- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When the Stanley Cup playoffs are completed, the draft comes and goes and the Washington Capitals gear up for free agency, Priority A will be goaltender Cristobal Huet, who turned away 31 shots in the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

Huet, acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline, established himself as a franchise-quality goalie down the stretch, thus raising his asking price when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

We’ll see, he said. It’s too early to talk about that, but we’ll definitely talk with Washington.

Huet earned $2.75 million this season and is likely to double his yearly salary as part of a four- or five-year contract.

I think I played well and helped the team when needed, and the team played extremely well through the two and a half months, he said. It was much easier for me because of them. The only time I thought I could have played better was Game 1 and Game 3. It was that close.

Before Joffrey Lupul’s game-winner in overtime, Huet allowed Scottie Upshall to tie the game late in the first period when a slap shot from the right circle squirted through Huet’s pads.

I never saw the puck coming, Huet said. I tried to cover as much of the net as I could, and maybe I had my legs a little too wide.

The second goal was a controversial call. On a rush, the Flyers’ Patrick Thoresen barreled Shaone Morrisonn into Huet, who went flying out of position. Before Huet could get off the ice, Sami Kapanen had scored.

I think it could have definitely been a penalty, Huet said. [Morrisonn] was definitely pushed into me, but things even up in the end. I tried to get up in case the play was still alive, but I saw their arms in the air, and that wasn’t a good sign.

No more Fedorov?

The loss also might be the last game in a Caps uniform for Sergei Fedorov, who is also an unrestricted free agent. Washington acquired Fedorov from Columbus at the trade deadline for prospect Theo Ruth, a second-round pick in the 2007 draft.

I think I’ll leave those questions to the summertime, Fedorov said. We’ll see what is going on.

Fedorov proved a valuable pickup, both on the ice and off. He helped offset the loss of Michael Nylander to shoulder surgery and appeared rejuvenated because he played on a contending team after a couple of disappointing years in Columbus.

The 38-year-old assisted on Nicklas Backstrom’s first-period goal to give him one goal and five points in the series. His contributions in the dressing room, however, may resonate for years to come.

I think being part of this organization for the last five or six weeks has been quite an exciting run, Fedorov said. I consider myself lucky to be traded to this sort of hot commodity like the Washington Capitals and be part of this exciting time.

Leonsis proud of effort

Capitals owner Ted Leonsis doesn’t expect the Capitals to change much this offseason.

You have to let the emotion drain out, and then a month or so from now, you sit down and ask, ‘What did we do well? Where can we improve?’ And what [general manager] George [McPhee] and the coach think we should be doing, he said. We’re not changing the plan. We have a plan that’s working and has worked so it should be an easier offseason, there’s not that many holes. There are a couple guys we’ll keep and re-sign.

I’m disappointed for the fans and the players who worked so hard. I was disappointed we lost with a man in the penalty box. I’m sure if the roles were reversed, they would be feeling the same thing. They have a great team, and they have a great power play. The key for success was staying out of the box, and in overtime we were the ones in the box, and then anything can happen in overtime.

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