Blackhawks Could Seek Reunion With Nikolai Khabibulin

By Randy Holt

It’s almost impossible to sugarcoat how bad the Blackhawks have played of late. When you’ve lost eight in a row, there isn’t really room to attempt to pull positives, even if there are any.

What this recent losing streak has done, though, is get the rumor mill going even more than it already was, not just in relation to players, but front office personnel and the coaching staff as well.

But focusing on the players, there are a few names of former Blackhawks that have surfaced as potential trade targets as the deadline nears. One of those names is Nikolai Khabibulin.

Khabi spent four season in Chicago, before being cut loose prior to the 2009-2010 season, which came after a season of trade speculation after the signing of Cristobal Huet, who obviously didn’t even finish the ’09-’10 season as the Hawks’ starting netminder.

In a season where the Blackhawks were finally expected to have some sort of stability between the pipes, they find themselves searching for a goaltender at the deadline. Corey Crawford has been a mess for most of the year, and Ray Emery doesn’t appear capable of shouldering a full load.

Which could turn the Blackhawks to Khabibulin, who is one of the very few goaltending options that are known to be out on the market. The other is Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Khabibulin started the season with a scorching start, with a .960 save percentage and 1.12 GAA in October.

He’s faded a bit since, as have the Oilers, but he’d still provide somewhat of an upgrade over either of the Hawks’ currently goaltenders.

A potential trade with Edmonton, who could have more than one players that the Hawks could be interested in, would be more complicated by the money than any type of return the Oilers could get from Chicago.

Khabibulin, while he would be an upgrade at this current time, carries a $3.75 million cap hit through next season. At 39 years old, it’s highly unlikely that the Hawks would like to pay that.

Then there’s the question of what would happen with Crawford. Would he go back to Edmonton in a deal, or would it be Emery? That’s a potential mess waiting to happen if he was stuck on the bench for much of the rest of the year.

At this point, this is just another name to add to the list that the Blackhawks could be pursuing. Whether or not anything actually comes out of it remains to be seen, but it’s beginning to look more and more like the Hawks could end up making a move for a goalie before the month is out.

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