Considering that 30-year-old goaltender Cristobal Huet will become an Unrestricted Free Agent this summer, many are wondering if the latest Habs hero will be back in the bleu-blanc-rouge next season.
Both Huet and the Habs have decided to wait until this season’s end before beginning contract negotiations. With all of the teams’ attention on making the playoffs right now, it’s a rather smart and obvious move.
My guess is that if the France native does not break down completely any time between now and the end of the playoffs, I do believe GM Bob Gainey will resign him.
The way the fans have come to worship Huet, I do believe he’ll want another shot at hearing the roar of the crowd chant his name again next season. Lucky for Habs fans, the best place for that kind of spectacle to happen, is well, here in Montreal.
However, the fact that Huet has become a fan favorite only helps his side of negotiations. Although his play has been stellar this season, posting 6 shutouts, a .931 GAA, and 2.13 save percentage in 31 games this season (prior to the 1/4/2006 game vs Boston), he has only played a total of 84 games in the NHL.
There is a chance that Huet is the real deal, much like the late-bloomer Miikka Kiprusoff has proven to be, but don’t expect Gainey to sign him to a wealthy, long-term deal just yet. Gainey will most likely be looking to sign Huet to a 1-year deal much like the contracts that Ryder and Ribeiro signed last off-season. This would give Huet a chance to prove himself to the organization as well as play for a much more lucrative contract should he live up to expectations.
I figure that Huet’s contract would have a base salary should be somewhere between $1M and $1.5M. On top of that there would be performance bonuses offered to make the deal much more appealing for Huet. Then again, it’s Bob Gainey we’re dealing with here, and anything can happen.
Were this gets interesting, should Huet sign with the Habs, is who will be the back-up next season? One has to think that management would like to see Yann Danis joining the big club permanently next season. Danis, however, would most likely get to see a respectable amount of games should he crack the team as it would be critical to his development.
In the 6 games he saw action in this season, Danis went 3-2-0 while posting 1 shutout, a .908 save percentage, with a 2.69 goals against average. Meanwhile, he appeared in 35 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs this season going 14-16-3 while putting up a .901 save %, with a 2.97 GAA. Although Danis’ numbers aren’t anything special, he has been playing on one of the AHL’s worst teams. The Bulldogs have 7 games left in their season.
All this does leave one person out: David Aebischer. In the 3 games Aebischer has played for the Habs thus far, he has been far from good, allowing at least 5 goals each game. Aebischer is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and unless he proves his worth, don’t be surprised to see Aebischer the odd man out. However, if management decides to keep him around complimented with a Huet signing, expect to see Yann Danis start the season in Hamilton.
One has to wonder if Gainey would simply let Aebischer walk away after he traded goaltender Jose Theodore to get him. Though, the deal did seem like a last resort salary dump of a goalie who may never really regain his form under the pressures that Montreal brings.