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Is Paying The Price in Cristobal's Crystal Ball?

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What a troublemaker that Carey Price, upsetting the evolving Canadiens goaltending hierarchy by becoming too good, too soon!

Three years and three goalies in succession, all of whom have captured the imaginations of Habs fans, has created the happiest of problems for Canadiens GM Bob Gainey.

First Habs fans fell in love with Cristobal Huet, as he rescued the Canadiens from the "Theodore returns to Chipmunks size" season. He wins the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award and then follows up with an All Star game appearance this season.

Then Jaroslav Halak arrives seemingly out of nowhere to relieve the Swiss cheese otherwise known as David Aebischer, who had bumbled the mission of backing up Huet so badly it basically burried the Habs playoff chances. Halak, one year removed from the ECHL, almost pulls off the impossible and propels the Canadiens to within a win of the playoffs. He is named to the AHL All Rookie team goalie and could very well duplicate that feat in the NHL also.

Which brings us to Price, who has caused this stir by living up to mountains of hype by winning everything within his reach this season. The words calm, cool, and collected will describe him throughout his career.

Master Bob now has to tiptoe around the delicate issue of manoevering around all of three goalies with starter status in their mettle. With either one of the crowd possibly becoming number one, what's a Lucky Bob to do?

Common sense dictates trimming from the top, meaning Huet as the oldest and most expensive goalie, who is in the final season of a two - year deal before gaining UFA status, is the most likely of suitcase candidates. Trade value will dictate when and what happens in Huet's case, as well as the performances of his cohorts next season in Montreal.

Should Halak and / or Price steal Huet's thunder, anything becomes possible at any point in the season.

Huet, a solid and poised goaltender who has just begun to make a name for himself the past two season, the additional competition is hardly welcome. It is written in the sky somewhere, with no clouds obscuring, that Price is the Canadiens future in goal. In this regard, it is highly doubtful that the Canadiens will pay what amounts to a backup goalie the numbers Huet is currently earning.

Make no bones about it, a trade is on the Habs horizon involving Huet, sometime between now and next March's trade deadline. Due to Huet's injury this past season, the Canadiens were prevented from shopping Aebischer. That was a card they surely would have liked to play had things gone smoother. Now they have lost the Swiss goalie when they could have had something gouda in return. ( Sorry - I work for Kraft, where cheesy puns come naturally! )

The Canadiens will not want to part with Huet and come up empty handed in the same manner.

Given the loss of Aebischer ( gaining by subtraction in my books ) and the impending move of Huet down the line, it is imperative that the Canadiens make a qualifying offer to Yann Danis, an NHL calibre goaltender burried beneath a pile of quality puckstoppers in Montreal.

When and where Bob Gainey pulls the trigger on a deal, he'll be doing it from positions of strength. All the more reason to retain Danis in the fold.

The Canadiens deepest strengths presently are goalies en masse, and a jealous amount of prospects that are the envy of many organizations. In dealing from any of these positives, the Habs will look to shore up holes at center and depth on defense, while going for the home run of key returns.

Seeing as the Canadiens are quite capable of yanking the ripcord on a multi player transaction without suffering decimation of ranks, the deal would possibly include Huet in addition to a pair of prospects.

It could happen at the draft table or on the eve of July 1st. My bet has Gainey throwing his sevens come early October, when all prospect assessments are more thorough.

Until then, the rumour mill will become a distraction of major proportions.