Holy goalies

Lyle Richardson
By: Lyle Richardson
Oct 20, 2008

Jose Theodore has Caps fans concerned about the team's goaltending situation this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News


Holy goalies

Lyle Richardson
By: Lyle Richardson
Oct 20, 2008

A recent report in the Ottawa Sun claimed there was “major concern” about goalie Jose Theodore in Washington.

Theodore’s numbers during his first three games (3.62 goals-against average and an .859 save percentage) weren’t pretty, but he did win two of those games.

The Capitals were forced to sign Theodore this past summer after losing a bidding war to the Chicago Blackhawks for Cristobal Huet.

It’s premature to suggest the Capitals will dump Theodore for a replacement, but his numbers will have to improve as the season progresses – or there will be cause for major concern.

If Caps management was to consider a replacement, there are few options currently available. The only notable one is Chicago’s Nikolai Khabibulin, but his salary would push the Capitals far over the $56.7 million salary cap unless they move a considerable chunk of payroll first.

• Speaking of Khabibulin, the Colorado Avalanche’s slow start led some in the media to suggest the team would be a perfect destination for the Bulin Wall.

Peter Budaj lost his three starts, but the Avalanche rallied with backup Andrew Raycroft playing the next two games, winning both.

Khabibulin has been the better half of the Blackhawks goalie tandem, with a 1-1-1 record, a 2.62 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Considering he saw little playing time during the pre-season as the Blackhawks tried in vain to move him, Khabibulin’s performance has been impressive.

Despite his strong early play, Khabibulin’s $6.75-million salary remains very difficult to move this early in the season, meaning the ‘Hawks might have to wait until mid-season to trade him.

• The state of the Avalanche’s goaltending isn’t the only thing attracting hockey punditry.

In the wake of the Los Angeles Kings’ re-signing of center Anze Kopitar to a lucrative, long-term contract, media focus has shifted to young Avs center and budding superstar Paul Stastny, who is slated to become a restricted free agent next summer.

If Stastny were unsigned by next July, he’d be a very tempting target for an offer sheet from a rival club, leading some pundits to wonder why the Avalanche hasn’t re-signed Stastny by now.

He’s comparable to Kopitar and has better career stats, so it’s only natural to assume his camp will seek a salary similar to the $6.8 million per season Kopitar will be paid starting next season.

The Avalanche presently have more than $35 million committed to 10 players for next season, which would give them enough space to re-sign Stastny to a $6 million-plus per season contract. That would certainly be a big bite into their cap for next season, particularly if the league cap should drop as some predict.

Given Stastny’s value to the Avalanche, however, it’s highly unlikely he’ll still be unsigned come July 1. And given it’s only October now, the club has plenty of time to get him under contract.

• Salary cap issues are keeping San Jose Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren buried on the team’s American League affiliate.  The Sharks twice placed the veteran blueliner on waivers, but no club was willing to pick up his $2 million-plus salary.

The Blackhawks reportedly have some interest in McLaren, but given their own cap issues they’d have to move salary first in order to acquire him. The Sharks certainly won’t be interested in acquiring salary in exchange for moving McLaren.

Unless a team with cap space seeking blueline depth steps up with an affordable offer, McLaren will remain on the farm for some time yet.

• It is official: Marian Gaborik has become this season’s Marian Hossa.

Contract talks between the Minnesota Wild and the Gaborik camp remain at an impasse, leading to speculation GM Doug Risebrough is shopping the talented Slovak.

One potential destination is believed to be the Montreal Canadiens, based on Risebrough’s friendship with Habs GM Bob Gainey.  A recent rumor had the Wild interested in Canadiens left winger Chris Higgins, backup goalie Jaroslav Halak and a first round pick.

A major flaw in that rumor, however, is the cap dollars don’t fit. Gaborik’s salary is $7.5 million for this season and counts as $6.333 million against the salary cap, whilst the combined salaries of Higgins and Halak total just less than $2.5 million.

With the Canadiens currently sitting about $1 million under the $56.7 million salary cap, the rumored deal would push them well over. Gainey would have to send more salary to Minnesota, dump salary on another team via a trade prior to acquiring Gaborik, or send salary to the minors.

In short, unless Higgins and Halak are just part of a bigger pitch for Gaborik, the Habs won’t be able to afford him.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for and Eishockey Magazine.

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Holy goalies