RE 09-10: Nikolai Khabibulin

Opinions vary widely when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers signing of Nikolai Khabibulin. Some see it as a horrible contract that the Oilers will never be able to move should the goalie’s performance slide (or if he retires); others see it as unwise in season three and four but a solid deal for the early portion; and then there’s me. I like the goalie, don’t like the numbers or term but this is a position that is currently overpopulated and there’s always an NHL team near the cap basement looking for an asset bargain (offloading him will cost a pick, prospect or young player if Khabibulin goes into the tank).

For now, I’d look to put these things aside and discuss just the season ahead and the current level of ability.

  • Boxcars: 42gp, 2.33
  • SP: .919
  • WLT: 25-8-7
  • SP clear of backup: .010
  • Post-season SP: .898
  • caphit (capgeek): 3.75M
  1. What do these numbers tell us? He played on a very good team (W-L) and he played better during the regular year than Huet (by quite a bit). His SP is a nice number and he did play well in the playoffs for a time. He was a good NHL goaltender last season, his .919 SP ranking him just outside the top 5 overall among regulars.
  2. How could these numbers change this season? For the Oilers, the big change will be in the number of shots faced per game and the quality of the men in front of him. The Oilers faced 32.47 shots per game compared to the Hawks 28.5 and that’s a significant difference, and I don’t think it’s fair to blame the defense. Khabibulin’s numbers suffered in Chicago when he was playing in front of a lot of young defenders and forwards and they may suffer again this fall for the same reason.
  3. What about injury? He had a lot of “lower body” trouble this past season and goalies this age are a concern in this area.
  4. What about a trade? Unlikely.
  5. How Important is Khabibulin to the Oilers? Vital. Really vital. Lennon-McCartney to the Beatles vital. The Oilers have no suitable, proven backup and it’s extremely likely they’ll lose the starter at some point this year. I expect they’ll deal for a veteran backup should the kids struggle in any way.

Prediction for 2009-10: 48gp, 2.88 .914

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