Alfredsson returns, Huet hoping

Daniel Alfredsson will return to try and lead Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza and the rest of the Ottawa Senators to their first playoff series win since 2007. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

By: Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

Teemu Selanne decided to stay in the NHL for one more season and today another seasoned veteran decided to stick it out. As reported on NHL.com, Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will return for his 17th season with the Senators in 2012-13.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as there is a lot to look forward to in Canada’s capital. The Senators surprised many last season by making the playoffs and forcing a Game 7 against the top-seeded New York Rangers after finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference with 74 points in 2010-11. There were a lot of young contributors on the team that gave the franchise real hope for the future. Forwards Nick Foligno, Colin Greening, Kyle Turris, Zack Smith and defensemen Erik Karlsson, Erik Condra and Jared Cohen gave the team a solid core to build around and skating with all those great young players must make Alfredsson, who will turn 40 in December, feel much fresher.

Alfredsson, who has been captain since the 1999-2000 season, also experienced a revival last season, recording 27-32-59 and a plus-16 in 75 games after going 14-17-31 and a minus-19 in 54 games the season before. Those numbers aren’t out of reach as Alfredsson has been training hard to see if he has what it takes to make it through another season. From TSN.ca:

Alfredsson said he needed to test himself in rigorous off-season training to see if his body could withstand another NHL campaign before deciding whether to return. The result was positive.

“I’ve had the motivation of playing from the beginning, but I had to go through the process,” the right winger said on a conference call from Sweden. “With my back problems, I haven’t been able to work out as I’d like the last four years.

“And after back surgery last year, I wanted to see where I stand. I’m happy I feel the way I do.”

Alfredsson did intense workouts at the Frolunda club in Sweden along with the Senators’ talented young defenceman Erik Karlsson under trainer Peter Froberg. He made up his mind last week he was ready to play again.

“It was my body that had to make the decision more than anything,” he said. “I felt strong, that’s the biggest thing.

“If I have my strength I know I can play and contribute.”

*     *     *

Cristobal Huet has spent the majority of the past two years with HC Fribourg-Gotteron in the Swiss National League. (Fanny Schertzer/Wikimedia Commons)

Elsewhere, former NHL goaltender Cristobal Huet is looking to come back to the NHL. Huet played in the NHL from 2002-03 to 2009-10 with the Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, going 129-90-32 with a .913 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average. He led the NHL with a .929 save percentage in 2005-06.

Huet spent the past two seasons looking for work in Europe after his four-year, $22.4 million contract became a salary cap burden for the Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s a wait-and-see situation for all goalies this summer as Roberto Luongo’s trade request will likely be the first major goaltending move this summer. But Huet is optimistic about a return, especially since cap room was the only major factor in his leaving the NHL in the first place. From Kevin Woodley:

Ellis and Huet remain atop an aging but experienced unemployment line that also includes Dwayne Roloson (42), Ty Conklin (36), Marty Turco (36) and Brent Johnson (35), as well as Peter Mannino. Ellis, who is back on the ice and fully recovered from the groin tear and subsequent abdominal surgery that hindered him last season, is the youngest proven option at 32. But Huet may be most intriguing.

Huet lost his job not because he couldn’t play in the NHL, but because he was being paid too much to do so on a Chicago team forced to break up its Cup-winning roster because of a salary-cap crunch. A late-bloomer after coming over for the first time at 27, Huet posted strong numbers in Los Angeles, Montreal and Washington — including a League-leading .929 save percentage in 2005-06 that pushed Jose Theodore out of Montreal — before an up-and-down second season in Chicago, and a hot Antti Niemi, cost him his first true NHL starting job.

There are a number of NHL teams who could use more depth in goal and Huet is a good dark-horse candidate for a job as he is cheaper than Luongo and younger than some of the other goalies. Philadelphia, Toronto, Columbus and Boston could all benefit from another NHL-experienced goalie on their roster. He would likely be a backup again, as he has been most of his career, but he is capable of being the starter and carrying a team for stretches (It was his acquisition that allowed Washington to get over the hump and into the playoffs in 2007-08.). His experience in Europe has helped him learn new parts of his game, not only on the ice, but the mental preparation off the ice as well.

Huet, who once worked with Francois Allaire at his summer camps in Switzerland before first coming over and was always considered a technically sound stopper, also has 272 games of NHL experience, which should make the adjustment to things like more traffic, different angles on smaller ice, and a harder forecheck easier to adjust to then it is for less experienced pros from Europe. Huet also knows he’ll come back to a backup role — something he’s done before — and a job description his recent experience in Europe may also help with.

“It’s a different rhythm in Europe, a lot more practices,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to practice for 10 days and not have any games and you have got to learn how to manage your body and manage your head when you have breaks.”

We’ll just have to keep waiting a little bit longer to see if his attempt comes to fruition.

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