Cristobal Huet to Swiss League: Why It's an Intriguing Move

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IAugust 23, 2010

Does Swiss cheese have a five-hole?
Does Swiss cheese have a five-hole?Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

News is floating around that Chicago Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet will sign with a Swiss League team in the near future, and will leave North America.

The immediate impact on the Blackhawks will be enormous, but it's an assumed transaction. Huet's salary cap number, $5.625 million, will be off the books while he's loaned to the Swiss team. He wasn't going to be on the Hawks' NHL roster this year anyway, so where he plays has little impact on the Blackhawks.

The small impact on the Hawks' future, though, is that whichever backup between Hannu Toivonen and Corey Crawford doesn't make the NHL will not have to fight Huet for minutes in Rockford this year. This could provide the team's scouts with important time to see what they have in Toivonen or other young netminders, with new starter Marty Turco under a one-year deal.

What's more fascinating about this move is that Huet is finding a new home before Antti Niemi.

Niemi's agent, Bill Zito, gambled and lost in arbitration this summer, and is still trying to find a team somewhere in the world to pay his client. Niemi maintains that he wants to be in the NHL, but there doesn't appear to be a roster spot (or salary space) to fit him into the league.

If there was, one would have to imagine that a 27-year-old goalie coming off a Stanley Cup victory would have a job in late August.

The fact that a Swiss team was willing to jump on Huet's abilities means one of two things is true about Niemi: He's really holding out for a NHL roster, or his agent is holding out for too much money for everyone.

Niemi was special in net for the Blackhawks last season, accomplishing what names like Tony Esposito, Ed Belfour, and Domenik Hasek could not in Chicago. But when dollars make more sense than logic, sometimes good players lose. It appears, with Huet finding a new home, that Niemi is the biggest loser of the summer.