Trading in the NHL may be frozen during the Olympic break, but commissioner Gary Bettman can’t stop people from speculating on upcoming deals, and that’s just what NBC’s Jeremy Roenick has been doing.
The former NHLer is often outspoken and he recently called out the Chicago Blackhawks goalies — Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi — by questioning their ability to lead the team to a Stanley Cup. Now Roenick has taken it a step further, suggesting that Montreal Canadiens netminder Jaroslav Halak could be the solution in goal for Chicago.
Halak has been playing well at the Olympics for Slovakia and has played well for Montreal so far this season, posting a 17-10-2 mark and a .923 save percentage, good for eighth best in the NHL. Despite his heroics, Halak is on the short end of a timeshare with Carey Price, despite Price posting just a 12-18-4 record for the eighth- place Canadiens.
"Halak wants out," Roenick said on The Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN Radio in Chicago. "Chicago would be a perfect place for a guy like Halak to be traded to, free up a little cap space maybe, but also get a goaltender who could push you over the top and win a Cup."
Roenick also acknowledged the rumors about Czech Republic and Florida Panthers’ goalie Tomas Vokoun possibly heading to the Windy City. Vokoun’s agent told ESPNChicago.com that he has not been approached about waiving the 33-year-old’s no-trade clause. It would be quite a show of loyalty for Vokoun to enact the clause, as the Blackhawks are one of the favorites to win a championship while Florida is in the midst of a fire sale combined with a rebuilding process.
If any goaltender lands in Chicago between now and the March 3 deadline, he will be anchored behind a defense that that allows just 24.4 shots per game, three less than any other team in the league. The stalwart play from the Blackhawks blue liners has allowed Huet (seventh in the league in goals-against average, yet 30th in save percentage) and Niemi (tied for second in GAA and 18th in save percentage) to combine to allow the fewest goals against of any team.
"I'm not taking anything away from Huet. He's a good goaltender," Roenick said of his proposal to bring a new number one netminder to Chicago. "He has not proved that he can [win a Cup] through anything of significance yet — and I say yet — but then again he hasn't been on a team like he is now, [one] that's going to put a lot of pucks in the net. The defense will play very well in front of him. It's going to be really interesting."
Vokoun or Halak could be the missing piece for a Blackhawks team that sits just two points back of the Sharks for the best record in the Western Conference. Huet and Niemi have done what they’ve needed to do, but the NHL playoffs are an entirely different animal, and Roenick sees Halak better equipped to handle the pressure.
"There are a lot of goaltenders out there who fit the bill," Roenick said on the radio show, "because you really don't need too much in Chicago to have the best chance to win the Cup."