We have an update here on Cristobal Huet’s status for the 2011-12 season, the final year on his 4-year $22.5 million contract.
For all intents and purposes, the loan transfer agreement between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Fribourg-Gotteron Dragons was settled a couple of weeks back. Barring any unforeseen developments or a catastrophic injury situation, Huet will not be a part of the Blackhawks organization again in 2011-12.
The Blackhawks will still pay Huet his $5.625M salary for the 2011-12 season and the goaltender will sign another contract with the Swiss National League team. The France native signed a one-year deal with Fribourg-Gotteron last August but could not be assigned from the Blackhawks until late September because of NHL waiver requirements.
Huet, who turns 36 on September 3rd, is in Switzerland now and training with Gotteron. In the past couple of days, he’s also been added to the roster on the Dragons’ web site. At this point, however, the transfer won’t be official until late September. The team’s preseason exhibition schedule is already underway.
This week Huet told the Fribourg paper La Liberté he’s happy to be in Switzerland again this season.
“I’ve always said if I did not play in the NHL, I wanted to play for Gotteron,” Huet explained. “The situation is very similar to last year. The only difference is that I can start preparing with the team from the beginning [of training camp].”
As was the case last year, Huet first must clear mandatory waivers before Chicago can officially transfer his rights. Because the “playing season” waiver period doesn’t begin until September 24th, Huet’s transfer won’t be complete until the 26th at the earliest. Playing season waivers begin twelve days before the start of the NHL regular season (Oct 6). Since the 24th falls on a Saturday, there is a 48 hour claiming period expiring the following Monday.
There’s virtually no chance another NHL club will pick up Huet’s $5.625M cap hit next month. That said, he still must wait.
“It’s still annoying not to play,” Huet told La Liberté. 27-year old Simon Rytz, who played in the Swiss-B league last season, has been getting the bulk of the preseason action for the Dragons so far. Rytz backstopped Fribourg in a 3-2 win over Barry Smith’s HC Lugano on Saturday.
Fribourg-Gotteron’s regular season begins on September 9 at EV Zug. After their first seven matches, the Dragons will host EHC Biel on September 27 and defending Swiss-league champion HC Davos on September 30.
A second option for Fribourg, if something were to wrong with Huet, would be current Lugano and former Colorado Avalanche netminder David Aebischer. The 33-year old Fribourg native also played for his hometown team when he was 18 and 19 years old. Aebischer’s current status with Lugano is up in the air since the team acquired 20-year old Benjamin Conz, who was tremendous in net for Switzerland at the 2011 World Junior Championships and is one of three nominees for the 2010-11 Swiss National goaltender of the year award. Conz (who is listed at 5-10) has not been drafted by an NHL team. His KHL rights are held by SKA St. Petersburg.
Cristobal, or “Cristo-wall” as the Swiss referred to him as last season, at least before surrendering 18 goals to HC Davos in four playoff games in March, appeared in 41 of Fribourg’s 50 regular season contests last season. He posted a 2.84 goals against average and a 91.9% save percentage during that span. At his peak, Huet posted a three-plus game shutout streak in late October. Even with Huet, the Dragons finished 8th out of 12 Swiss National League teams, good enough to sneak them into the final postseason spot, facing eventual league champion Davos.
Fribourg-Gotteron averaged 6,764 fans per game in 2010-11, or 94.7% of capacity, according to HockeyArenas.net. Attendance actually dropped 3% from the previous season, so Huet’s presence had zero effect at the gate. Roughly 4,800 of BCF Arena’s 7,144 available tickets are in standing room sections. Of the Swiss-A league’s 12 teams, Gotteron averaged the fourth-best attendance last season.
Overall, 2011-12 would be Huet’s six season playing in the Swiss league. He’s been named the league’s top goaltender twice previously, in 2000 and 2001 while playing for HC Lagano, the team he was with from 1998-2002. Huet won the Swiss-A championship with Lagano in 1999, splitting time with 1994 Blackhawks’ draft pick Lars Weibel. Huet played on the Mannheim Eagles in Germany during the 2004-05 NHL lock out.
Huet is a veteran of seven NHL seasons and 289 National Hockey League games in all (2.47, .914sv%) with the Kings, Canadiens, Capitals and Blackhawks. His regular season record is 129-90-11-21 and Huet is 6-10 in NHL postseason play.