NHL Free Agency: Will Cristobal Huet Find an NHL Team?
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Is there a place in the NHL for a goalie who establishes a name for himself, then goes through difficult times and is forced to play in Europe for a couple of years to re-establish himself?
Cristobal Huet, 37, certainly hoped that was the case during the summer.
He had basically played himself out of the NHL in the 2009-10 season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
He had been Chicago's No. 1 goalie in a year they would go on to win the Stanley Cup, but he somehow lost his technique and confidence. Huet was 26-14-4 that year with a 2.50 goals against average.
Those are bare-minimum numbers with a team as good as the Hawks were that season. However, he was done in by an .895 save percentage.
Neither head coach Joel Quenneville nor general manager Stan Bowman could live with that. After a series of poor performances late in the season, Huet was shunted to the bench and the Blackhawks let Antti Niemi take over as the No. 1 goalie. He led them to their first Stanley Cup since 1961.
The Blackhawks knew that Huet was no longer in their future, but he had two years remaining on a $22.4 million deal. No other NHL team wanted to work a trade for him.
The Blackhawks eventually "loaned" Huet to HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National "A" League. He had an ordinary performance in 2010-11, recording a 2.83 GAA and a .919 save percentage. However, he was much better last year, improving his GAA to 1.99 and his save percentage to .932.
Huet made it known during the summer that he wanted to return to the NHL. He seemed to be interested in a prominent backup role if he could have gotten an offer.
A four-year contract with the Swiss team would seem to take him out of the NHL mix. However, if Huet can get back in the form he had in 2011-12 and an NHL team runs into goaltending problems due to injury or poor performance, Huet could get that phone call that signals a return to the NHL is a legitimate possibility.
He would need to demonstrate consistency and get approval from Lausanne, but the NHL would come calling if there was the belief that he could help.
Huet is not on his way back to the NHL just yet, but it remains a possibility.
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