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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21 Responses to "RE 09-10: Nikolai Khabibulin"

  1. PDO says:

    If he plays 48 games, we're done…

  2. raventalon40 says:

    Well, DesLauriers is supposed to get a lot more starts this year.

    We'll know very soon, I think, whether this is a suitable goaltending tandem or not.

  3. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    LT:

    Wouldn't a more prudent reasonable expectation be an average of his SV% during his tenure in Chicago since the team in front of him will more closely resemble the Hawks pre 08/09?

  4. Hockey Noob says:

    I can't for the life of my figure out why the Oilers brain trust (perhaps an oxymoron) didn't at least front load the contract with the same cap hit at least…

  5. raventalon40 says:

    I think his cap hit on the team remains the same unless you can trade him in those final years (in case of retirement or whatever).

    Overall, I would agree with your point since it doesn't cost the Oilers anything to front load it.

  6. 99thoilerfan says:

    LT,

    Great series of postings..

    Nikolai "The Wall" Khabibulin..

    Well, I like you, am not fond of the length of term of the signing..but..

    Well, he is our guy now, and he will have my support. Just like all the rest of the great goaltenders the Oil had over the years.

    I can only hope he stays health, so when DesLauriers get his starts, they will be at the coaches choice, not necessity.

  7. bookie says:

    Frontloading does you no good in terms of Cap Space because the cap hit is the average of the annual salary over four years. The cap hit is the exact same every year.

    The benefit of front loading it is that in year four you can trade your big cap hit to some team with room who then only has to pay the small actual salary. This makes him way more dumpable in year four.

    Khabibulin wanted a 4 year contract because he wants the oppertunity to play 4 years though, so he may have resisted the front loaded salary option. He doesnt want to be a backup in Pheonix in year 4.

  8. Hockey Noob says:

    @Bookie,

    My point exactly with respect to the front loading.

  9. bookie says:

    Gotcha…now that I re-read your post I see that.

  10. Rick says:

    I saw Khabby play a lot last year (I live in Chi-town) and let's just say the naysayers on the Oilers signing him haven't watched him play much lately.

    He's an improvement on Roloson, is 4 years younger and is close to a wash on the cap room.

    If he can match his level of play during last year's playoffs at times this year, he'll be a dramatic improvement over Roloson. He can carry a team on his shoulders. We haven't had a goalie like that since Salo.

    Besides, the Hawks defense is pretty young too. Hopefully the system Renney puts in place can limit the number of shots he has to face, which would only help his production.

    My only caveat is that rarely he plays a bit off and some fluky goals get in. But the good vastly outweighs the bad.

  11. spOILer says:

    Vital? Sadly you are right.

    What happens if he realizes he has the team over a barrel, and decides to mail it in? Sorry about that. It's one of my recurring nightmares.

    I guess one would hope he signed here because he wants to play hockey, and playing here is fine, hell he survived Winnipeg. …right? One would hope that he still cares very very deeply about his reputation and has no interest whatsoever in flaming out to end his career. And one prays and prays hard to Jacques Plante's ancient old jock strap, that he still wants to win.

    I also cling desperately to the belief that he was disappointed playing fewer games and really really looks forward to playing say, a solid 57. Or so. And I'd sure like to know whether the possibility even direr straits might come to pass has at least been suggested to him. And that there was no resulting look of horror.

    But really, we need a better injury plan, don't we?

    I actually don't mind Khabib, although my preference would have been for less money and years, maybe bonus laden.

    I think perhaps part of the late season fade has been laid at Roli's feet.

    I think perhaps the Oil values Khabib's pedigree more than Roli. I think he's been brought in to be the money guy, not so much a volume guy. Someone who can deliver wins with maximum pressure and stakes. If so, the Oil will act relatively fast to deal with the #2 situation (relatively for the Oilers–by the end of January).

    But then again, when the signing first came out I thought they had brought Khabib in because they were going for it, right away. That we'd see some positive player movement.

    That idea hasn't really worked out that well for me.

    So Khabibulin has to be about Quinn. No?

  12. SK Oiler Fan says:

    If Mac T started a 39 year old goalie 62 times you gotta think Quinn will start a 36 year old goalie at least that much when he has a 25 year old backup who's started 10 career games.

    If Khabby is healthy all year I would guess JDD gets about 15-20starts.

    This is assuming Quinn woiuld like to win as many games as possible.

    LT, How many games are you estimating that Khabby misses due to injury?

  13. Racki says:

    My thoughts: Khabibulin is a great pick up. The contract is very poor though. Signing a 35+ old player to a 4-year contract at that price is bordering on foolish.

    I am happy Khabibulin is here, but I would be shocked if he lives up to that contract.

    Not to take away from his stellar play last year but one thing about Roloson is the team often collapsed down low around him and prevented those easy tap ins on the juicy rebounds he liked to give up sometimes. I think that took away from or ability to break out of the zone fluidly, quite often. I think Khabibulin is a guy who can hold his own without being "babysat". So in that sense he could be a big help to this team, if he can play like he's in his final year of his contract throughout the whole term.

  14. Gerta Rauss says:

    I can't for the life of my figure out why the Oilers brain trust (perhaps an oxymoron) didn't at least front load the contract with the same cap hit at least…

    Yup,that's a head scratcher.

  15. PunjabiOil says:

    The reason it's not likely front-loaded is that it would increase the Khabibulin's motivation to retire.

    Dumb contract, and I said as such at inception. However, he will likely still have some 'game' in him for the first two years of the contract.

    JDD is still a bundle of suck however. The Oilers will need to address the backup at some point in the year when they realize such. Is Labarbera still a UFA?

  16. Racki says:

    I don't think JDD is a "bundle of suck" ;) He's inexperienced, and probably will learn a lot from Khabibulin. Besides, how can we even tell he sucked when he was barely given any games whatsoever to play. Almost every goalie needs a few games to get into a rhythm.

    As for Labarbera, he signed in Phoenix.

    If we go out and pick someone else up though, that should pretty much spell the end of JDD though. We don't need the 3 goalie monster here anymore. And well, it seems a bit premature to give up on a guy who has only got a whopping 10 NHL games under his belt. It would have been nice to actually have seen him get some bloody games last year though for some experience.

  17. PunjabiOil says:

    Racki – the math suggests JDD upside is a career back-up. My question is why develop a guy whose ceiling is limited when you can obtain a real back-up at negligible cost?

    JDD is far, far too inconsistent. This will cost games.

    I never understood why Steve Tambellini and Kevin Prendergast regulary have multiple Oilgasms over this guy. Honestly I'd much rather see Dubnyk backing up the West Edmonton Mall next year – which isn't saying much, as Dubnyk is eerily following on this side of JDD in the consistency deparment.

    I think at some point in the year JDD's flaws will be exposed and the Oilers will seek a more experienced back-up.

    It's too bad MacT put Garon in the dog house early on in the year. Not to say Roloson wasn't great, but they had 2 solid goaltenders and MacT didn't extract maximum value from them. Garon should take some responsibility, but I'd argue he was/is an average goaltender in the league. A few bad starts and he's in the dog house early on, and never rebounded. Unfortunate situation all around.

  18. PunjabiOil says:

    ^ Should have read ''West Edmonton Wall"

  19. NBOilerFan says:

    I'm in this group…

    "…others see it as unwise in season three and four but a solid deal for the early portion;"

  20. NBOilerFan says:

    Edit to add: But again, I was one of the few, if not the only one (don't recall anyone else) that wanted Tambellini to target Biron at the deadline. And was hopng for a contract similar to this one, just a bit lower in dollars if possible.

  21. Racki says:

    @punjabioil

    I will definitely agree on Garon. He was a cheap backup, young, and I don't think he was given his fair shake here last year.

    The difference between Roli and Garon is Roli can come into the schedule cold, after sitting out some games and play on fire. Garon seems to take a few before he gets going, but once he gets going, we all know he can stand on his head. Last year when we had all 3, I was perfectly fine with risking JDD to waivers at the start of the year. But he did impress me enough in a couple of the games he saw. You're likely right that he won't be a starter. But he might be a decent 1B guy. I'd still like to see him given a fair chance.

    That all said though, if the Oil somehow had a shot at a guy like Halak, I'd jump all over that opportunity.

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