now have quite a lot of cash tied up in goaltenders, but the funny thing about that position is you can only have one on the ice at any given time and most starting netminders tend to want to be out there as much as possible.

Khabibulin is no spring chicken at 35 years of age, but he still has some good hockey in him. He posted his best goals-against average since the lockout this year with a 2.63 mark and earned his first season with more wins than losses (23-20-6) in Chicago.

Huet is coming off a spectacular post-trade deadline run with the Caps, where he proved he can hold down the fort on a team whose young offensive spirit often created delicious scoring opportunities for the other team. This bodes well for a Chicago team whose defense corps is talented, but still pretty young.

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But only one of these fine gentlemen can play 50-plus games next year. Perhaps this is paving the way for Khabibulin’s exit from the Windy City.

With Colorado inexplicably going with a Peter Budaj-Andrew Raycroft platoon next year, there aren’t a whole lot of teams who can swallow Khabibulin’s contract who need starting goaltending. If Buffalo thinks they’ll lose Ryan Miller next season, that would be an option, but most rebuilding teams (Kings, Lightning, Coyotes, etc.) already have young keepers whom they are quite fond of.

Huet is a great fit in Chicago. The Hawks are putting together a solid combination of youth and skill in both the forward and defense units and the French national is at the top of his game. The question that remains then, is can Chicago benefit from this crowded crease through a trade?