41-Year-Old Goalie – Free Agent
Nikolai Khabibulin Contract Information:
Became an unrestricted free agent in July 2014.
Khabibulin had successful surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will miss four-to-five months, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports.
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Nikolai Khabibulin: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
There was no outlook written for Nikolai Khabibulin.
With Ray Emery opting to go the Philadelphia for a shot at a full-time job, Hawks' general manager Stan Bowman went back to the past and brought back the Bulin Wall. But unlike the last time he was with the Hawks, Khabibulin is definitely the back-up this season. Corey Crawford silenced his detractors during the Hawks' Cup run in 2012-13, so he'll get the bulk of the work, leading Khabibulin with 20 to 25 starts, max. But on a good Hawks' squad, he should be able to ring up solid counting stats, so don't be afraid to use him for spot starts in daily formats.
If not for the fact that he has a big contract, Khabibulin might no longer be with Edmonton. He is no longer top dog between the pipes as that job is Devan Dubnyk's, but he will more than likely play more than a normal backup, possibly as many as 30 games. The Bulin Wall is nowhere near the goalie he used to be, but isn't a sieve either and could be trade bait at some point during the season.
Khabibulin's stay in Edmonton has been a bumpy one to say the least. He missed most of his first season with the club due to back surgery and then was arrested for DUI. Last season, he only played 47 games due to various injuries and ineffective play as his goals-against average was 3.40 with a save percentage of only 89 percent. Those numbers cost him a number of starts as Devan Dubnyk started to eat more and more into Khabibulin's playing time. Actually, Dubnyk may be the leading candidate to take over the starting job this season.
Khabibulin's first season in Edmonton was nothing short of a disaster as he only made it through 18 games before a back injury ended his season, then was arrested for drunk driving while in Arizona. That case is still pending and threatening to interrupt training and/or the regular season. The Oilers are unlikely to try and void his contract even if Khabibulin is found guilty, but a fine or suspension may not be out of the question. The Oilers are in a rebuilding mode either way and you're better off finding a solution to your goaltending needs elsewhere.
The Oilers get a solid veteran option to lock down their goaltending situation. Edmonton doesn't have anything close to the talent that Khabibulin had in front of him in Chicago, so don't expect a repeat of his 25-8-7 record (40 starts). If things go well for him with the Oilers, Khabibulin could threaten the 30-win mark provided that he's healthy enough to make 55-60 starts, but that's essentially a best-case scenario for him.
Huet should get as many games as he can handle in the early going. The Hawks will try and claim that the netminding will be a team concern and that Khabibulin will be relied on heavily, but wait and see what happens when the team hits a rough part of their schedule. Khabibulin will be warming the bench most nights and he could see his goals against mark spike with the limited playing time; if the team doesn't trade him elsewhere and make Corey Crawford the primary backup to Huet.
In his second year with the Hawks, Khabibulin gave the Hawks a chance when he was in goal. The Bulin Wall made 57 starts for Chicago and was relatively healthy after missing a big chunk of time the previous season, while the Hawks were just one game below .500 in games that he started. His numbers were solid, as he posted a .902 save percentage and 2.86 goals against average, and there was much more pressure on Khabibulin than other netminders since the Hawks had a pathetic offense last season.
The Blackhawks took a big chunk of their free agent money after the lockout and inked Khabibulin only for their expensive goalkeeper to miss most of the season on the injured list. When he was healthy it was still a lackluster performance. His age and the scenario the Hawks are in, might be the wrong place and wrong time for Khabibulin.
The acquisition of Khabibulin, aka "The Bulin Wall," made the Hawks an instant team to contend with this season. If anything, he was the stalwart behind the Lightning's Stanley Cup run in the playoffs. In that season, his goals against average was 2.33 and his save percentage was .910. Both, though, were not highly rated in the league in 23rd and 29th respectively. Despite those rankings, the 127 goals he allowed was the least that he gave up in a season where he played more than 26 games.