Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee certainly doesn't expect a defensive letdown now that former goalie Cristobal Huet has signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In fact, McPhee is confident that 31-year-old goalie Jose Theodore, who he signed to a two-year deal on Tuesday, will prove to be just as effective between the pipes.
"(Jose) is really excited to be coming to Washington," McPhee said. "He likes our team and was excited to watch our team during the playoffs. He told me he'll be in great shape entering camp and we're excited to have him as part of the team. We were actually interested in Jose last year at the trade deadline, but Colorado didn't have any interest in moving him.
"We feel we picked up a goalie every bit as good (as Huet) and we're not going to get emotional about these things," he continued. "(Theodore) played well last year and we expect him to play well this season. I'm happy with the way the (first) day went down for us in free agency. In my mind, Huet was out the door and we acquired a guy who is a very talented goalie."
McPhee made every attempt to re-sign Huet, an unrestricted free agent, who joined the Caps in a Feb. 26 trade with the Montreal Canadiens. Huet posted an 11-2 record down the stretch to help the Caps garner the Southeast Division title. The Capitals did meet the asking price of Huet and his agent before free agency began Tuesday. As it turned out, Huet elected to accept a contract offer from the Blackhawks. In the playoffs, Huet was 3-4 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .909 save percentage as the Capitals dropped a seven-game series to the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round of the playoffs.
"The process with Cristobal was a long one and we basically matched their request and still couldn't get anything done before we got to free agency," McPhee admitted. "We started the day after the season and offered three years at $3.7 million and they responded a month later with three years at $5 million.
"In the end, we agreed to do three years at $5 million but they said they were going to check out free agency," he said. "I understand it's a player's right to do that, but it got to the point where the term was getting too long and number to high and we wanted to be pragmatic about this and do the right thing for the hockey club, short- and long-term. We were able to get Jose, who we think is every bit as good a goalie for a two-year term and less money."
During his career in the NHL, Theodore has posted a 183-197-40 record with 26 shutouts, a 2.65 GAA and .909 save percentage. He is 19-26 with a shutout, a 2.76 GAA and .915 save percentage lifetime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was 6-1 in shootouts last season, and is 9-2 lifetime in shootouts.
Theodore started 20 of the Avalanche's final 21 games in 2007-08 and helped the club earn a Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the process. His 2.24 GAA after Jan. 1 was the fifth-best in the League during that span. Overall, Theodore was 28-21-3 with three shutouts, a 2.44 GAA and .910 save percentage last season.
"You have to be careful when signing goalies," McPhee said. "If you sign a player to play on your first line and you pay him a lot of money and it's not working out, sometimes you can get away with dropping him down to the third or fourth line. But if you make mistakes on goalies, you can't play them, so they're sitting on the bench and then you're not getting anything out of them.
"We've got good young goalies and a good veteran now (Theodore). It's a nice situation to have. We're expecting Jose to play well and that a few of these young goalies will eventually be ready to go. I feel this is aligned pretty well right now."
-- George McPhee, Capitals GM
"If you've got a top-five goalie and are willing to do a long-term deal for big money, that probably makes sense, but any of the other goalies you must be sharp and prudent and try and construct short-term deals. This way, if it's not working out, you can get out of it and if it is working out, you can always renew the contract."
In the last five Entry Drafts, Washington has chosen goaltenders Justin Mrazek (eighth round in 2004), Daren Machesney (fifth round in 2005), Simeon Varlamov (first round in 2006), Michal Neuvirth (second round in 2006), Dan Dunn (sixth round in 2007) and Braden Holtby (fourth round in 2008). Additionally, 31-year-old goalie Brent Johnson, who finished 7-8-2 with a 2.67 GAA and .908 save percentage in 19 appearances with Washington last season, is also in the fold.
"At some point, one of these goalies will be ready to play," McPhee said. "We've got good young goalies and a good veteran now (Theodore). It's a nice situation to have. We're expecting Jose to play well and that a few of these young goalies will eventually be ready to go. I feel this is aligned pretty well right now."
McPhee was also ecstatic to have re-signed third-season defenseman Mike Green to a four-year extension on Tuesday.
"Mike Green is one of the best young players in this game right now," McPhee said. "It's really hard to find a right-handed defenseman, especially right-handed defenseman with the abilities of this player. He's really dynamic and when you draft and develop your young players, you want to hang onto them. We've always said that we want to sign and hang on to our own young players. We expect to be in this position where one day you draft a player, then develop him and then are put in a position to keep them."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.