Edmonton Oilers Claim Hovinen Off Waivers; Khabibulin Still Injured

By brianpalmer
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Congratulations, Devan Dubnyk, you are no longer the tallest goaltender in the Edmonton Oilers‘ organization!

This distinction now belongs to the 6’7″ Niko Hovinen who was claimed off waivers today from the Philadelphia Flyers. The 24-year-old netminder was last seen playing for the Trenton Titans of the ECHL, where he went 4-6-1-2 with a GAA 3.14 and a save percentage of .889, and lost his starting job to Scott Wedgewood, whose numbers have been only marginally better. So what on earth does all of this mean for the Oilers?

Well, for starters, Hovinen should not factor into any of Edmonton’s future plans, as Dubnyk and Yann Danis appear to be the guys in charge in Edmonton for the time being. Hovinen is no improvement over Olivier Roy for Oklahoma City of the AHL, but his presence will allow for Tyler Bunz to be sent back to Edmonton’s ECHL affiliate the Stockton Thunder, where he should be, which should help him progress through the ranks at a more natural rate.

What this move also suggests, however, is that Nikolai Khabibulin isn’t healing up the way the organization had hoped he would be by this point after having hip surgery this past off-season. All parties involved continue to remain tight-lipped about how Khabibulin is doing, but if a move like this needed to be made it is safe to say that the Oilers will be without his services for a while longer.

How concerned should the Oilers be? They are willing to roll the dice on Dubnyk this season because they need to see if he can be their #1 starter going forward, so they only need the backup to play about 12-15 games at most. Khabibulin is more experienced and talented than Danis, but Danis has shown better durability and performed exceptionally in mop-up relief duty Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks, blanking them through the final two periods after he relieved Dubnyk. Danis might be more serviceable in the backup role at this time than Khabibulin would be, so I guess the Oilers will call on him whenever necessary until the Bulin Wall is ready to go again.

So while this seems like a very minor and borderline insignificant waiver claim on the surface, it will in fact have a huge impact on how the Oilers season plays out for the foreseeable future. Will the Oilers look back on this move and see it as a stroke of genius, or will it prove to be a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the Oilers in 2013?

Stay tuned.

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