A few days ago the Caps said ‘goodbye’ to Cristobal Huet (and Olie Kolzig, sort of) and ‘hello’ to Jose Theodore.
This has sparked plenty of debate, from the negotiations with Huet to the abilities of the goalies to whether the Caps have moved forward or backward in net.
Huet was great for the Caps, but are those couple of weeks when he and the home team were unbeatable clouding the judgment of those who felt Huet’s return — and only that — could keep Washington on its path with Stanley Cup contention?
Theodore has been great in the past, including as recently as the second half of last season and the first round of the playoffs. But he’s also been inconsistent at best since the lockout, save for a couple of months last year.
Brian Costello from The Hockey News isn’t sold on Huet as a savior and he makes a pretty convincing argument. I don’t think anyone should be sold on Theodore as one either, but there wasn’t one available and the Caps weren’t really in the market for one anyway. With GM George McPhee trying to get the band back together, the Caps offense should be one of the league’s best next season.
Washington probably won’t need elite goaltending to make the playoffs. What the Caps will need is consistent and steady goaltending to make the playoffs (and then a hot goalie in the postseason, but that’s not really news for any team).
As for the long-term impact, part of the deal for the Caps is tied with their young goaltenders. Should Michal Neuvirth or Simeon Varlamov (both of whom will be on display this coming week at K-Plex) develop into an elite NHL goaltender, all of this will soon be forgotten and McPhee will look pretty smart. If not, he (or if things go terribly awry the next years, someone else) will have another chance to land a savior in net in a couple of years.
One thing to consider though is the money. Here is a list of the highest cap hits for goaltenders for next season:
1. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR, $6,875,000
2. Roberto Luongo, VAN, $6,750,000
2. Nikolai Khabibulin, CHI, $6,750,000
4. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, ANA, $6,000,000
5. Mikka Kiprusoff, CAL, $5,833,333
6. Marty Turco, DAL, $5,700,000
6. Tomas Vokoun, FLA, $5,700,000
8. CRISTOBAL HUET, CHI, $5,625,000
9. Evgeni Nabakov, SJ, $5,375,000
10. Martin Brodeur, NJ, $5,200,000
11. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT, $5,000,000
12. Rick DiPietro, NYI, $4,500,000
12. JOSE THEODORE, WAS, $4,500,000
14. Manny Fernandez, BOS, $4,333,333
15. Ilya Bryzgalov, PHO, $4,250,000
16. Vesa Toskala, TOR, $4,000,000
17. Martin Gerber, OTT, $3,700,000
18. Dwayne Roloson, EDM, $3,666,667
19. Martin Biron, PHI, $3,500,000
20. Niklas Backstrom, MIN, $3,100,000
NOTE: Backstrom and especially Buffalo’s Ryan Miller will be toward the top of this list by July 2, 2009
So is Huet the eighth-best goalie in the league — or in the top 10-12 when factoring in some younger guys who haven’t hit the big payday yet? Costello doesn’t think so, and there is plenty of evidence to back him up. Is Theodore right around the middle of the pack? That certainly seems like a salary a little more in line with his present value, and don’t forget Huet will still be making that much money as he approaches his 37th birthday.