Nikolai Khabibulin: Happy

I have seldom seen a free agent happier than Nikolai Khabibulin. He was giddy, which stands out when a man of a certain age displays that kind of animation (it’s like the day I read Keith Richards fell out of a tree. Why is he up in the tree? Do a lot of 60+ males spend time in trees? It stands out, just does) and states his glee in such glowing terms. Khabibulin: “It happened very quickly; in an hour or an hour and a half. Edmonton made such a big commitment. There weren’t too many opportunities for such a long term.”

Term. And the amount. Those were the concerns initially and that brought others. It was a tough year to be Nikolai Khabibulin.

  • Boxcars: 18gp, 3.03
  • SP: .909
  • WLT: 7-9-2
  • SP ahead of backup: .008
  • Cap hit (capgeek): $3,750,000
  1. What do these numbers tell us? We should be clear about this: even before the injury, Khabibulin was not quite NHL average. Then we add the fact that he got hurt and that was fairly predictable. Tyler Dellow last July 1: “Contrary to what Ryan Rishaug was saying on the radio, Khabibulin is not a particularly healthy fellow. He seems to miss 10-20 games a year with back/groin/knee problems. I’m no gerontologist but that doesn’t sound to me like something that gets better as people get older.” Khabibulin was not an upgrade on Roloson (even when healthy). The best stat he owned a year ago was a .924 EV SP, which was “in the range” with divisional rivals Kiprusoff (.928) and Luongo (.925).
  2. How could the numbers be better? He needed to stay healthy because the gap between NK (which was just below NHL average but could win you games) and two rookies was pretty big. Khabibulin’s performance for the Oilers in 09-10 started poorly (opening night error) and never got on track.
  3. You liked him a year ago. Last summer, I wrote “like the goalie, don’t like the numbers or term” and stand by it. My main issue is that the contract goes so deep it all counts against the cap even if NK walks away (my understanding is that the Oilers won’t have to count the contract against the cap if he can’t pass the physical at TC).
  4. What about a trade? GM Tambellini spent almost half of his most recent PC talking up Khabibulin (the other half was devoted to JF Jacques in what was a bizarre moment in Oiler history). I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
  5. Did Chabot help? I have no idea. I doubt they spent a lot of time together based on GP totals this season, as the coach had a few other things to deal with (2 rookie goalies) in 09-10.
  6. Can he save this contract? Age and injury history would suggest the answer is no.
  7. How Important is he to the organization? He’s very important to Tambellini. This was the marquee move for the new GM and unless this player has a rebound season the club will be left with two lame-duck years of contract for a guy who can’t (apparently) play or stay healthy. Some bad arrows here.

Predictions Past 2009-10: 48gp, 2.88 .914
Performance  in 2009-10: 18gp, 3.03 .909

Projected Role in 2009-10: “Happy” to be the Oilers starting goalie

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