Carey "The Puck Stops Here" Price. (THE GAZETTE/John Mahoney)
From the comments here on Inside/Out, it was obvious that some fans were happy with the Huet trade, while some were sad and disheartened, but mainly it seemed that people were surprised – and even mildly confused – that Montreal’s Number One netminder had been moved to the Washington Capitals. You can count me among that perplexed majority.
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone and I’m still holding my breath. When I learned that netminder Cristobal Huet had been traded to the Washington Capitals (for a 2009 2nd round draft pick) I was, to say the least, shocked. Huet has been a solid puckstopper and a consummate team player. His presence will be missed. I have, however, tremendous faith in GM Bob Gainey. I figured that the move would be for the best and also that the Canadiens would be very busy before Tuesday’s 3:00 P.M. deadline.
So, like everyone else, I waited.
The clocks on all the sports networks ticked down steadily – sometimes faster, and sometimes slower – than I would have liked. As it became clear that Pittsburgh’s GM, Ray Shero, had negotiated a true deadline buzzer-beater and snatched Marian Hossa away from the grasping hands of Gainey and others; that Ollie Jokinen would see another sunrise in Sunrise; that Brad Richards, Brian Campbell, Sergei Federov, had all been traded to teams other than the Canadiens; that Jared Stoll, Jeff Carter, Bobby Holik, Chris Gratton were staying put on their respective teams; and that Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash and Marion Gaborik weren’t all coming to the Habs in a surprise deal – I felt oddly unsatisfied. I say oddly because prior to the deadline I wasn’t in favour of any potential big moves involving the Canadiens. Acquiring a big, strong, face-off winning center for a draft pick was about as exciting as I was willing to get. After Huet was traded, however, I started to hope that something good was coming back to the Habs. But nothing did.
I guess that in the end this is an example of addition by subtraction. I’ve been a fan of Carey Price since the day that the Habs drafted him and I believe that he will be a franchise goaltender. I’ve been a fan of Jaroslav Halak since watching him play for the Canadiens last year and I believe that he can be a Number 1 netminder. Now they will both get a chance to prove themselves. Price will be pushed because the spotlight is focused squarely on him. Halak will get the chance to show that his strong performance last year in the NHL and his excellence in the AHL over the past two seasons was no fluke. The Habs’ forwards will get the chance to show that they can score – and that they can win – without an "impact" player. Hopefully this team can play strong, consistent hockey and show everyone why Bob Gainey has such faith in them.
I guess my "worst-case scenario" concerning the Montreal goaltending situation isn’t likely to happen. With Halak getting a chance to play in the NHL, even as a back-up, he probably won’t bolt to Russia in the off-season. Hopefully we can see a Price/Halak tandem for years to come.
The Washington Capitals made some decent acquisitions on deadline day picking up Matte Cooke, Sergei Federov, and, of course, Huet. The Capitals are hoping to make a push and sneak into the playoffs. They could grab the 8th spot, or if they surpass Carolina and grab the lead in the weak SouthEast Division, they could theoretically place 3rd in the East. While the race is very tight right now, Montreal could very easily finish in the sixth spot. A Montreal-Washington matchup in the first round? That would be interesting.