It seems like seasons ago that Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin succumbed to an apparent groin injury against the Nashville Predators. Today it was announced that despite injuring his groin, it was a shoulder injury which wouldn’t heal that is the cause for surgery.
“Nikolai underwent surgery [Tuesday] on his right shoulder,” Blackhawks physician Michael Terry said in a statement. “He had a rotator cuff injury which was becoming increasingly symptomatic that we repaired. The procedure went very well and I anticipate a full recovery. He should be able to return to hockey in 4-5 months.”
Despite management’s statement that Khabibulin could return, it has to be believed that this is indeed the final chapter to his rather storied career. This season, Khabibulin is 1-0-1 allowing 5.00 goals per game and has a dismal .811 save percentage.
Only dooming Khabibulin even more is current backup Antti Raanta who has been able to play to the level of a NHL starting goaltender. Simply put, the Blackhawks no longer need Khabibulin’s services, and it is highly unlikely he will leave the long-term injured reserve list this season.
Thanks to the injured reserve, Khabibulin’s massive contract does not count against the salary cap. As a result, the team has the ability to keep the better player in Raanta on the active roster. In addition, the team currently has enough cap space to promote players due to injury, creating a minimal amount of flexibility that every team needs towards the second half of the season.
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