Chicago Blackhawks' Offseason Agenda: The Goaltending

Michael WagnerSenior Analyst IJune 19, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 27:  Cristobal Huet #38 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks back behind the net against the Detroit Red Wings during Game Five of the Western Conference Championship Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 27, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

*Third and final piece of a three part series of the Chicago Blackhawks offseason agenda*

In my final preview of the Chicago Blackhawks offseason I will focus on the Chicago Blackhawks goaltending situation and who will have the inside edge to back up incumbent starter Cristobal Huet.

Goaltenders Currently Under Contract

Cristobal Huet

Joseph Fallon (ECHL/AHL)

At this point in time the Chicago Blackhawks are now Cristobal Huet's team and unless he is traded or general manager Dale Tallon decides to invest another 12 million dollars on goaltenders this offseason.

Huet did struggle at times for the 'Hawks but still managed 20 win and a goals allowed average of 2.53. If Huet can get more consistent starts next season, rather than starting every other game then I believe the 'Hawks will now have any major problem with their goaltending.

Joseph Fallon does not figure to be with the Blackhawks next season but depending on who Cristobal Huet's back up is could determine where he is playing next season.

If the 'Hawks look to add a veteran goaltender to back up Huet then it is likely Fallon will be playing in the ECHL but if one of the 'Hawks goaltending prospects is to back up Huet then Fallon will be playing for the Ice Hogs in the AHL.

Restricted Free Agents (Goaltenders)

Antti Niemi

Corey Crawford

Niemi and Crawford were the goaltending tandem for the Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate and both enjoyed very productive seasons. Crawford had the most starts of the two in Rockford this season with 45 and was a respectable 22-20-3 with a goals allowed average of 2.59 and save percentage of .917.

Niemi may not of had as many starts but that could be attributed to the amount of time he was with the Blackhawks this season but in the 35 games that Niemi started he was 18-14-3 with a goals allowed average of 2.43 and a save percentage of .913.

Both Niemi and Crawford figure to fight for a spot in the NHL next season behind the incumbent Huet and I would imagine that the 'Hawks will look to keep them especially since they will not require huge salary hikes. Look for the 'Hawks to retain both Niemi and Crawford.

Unrestricted Free Agents (Goaltenders)

Nikolai Khabibulin

And now we reach the part of the article that everyone is curious about, will the Chicago Blackhawks resign Nikolai Khabibulin and I would have to imagine the answer to that question is no.

Khabibulin had a tremendous season for the Blackhawks and was a rock in the playoffs but Khabibulin will be 37 midway through next season and will likely be looking to make some money on what will likely be his final contract as an NHLer.

The fact of the matter is Dale Tallon made a mistake in signing Cristobal Huet while Khabibulin was still on the book, this mistake will likely not be made again but I suppose stranger things have happened.

Free Agent Targets

Mathieu Garon

Ty Conklin

Craig Anderson

Although I imagine the Blackhawks will be content with their goaltending situation, if both Niemi and Crawford signed, it is possible that they might target an inexpensive veteran net-minder to back up Huet.

All three of the players that I have listed have starting experience and will not require an expensive pay check.

Last season Blackhawks fans were shocked when Cristobal Huet was signed but this offseason Blackhawks fans will not likely have to worry about another surprise signing. However Dale Tallon does like to keep us on our feet.