Nikolai Khabibulin is about to enter the final year of a four year contract he obtained from the Edmonton Oilers in 2009. A deal that I didn’t like then and a deal I certainly don’t like now. In 2009, it was clear the Oilers were in the middle of spinning their wheels and bringing in Khabibulin for substantial money just didn’t make sense for a team that was going to get worse before it was going to get better. But that’s all revisionist history now.
Fast forward to 2012 and now all we can hope for from Khabibulin in his final year of his deal it to be a good vet and a good soldier. Be a mentor to the younger players around him and lead by example. It’s likely that Khabibulin will see a decrease in his workload and will likely be a backup for the first time in his career as Devan Dubnyk looks to take the reigns of the starting job.
What kind of legacy will he leave on the NHL and the Oilers? Is he Hall of Fame worthy? That will be the debate once his career ends. He does own some substantial numbers and one Stanley Cup ring he won with the Tampa Bay Lightning. It will be a debate that will go on long after his career is done. Khabibulin has been nothing more than a stop gap in his time with the Oilers. Has led the Oilers three straight #1 overall picks on his watch. It’s one of those signings that wouldn’t have mattered if you didn’t sign him back in 2009. In a few years, Khabibulin will be nothing more than another body in an Oilers’ team picture.
If I Could Grant One Wish – Time: Nikolai Khabibulin has always been solid in his time with other teams such as the Winnipeg Jets, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Chicago Blackhawks. Once he joined the Oilers, his career went off the rails. It goes to show, no matter how good the goaltender, if the supporting cast is subpar, the goaltender will look mediocre. Khabibulin knows that all too well. He is also in a battle with Father Time and we all know how those battles end up. I wonder if Khabibulin had another offer for less money in 2009, if he regrets not taking a different gig other than with the Oilers.
Prediction For 2013 – Will Have a Save % Under .900: I feel many things will contribute this number. The Oilers trying to find a defensive identity, Khabibulin at the end of the line, Devan Dubnyk may struggle from time to time meaning Khabibulin will get more games than he should. Who knows, maybe with less games, Khabibulin may stay fresher than he otherwise would. But I feel over time, Khabibulin will get a lot pucks thrown his way and like in years past, eventually the wheels just fall off.