Cristobal Huet's agent eyes new team
Stephen Bartlett is too busy trying to find a new team for Huet. The Hawks are expected to move Huet to the minors or to Europe in order to get his contract -- $5.6 million per year for the next two seasons -- off the books. The Stanley Cup champs, who have moved several players as they battle salary cap constraints, would still have to pay Huet.
"We're somewhat handcuffed by a system that gives us very few options," Bartlett said. "You've seen the dismantling of the Stanley Cup-winning team, not just Cristobal.
"They don't see him as being their starter, therefore he's too expensive. It used to be more flexible where one team was able to pay part of the salary."
Bartlett was thankful to Chicago general manager Stan Bowman for allowing him to pursue various possibilities.
After walking away Monday from free agent Antti Niemi, who was the starting goalie for the latter part of the season and the playoffs, because his arbitration number was too high, the Hawks signed Marty Turco to a one-year deal to start in net. Corey Crawford will back up Turco.
"I talked to Stan briefly the other day before he was heading to Europe," Bartlett said. "We committed to each other to do our best to find a solution in the best interest of everybody.
"It's a difficult situation."
Huet's hometown is St. Martin D'heres, France, and Bartlett said he would assume Huet would rather play in Europe than in the minors, if those were the only options.
"I can't speak for Cristobal, but I would speculate Europe would be more appealing, because both he and his wife are Europeans," Bartlett said. "They have family there, and what not.
"If the alternatives are the AHL or playing back in Switzerland, where he has some history, I would imagine he would prefer Europe."
Bartlett said the Hawks haven't pressured him to act urgently.
"Chicago has to get under the cap before the start of the regular season, and I'm sure they targeted him as someone who won't count against the cap," he said. "I don't think there will be undue pressure before training camp.
"They can send him to the minors at any time, and I'm appreciative of the fact they're working with us. They've given me carte blanche to talk to other teams to see if we can find a solution that works best for everybody. They've been very cooperative."
Bartlett is realistic about his client's chance to stay in the NHL.
"It almost becomes a case that for him to remain in the NHL, there has to be a combination of either someone getting hurt or something unusual happening, opening the door," he said. "Short of that, you have to suck it up and find an alternative outside of the league."
Huet was 26-14-4 for Chicago with a 2.50 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.
"It's been very difficult for him, but I give extremely high marks to Cristobal," Bartlett said. "It was difficult for him throughout last season [losing his starting role to Niemi], but he was the consummate team guy. He never brought any disappointment to the locker room. He's a character guy. I think Stan and the Blackhawks would reiterate what a terrific guy he is."