— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 1, 2009
I remember it like yesterday.
Out of all the awful contracts that were handed out over the Steve Tambellini Era™, the four-year deal given to Nikolai Khabibulin in the summer of aught nine was by far the worst of the worst. Could've had two years of Dwayne Roloson at about five million total. Instead, Tambellini made it rain over the soon-to-be star crossed netminder.
Khabibulin's first game as an Oiler went off the rails late in the third.
There were so many things wrong with this deal, you could have made a list. Four years ago, I did. And so did everyone. It was a four year deal valued at 3.75 million dollars per year on a goaltender who was 36 years of age. Due to the length of the deal, it made moving Khabibulin all but impossible. It was a 35+ deal, which (short of a buyout) all but guaranteed the Oilers would be stuck with 100% of that cap number, even if Tambellini got this wild idea to ship Khabibulin down to OKC. Khabibulin's injury history was extensive, making a four-year deal look even more comically awful.
But hey - he had that Stanley Cup with Tampa in 2003-2004. And if there's one thing that's worth about fifteen million in guaranteed money, it's a five year old Stanley Cup. Right?
In the first 3 years of his contract, Khabibulin has posted 3 wins after Christmas. 3 wins in 42 starts.
Since joining the Oilers, Khabibulin has compiled a record of 33-67-14 in those four years, along with a combined SV% of .903. These numbers are not encouraging in any way, shape, or fashion. In four years, Khabibulin has appeared in 117 games out of a possible 293, which is just under 40% of the team's total games played. This is due in large part to ongoing groin and back injuries, and in some part to just generally being terrible.
To Khabibulin's defence, the Oilers have been pretty awful during his time in Edmonton, but at least Devan Dubnyk is making a go of it most games. With Dubnyk completing the first of a two year deal valued at a total of seven million dollars, Khabibulin has been relegated to backup status, and has appeared in just eleven games in 2013. It would appear that Khabibulin is riding into the sunset of his career.
The deal was expensive, Khabibulin is injury prone, and he turned 40 this year. By reason of logic, there's no way we could see him return in an Oiler sweater for 2013-14. Right?
As much as I'm not a fan of Nikolai Khabibulin, he occasionally turns in the good game. Last night is an example. In a game that means nothing to the Oilers except draft position, Khabibulin turned in a 38-save performance in Edmonton's 6-1 manhandling of the Minnesota Wild. His last four games before that were garbage, but everyone remembers the St. Louis game when the Oilers were trying to get serious about a playoff push (cough). Khabibulin was a perfect 43 for 43 that game.
My fear is that these 'good games' are the ones that management will remember over everything. It wouldn't surprise me to hear in the coming weeks that Khabibulin "really enjoys playing " in Edmonton, which will serve as badly needed PR for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in seven seasons. Something like that will no doubt appear in print or on the air waves (if they paid you 15 million dollars to play a hundred games, you'd say something similar), and it wouldn't surprise me too much if a one year deal was offered at a cut rate.
There's no way you can talk me into thinking that this is a good deal for the club, and if there is anything righteous in the hands of Craig MacTavish, this never comes to pass. There will be at least a dozen options that are better than Nikolai Khabibulin come July.
"(Khabibulin) told me he wants to play another four or five years - He's still feeling the compete and the challenge. Devan's poised to take games from him and I love the fact his plan is to get the net back"
Hearing that Nikolai Khabibulin wants to play four or five more years makes me uncomfortable. If he was serious about wanting to play four or five more years at last year's exit interview, it's a safe bet that he'd sign on for one or two if offered.
I don't care if it's for league minimum. One more minute in Edmonton is one too many.