The Blackhawks were expected to make a splash in free agency on July 1, but even many hockey “experts” were surprised by the first major move GM Dale Tallon made that day:
|Cristobal Huet is introduced to the Chicago media at his press conference in July.
signing goaltender Cristobal Huet to a four-year deal.
What was most surprising about the move was that the Hawks already had a big-money goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, under contract for the year. With Huet’s addition, Chicago's netminders now comprise the most expensive, goaltending duo in the league.
“Obviously when these things happen, it’s kind of surprising,” said Khabibulin. “I wear a Blackhawk on my chest and that’s all I care about right now.”
Although both Tallon and head coach Denis Savard have often said that the goalie tandem will be among the NHL’s best, both goaltenders are aware that there is only so much game time to go around; one highly-paid goaltender is going to be on the bench every game. But that doesn’t bother either goalie, both of whom say they are up to the challenge.
“We’re going to compete for ice time and get the job done,” said Huet. “As long as we get some wins, I think that’s what matters most. It’s the coach’s decision about who is going to play and you’re going to have to work for your ice time”
“Every year’s a challenge, every game’s a challenge. This is another one. I think it’s going to be a competition and I’m up to it,” adds Khabibulin. “I’ve just got to be ready when it’s my turn to play.”
|Nikolai Khabibulin says he doesn't let the trade rumors bother him. "The older you get," he says, "the better you deal with things like that." |
“They're both number ones,” Tallon said. “They're both excellent; they're both qualified and it gives us a chance to win every night. In the discussions we've had with them, they seem to want to battle for the job. That will be a positive.”
While they may be fighting for minutes in the crease, Huet and Khabibulin share a mutual respect for one another.
“Cristobal seems like a really nice guy,” said Khabibulin. “I think it’s going to be fun to work with him.”
“I think [Khabibulin’s] a great goalie and it’s great that we have this tandem,” says Huet.
While both agree that they just want to be on the ice as much as possible, the only thing they seem to agree on more is that it’s time for the Blackhawks to take the next step, which would be making the playoffs.
“I think it takes a lot to be there. Everything’s very competitive now,” says Huet, who went to the playoffs with Washington last season. “There are some really good teams in the division. It takes grit and will to be in the big dance and compete there.”
“I don’t think of a number [of games that I want to start],” says Khabibulin. “I’m just going to go out there when I get a call and do the best I can.”