Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin has been a sore subject of discussion for fans of the team, and has been one of the most inefficient goaltenders throughout the NHL this season. After suffering an apparent lower-body injury during last night’s game against the Nashville Predators, Khabibulin has found himself on the long-term Injured Reserve, leaving his future and career in doubt for the time being.
Khabibulin was acquired by the Blackhawks this offseason for $2 million, despite being 40 years old. While the move was met with skepticism, it was clear starting goaltender Corey Crawford was going to see an increased workload this season.
What nobody could predict was how bad Khabiblin would be this season. Despite an impressive work ethic, he looked slow, disjointed, and unable to play his position effectively, let alone up to his contract. At the time of this writing, Khabibulin has been pulled from three of his four starts (either injury or performance), and allowed 5.01 goals per game to go along with a .811 save percentage.
The long-term injured reserve designation matters for the Blackhawks for the simple reason that the complex rule was implemented to save teams money in situations just like this. The Blackhawks have $1.42 million in cap space available, meaning the contract of the injured player plus overall space can be used to find a replacement if the player is on the LTIR list.
What that means for the Blackhawks is that Khabibulin’s Cap Hit of $1.7 million is now off the table, and if they waive him they could save $900,000, the same as the hit to keep backup goalie Antti Raanta on the active roster.
Waivers, meanwhile, is likely where Khabibulin’s career would end. It is highly unlikely any team would claim him, especially considering his injury and inability to perform. It certainly would be an unfitting end for a goaltender who had a memorable career, but would be an unfortunate, albeit ideal, ending to Nikolai Khabibulin’s time in the NHL.
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