Message boards and blogs devoted to the Edmonton Oilers are ablaze with talk that Nikolai Khabibulin could be done for the year as he has surgery to repair a herniated disc. Having suffered through the same injury, if he's had to go the surgical route, it's severe. At this point, a surgery like this brings into question Khabibulin's ability to continue his career in the NHL. If that's the case, Steve Tambellini has caught an amazing break in the world of cap management. Of course, the injury leaves him with a significant hole in the lineup as Khabibulin was brought in specifically to be a big-game goaltender and a playoff workhorse. For a team like the Oilers, battling along in 10th place, Tambellini has two options:
a. Find an affordable goaltending option to split time with Jeff Deslauriers and hope that superior defense saves the season.
b. Let Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk split the work for the rest of the season and see if either one is a long-term solution.
Given the continuing state of the goaltending market, Tambellini shouldn't have to do anything major to land a serviceable goalie to help out the rest of the way. This is exactly why I think that Tambellini and his shadow management group will choose:
c. Go after a big name goalie and try to hit a home run.
Enter Tomas Vokoun. This weekend, Chris Botta reported that Randy Sexton is actively shopping Vokoun to anyone that will have him in what can only be a salary dump. He also falls into the light-thinking trap of reporting that Vokoun "...has the 2010-11 season left on his contract at a hefty $6.3 million..." even though his cap hit is $5.7 million. While the $6.3 million may matter to a somewhat cash-strapped team like Florida, the cap hit matters most to teams that fly close to the cap ceiling. Teams such as...the Edmonton Oilers.
If Khabibulin down and out for good, Edmonton will get cap relief to the tune of $3.75 million per season. The one way out of the ridiculous Over-35 Contract that the Oilers gave Khabibulin is contained in Article 50, Section 50.5 (PDF Warning) in the Collective Bargaining Agreement - AKA the Mike Rathje Section.
The Oilers have an over-abundance of small, skilled forwards that may be attractive to a Southeast team, especially a kid like Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano's speed has been dazzling scouts, personnel people, coaches and fans, but his game hasn't quite come together. He would be a perfect candidate to move to Florida as the central piece of a Vokoun deal. Edmonton would need to clear an additional $2 million in cap space to get Vokoun under the cap, space that can be provided by Ethan Moreau.
Would a trade of Ethan Moreau and Andrew Cogliano for Tomas Vokoun be so far-fetched? In this case, I don't think so. Tambellini gets to blame the "unforeseen injury" to Khabibulin and gets to move Cogliano without criticism from most quarters. Florida gets to clear a huge salary from the books and gets a promising young center in Cogliano and only has one season of Ethan Moreau at $2 million.
As far as the optics go, Vokoun looks like a coup for the Oilers management team, as he's a world-class goaltender (a real one, not like the crumbling wall was purported to be) on a team that is "pushing hard for a playoff spot". Vokoun also falls into the whale category that the crew of the Pequod has been hunting for the last two-and-a-half years.
I know, I know - Vokoun seems like an unbelievable option. Martin Biron, Jaroslav Halak, Ty Conklin - they all make much more sense. Ask yourself this - over the last two years, what has the Oilers management team been, if not unbelievable?