Nikolai Khabibulin's True Cost To The Oilers

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers misses a shot by Ruslan Fedotenko of the New York Rangers for a goal during the third period of a hockey game at Madison Square Garden on November 14 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

If you're a regular reader of this site, you're already well-aware of Nikolai Khabibulin's 35+ contract, singed in the summer of 2009 for $15 million over four years. You're also aware of the prevailing view that Steve Tambellini bid against himself and ended up paying somewhere between 50% and 200% more than the rest of the market was willing to pay.

But Khabibulin's true cost to the team over the last two seasons is more than just the $7.5 million he's collected in his paychecks.

Yesterday I showed how poorly Khabibulin performed compared to league averages. But what is the impact on results when Tom Renney throws Khabibulin onto the ice for yet another shellacking? What would Khabibulin's numbers look like if the Oilers had a competent backup capable of a league average even strength save percentage? Guys like Jason LaBarbera, Thomas Greiss, and Jhonas Enroth come to mind as capable backups.

The table below contains Khabibulin's actual numbers at even strength and the numbers a league average goaltender could have posted against the same workload.

SA SV Sv. Pct. GA
Khabibulin 1976 1796 0.9089 180
League Avg. 1976 1820 0.9208 156


24 goals. At 6 goals per win, Khabibulin was worth -4 wins. Consider than for just a moment - Nikolai Khabibulin, by himself, at even strength only, in limited duty, cost the Oilers eight points in two years. Gabe Desjardins' $/WAR shows the value of those 4 wins at $9.44 million, so Nikolai Khabibulin's true cost to the Oilers over the past two seasons was actually $16.94 million.

Taylor Hall thinks it's imperative that the Oilers make the playoffs next season. What are the chances the Oilers will clinch a playoff spot if they start 0-2 and spend $8.47 million on a goaltender just because Nikolai Khabibulin is on the roster?

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