Rinkwrap: Hawks paying price for Huet

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 PM ET

The Chicago Blackhawks will have to take a long, hard look at their goaltending at the end of the season.

By sticking with the overpaid, underachieving Cristobal Huet at the deadline, GM Stan Bowman faces a big problem trying to fit all the pieces of his club under next seasonís salary cap.

Not only do the Hawks have Huet under contract for two more years at an average of $5.625 million (all terms US), they will try to find a way to sign Antti Niemi, who has taken over as their No. 1 goaltender.

Niemi ó making $827,000 this season ó can become a restricted free agent July 1 and go to arbitration, where he would likely be awarded $1.75-$2.25 million.

The Hawks are already hard up against the cap next season, with just 14 players under contract for a total hit of $57.5 million.

Theyíll have to do something with Huet.

The belief is the Hawks will either buy out Huetís contract or assign him to the clubís AHL affiliate in Rockford to get his salary off the books. Neither option is attractive, but Bowmanís hands are tied by all those contracts.

Hard to believe NHL teams put themselves in this position.

Off the glass

Two shot-blockers who could be interesting to watch on the market this summer: Phoenix D Zbynek Michalek and Ottawa D Anton Volchenkov. Both are valuable and could get a lot if they hit the open market as UFAs. The price for a shot-blocking, stay-at-home blueliner is $4-$4.5 million. The Senators want to keep Volchenkov and are trying to structure a deal to keep him in Ottawa, but thereís not much chance Michalek will return to the Coyotes ... Itís believed the Ducks gave RW Teemu Selanne the option of moving at the deadline. However, he wanted to stay in Anaheim. A couple of teams looking for a scoring forward ó including the Los Angeles Kings ó spoke with Anaheim GM Bob Murray about acquiring the 39-year-old Selanne ... There was mild interest in Dallas C Mike Modano as a rental, but he wouldnít waive his no-movement clause.

Around the boards

The Bruins can open contract talks with D Zdeno Chara on July 1 and GM Peter Chiarelli likely will. Chara is scheduled to become a UFA in 2011, but the Bruins wonít let him walk away. Chara, who carries a $7.5-million cap hit, is still one of the top-five defencemen in the NHL ... The Oilers will move D Sheldon Souray and his $5.4-million cap hit this summer. While there was talk Souray would only accept a deal to the West Coast, his no-movement clause expires July 1. After that, the Oilers are free to trade Souray wherever they want in the final two years of his contract. The Rangers will make a pitch. They always do ... The Canadiens didnít do anything with their goaltenders at the deadline, although GM Pierre Gauthier took more than one phone call about Jaroslav Halak. Gauthier told interested teams he wasnít willing to move the 24-year-old Halak at the time, but the Habs will welcome more calls before the draft in June ... The Predators decided to keep G Dan Ellis, but they fielded plenty of calls. Expect Ellis, a looming UFA, to find a new home next season.

Sergei Gone-char?

The Pittsburgh Penguins are getting nowhere in negotiations with looming UFA D Sergei Gonchar. He could easily walk away from the club on July 1. The Penguins would like to keep the 35-year-old in the fold, but talks between GM Ray Shero and agent J.P. Barry have been fruitless. That means the veteran blueliner could be headed to market, where heíd have plenty of suitors. With a $5-million cap hit this season, indications are Gonchar could easily score $6-$7 million on the open market. The Penguins donít want to pay that kind of money and are hoping to convince Gonchar to take a hometown discount for a shot at another Stanley Cup. Gonchar, the NHLís highest goal-scoring defenceman over the past decade and second only to Nicklas Lidstrom in points, will almost certainly also get big-money offers in the KHL. But he might not be ready to return to Russia and would rather stay in the NHL. The Penguins have the cap room to keep Gonchar with only $41 million committed next season, but Shero will have to work hard to get a deal done.

Oilers await Jagr

All they have to do in Edmonton is hang the No. 68 sweater in Jaromir Jagrís stall. The Oilers are fully expecting the 38-year-old to leave Omsk Avangard of the KHL this summer and sign as a UFA two seasons removed from the NHL. Edmonton scouts attended the Olympics to get a close look at Jagr. He would be welcomed back to the New York Rangers anytime, but Jagr has a close relationship with Oilers associate coach Tom Renney from their days on Broadway. The reunion makes sense and Jagr wants one more shot in the NHL. But some believe itís a risky move. ďI just donít know about Jagr. I understand why (the Oilers) want to make the move, Iím just not sure they should do it. Iím not sure if there is any gas left in that tank,Ē said one league executive

Have a nice Sunday.


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