Should the Edmonton Oilers consider keeping Nikolai Khabibulin?

Jonathan Willis
May 08 2013 12:44PM

Oilers’ backup Nikolai Khabibulin is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Does it make sense for the team to keep him around rather than shopping elsewhere?

Four years ago, the Oilers signed Nikolai Khabibulin as a free agent. Over his previous four years in Chicago, Khabibulin had a mix of performance and health problems, but he redeemed himself somewhat with a tremendous contract year. History seems to have repeated itself. Over four seasons in Edmonton, Khabibulin has had a mix of performance and health problems, but once again has come through at the end of his contract with a 0.923 save percentage over 12 games. Just as it didn’t in 2009, that late surge doesn’t make Khabibulin a good fit for the team.

Injury

Khabibulin was well-established as one of the most injury prone starting goalies in the NHL when the Oilers signed him. From 2006-06 to 2008-09, Khabibulin missed 66 games (an average of 17 per season) to a variety of maladies, with most of them being back and lower body injuries. That total ranked him fourth among NHL starters in time missed to injury; ahead of him were Pascal Leclaire (since retired), Rick DiPietro (the Islanders only wish he was retired) and Kari Lehtonen (he’s been remarkably healthy since).

In the four years since, injuries have been a frequent problem for Khabibulin. Via TSN, here’s the list of games missed to injury:

  • 2009-10: Missed 60 games (back injury)
  • 2010-11: Missed six games (groin injury)
  • 2010-11: Missed four games (eye injury)
  • 2011-12: Missed five games (groin injury)
  • 2012-13: Missed five games (hip injury)
  • 2012-13: Missed eight games (groin injury)
  • Total: 88 games lost to injury, average of 22 per season

For just under one in three games the Oilers have played since signing Khabibulin, the veteran goaltender has been on injured reserve. If not for the lockout, that total would have been inflated, as Khabibulin was on injured reserve to start the 2013 season.

Khabibulin is now 40 years old. Injury was a concern when the Oilers signed an oft-injured 36-year old; it’s more of a concern four years later.

Performance

Khabibulin was coming off a difficult four-year stint in Chicago when the Oilers signed him. He had won the Stanley cup with Tampa Bay just before the lockout, and the Blackhawks paid big money for him to solve their goaltending problems. Instead, he was terrible in 2005-06, moderately better in 2006-07, decent in 2007-08 and quite good in 2008-09. Overall, he posted a 0.904 save percentage over that span – a total that ranked 27th among goalies with a minimum of 100 starts in that period.

Khabibulin’s performance in Edmonton has been similar. He was pretty good in an 18-game first season before injury knocked him out of the lineup, but was then terrible the following year. A hot start in 2011-12 combined with a brutal finish propelled him to average-ish overall numbers, and then in a short stint this season Khabibulin was excellent. Overall, he posted a 0.903 save percentage over four years in Edmonton – almost the same total as he managed in Chicago, except that NHL goaltending has improved. Among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played over those four years, Khabibulin’s 0.903 save percentage ranks 39th of 42 players.

NHL goalies are getting better. At 40, Khabibulin is not.

Bottom Line

Khabibulin is a terrible fit for the Oilers. Ideally, the Oilers need a backup they can count on to play (Khabibulin can’t be, due to injury), play well (Khabibulin has not consistently done so) and ideally someone who can continue to push starter Devan Dubnyk or take over for a stretch if he falters or gets hurt (something Khabibulin simply isn’t capable of doing at this stage of his career).

When it comes to addressing the number two goaltending slot in Edmonton, Nikolai Khabibulin shouldn’t be in the conversation.

STREAKCRED

Sign up for StreakCred - the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. For only $20 you can win solid prizes and a portion of the proceeds go to supporting the MS Bike Tour and the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#51 Rama Lama
May 08 2013, 03:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Lochenzo wrote:

Next year is a big year for the Oil. They must make the playoffs. If DD gets hurt, they need somebody that can play a string a games together and win more than they lose.

Khabby has some nice numbers this past year and has a good relationship with DD. But I don't feel confident that he can play 5 or 6 games in a row well, if it ever came to that.

DD is not a playoff type of goalie.........yes he does make his share of saves, but he lets goals in at all the wrong time too.

He should be considered a back up or at best a goalie that can play half the games, or a dual goalie situation, at least until he gets consistent.

Avatar
#52 Kosmo Kramer
May 08 2013, 04:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

Well DSF you make it sound all so easy. Just trade Lou, thats all there is to it. You yourself admit its hard to trade him with getting older and his contract. So you just admitted that Gillis made a stupid move signing Lou to that contract. Now Gillis is going to waste how many more millions of the owners money buying out a couple more duds. If all of that happens then there will be another news conference telling Mikey to find a new job.

Avatar
#53 The Beaker
May 08 2013, 04:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Kosmo Kramer

Gillis should be going way before AV... but thats not how the hockey world works.

Avatar
#54 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 08 2013, 04:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

This whole insurgence to fire someone in VAN is ridiculous.

That is an extraordinarily successful team over the past several years.

Beyond emotional catharsis... I'm not sure what would be achieved by any dramatic changes.

Trade Lu, dump some bad bets and pick up a few more pieces. That core is still magic.

Avatar
#55 Sd
May 08 2013, 04:52PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

AV to Edmonton.

Avatar
#56 Fred
May 08 2013, 04:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Vancouver is going through a cycle most teams go through. They had a window of 3 yrs to win the Cup and now they are an above average team that will make the playoffs next year. I don't know what all the panic is for, Sedins are getting older perhaps no longer a #1 line. They have work to do to become a Stanley Cup contender but this is normal for teams. There core is not young which is the biggest problem for them

Avatar
#57 Eddie Edmonton
May 08 2013, 05:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

I love how bandwagon Canuck fans are now jumping back to the Oilers. I love even more how they try to bring their favorite Canuck over with asinine suggestions.

Avatar
#58 Dog Train
May 08 2013, 05:09PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Rama Lama

How can you say he's not a playoff type goalie when he's never played a single NHL playoff game?

Amen Willis. It was a mistake to sign him four years ago and it would be a mistake to re-sign him now. DD has earned the #1 spot but I think that he still needs somebody to push him and potentially play well if Dubnyk falters or gets hurt.

Avatar
#59 Eddie Edmonton
May 08 2013, 05:17PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Rama Lama

When is a right time to let in a goal? When your team is up by 3, 4? How many goalies in the NHL have the luxury of the right time to let in a goal?

Avatar
#60 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 08 2013, 05:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Eddie Edmonton wrote:

When is a right time to let in a goal? When your team is up by 3, 4? How many goalies in the NHL have the luxury of the right time to let in a goal?

22 goalies played 30 games or more this season. Dubnyk was 9th in that group in SV%.

He's not elite, but he's above average.

Avatar
#61 John Chambers
May 08 2013, 05:27PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

This whole insurgence to fire someone in VAN is ridiculous.

That is an extraordinarily successful team over the past several years.

Beyond emotional catharsis... I'm not sure what would be achieved by any dramatic changes.

Trade Lu, dump some bad bets and pick up a few more pieces. That core is still magic.

I agree about the coach - they won't find a better one.

They do need to make a big move though to give themselves a new look and free up dollars to add another impact player up front.

Van is the only team who can boast 4 legitimate top-pairing D. Not tomention two All-Star goalies. If they can get some quality young assets in return and then have $ to go after a high-end buyout candidate or UFA (eg Horton, Briere, or Heatley), they could easily finish at the top of their conference and keep the window open another 3 years.

Big summer for Gillis though, and big changes do need to be made.

Avatar
#62 TigerUnderGlass
May 08 2013, 05:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Sorry Willis, I didn't read this article because the answer to your titular question is "no".

Avatar
#63 Smokey
May 08 2013, 05:56PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
John Chambers wrote:

I agree about the coach - they won't find a better one.

They do need to make a big move though to give themselves a new look and free up dollars to add another impact player up front.

Van is the only team who can boast 4 legitimate top-pairing D. Not tomention two All-Star goalies. If they can get some quality young assets in return and then have $ to go after a high-end buyout candidate or UFA (eg Horton, Briere, or Heatley), they could easily finish at the top of their conference and keep the window open another 3 years.

Big summer for Gillis though, and big changes do need to be made.

Maybe four overpaid D. Bieksa and Garrison are 3-4's. Hamhuis and the Swede I concede. Neither Schneider or Luongo are all star goalies.

Avatar
#64 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 08 2013, 06:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
John Chambers wrote:

I agree about the coach - they won't find a better one.

They do need to make a big move though to give themselves a new look and free up dollars to add another impact player up front.

Van is the only team who can boast 4 legitimate top-pairing D. Not tomention two All-Star goalies. If they can get some quality young assets in return and then have $ to go after a high-end buyout candidate or UFA (eg Horton, Briere, or Heatley), they could easily finish at the top of their conference and keep the window open another 3 years.

Big summer for Gillis though, and big changes do need to be made.

I guess we'd differ on what big moves mean...

I guess I'm pushing back on the blow things up idea (whether that means coach and/or manager and/or players)

One of the goalies is gone, some bad bets are gone (Ballard, maybe Booth, maybe Roy) and maybe one or two large pieces (Edler?)

If that all happens... I wouldn't call that a major change. That leaves a huge core of the team intact.

Avatar
#65 Romulus' Apotheosis
May 08 2013, 06:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Smokey wrote:

Maybe four overpaid D. Bieksa and Garrison are 3-4's. Hamhuis and the Swede I concede. Neither Schneider or Luongo are all star goalies.

I don't know if they are all 1s and 2s if we mean players of the Pronger variety.

But those 4 are all really, really solid D. And Tanev is a real gem.

Avatar
#66 Rod from Viking
May 08 2013, 07:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

Not a chance Khabby is done like the Canucks, How about Halak out of ST. Louis?

Avatar
#67 oliveoilers
May 08 2013, 07:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers

Err, excuse me? Vancouver is a successful team? They set themselves the benchmark for success as nothing less than the Stanley cup. By their own admission they are not a successful team. Enjoy your president's choice trophies.

Avatar
#68 geno
May 08 2013, 07:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I'd try to see if BOS would trade one of Svedberg or Khudobin's rights. Don't know if they have many better options than that. Maybe trade for one of Hiller/Fasth/Frederik Andersen out of ANA. Likely a steep price tag on those ones though.

Avatar
#69 DSF
May 08 2013, 07:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Smokey

None of their defensemen are overpaid.

Avatar
#70 DSF
May 08 2013, 07:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
oliveoilers wrote:

Err, excuse me? Vancouver is a successful team? They set themselves the benchmark for success as nothing less than the Stanley cup. By their own admission they are not a successful team. Enjoy your president's choice trophies.

Yes.

Expectations are much higher in Vancouver.

Winning the division and getting scorched in the first round is not a viable option.

That's why they'll make changes.

Expectations are different in Edmonton, where finishing 24th is some kind of a badge of honour.

It's quite sad, actually.

Avatar
#71 DSF
May 08 2013, 07:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The Canucks have 3 players the Oilers should be interested in.

Mason Raymond is UFA. Kills penalties and would be an interesting 3rd line addition.

Derek Roy is a very good 2nd line centre who would be an upgrade on Gagner and could likely be signed for less than Sammy Snowpants.

Alex Edler is still a young developing defenseman who would immediately be a better option that Petry on the top pairing.

Avatar
#72 Cheap Shot Charlie
May 08 2013, 07:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
4
cheers

@DSF

AH haha!!! You always say the darnest things!!!

It's like the less sense you make the funnier it gets! Like a little kid debating that they are smarter than scientists because he knows his H2O is water! You are hillarious!!! Keep up the good work!

I love you, man! *HUG*

Avatar
#73 The Soup Fascist
May 08 2013, 07:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
DSF wrote:

The Canucks have 3 players the Oilers should be interested in.

Mason Raymond is UFA. Kills penalties and would be an interesting 3rd line addition.

Derek Roy is a very good 2nd line centre who would be an upgrade on Gagner and could likely be signed for less than Sammy Snowpants.

Alex Edler is still a young developing defenseman who would immediately be a better option that Petry on the top pairing.

Elder would be good.

Keep Roy as far from here as possible. An absolute dressing room cancer. There is a reason this guy is always available. Not close to Gagner, IMO. Has as much edge as a wet Kleenex. Even you know that DSF. I assume this is your shiny hook in the water. Lets move on.

Raymond - meh. I realize he would be an upgrade to a few guys but the Oilers need more grit from those positions. Plus dude is a M*A*S*H unit. We will take Edler. Keep the rest of the crap. This squad played exactly four more games this season than the Oil.

Avatar
#74 DSF
May 08 2013, 07:59PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Cheap Shot Charlie wrote:

AH haha!!! You always say the darnest things!!!

It's like the less sense you make the funnier it gets! Like a little kid debating that they are smarter than scientists because he knows his H2O is water! You are hillarious!!! Keep up the good work!

I love you, man! *HUG*

Deep.

Avatar
#75 Cheap Shot Charlie
May 08 2013, 08:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
DSF wrote:

None of their defensemen are overpaid.

P.s. You almost caught me! I was going to argue your point but it's you! You don't even believe the things you say!!!

Like, Florida will pick Drouin...They won't. McKinnon is a lock in FLA

Avatar
#76 Cheap Shot Charlie
May 08 2013, 08:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers
DSF wrote:

Deep.

Thanks I've really tried my best to sink to your level.

Avatar
#77 DSF
May 08 2013, 08:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
The Soup Fascist wrote:

Elder would be good.

Keep Roy as far from here as possible. An absolute dressing room cancer. There is a reason this guy is always available. Not close to Gagner, IMO. Has as much edge as a wet Kleenex. Even you know that DSF. I assume this is your shiny hook in the water. Lets move on.

Raymond - meh. I realize he would be an upgrade to a few guys but the Oilers need more grit from those positions. Plus dude is a M*A*S*H unit. We will take Edler. Keep the rest of the crap. This squad played exactly four more games this season than the Oil.

Roy is a "dressing room cancer"?

Source?

Avatar
#78 The Soup Fascist
May 08 2013, 08:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

Roy is a "dressing room cancer"?

Source?

Ex-Sabre who shall remain nameless. I realize that does not hold much weight but it would not be fair of me to say his name. In hindsight it was bad form for me to say it if I won't reveal who I heard it from.

Doesn't change my view but I should not have put that out there.

Avatar
#79 DSF
May 08 2013, 08:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
The Soup Fascist wrote:

Ex-Sabre who shall remain nameless. I realize that does not hold much weight but it would not be fair of me to say his name. In hindsight it was bad form for me to say it if I won't reveal who I heard it from.

Doesn't change my view but I should not have put that out there.

Gagner is also a "cancer".

He's always thought he should be gifted first line and first line PP minutes.

My source is his GM in junior who thinks the young man has a lot of growing up to do.

Avatar
#80 The Soup Fascist
May 08 2013, 08:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Right.

And my Dad can beat up your Dad.

Gagner hasn't played Junior for 6 years. Look, believe the Roy stuff or not but to counter with "Gagner is a cancer" reeks of childishness.

Sad, actually.

Avatar
#81 Cheap Shot Charlie
May 08 2013, 08:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
DSF wrote:

Gagner is also a "cancer".

He's always thought he should be gifted first line and first line PP minutes.

My source is his GM in junior who thinks the young man has a lot of growing up to do.

OH MAN!!! You are on a role tonight!!!

I love you, man! *HUG*

Avatar
#82 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 08:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
3
cheers

The best part for me with the Canucks getting swept .Listening to one of the sisters whine about penalty calls.You got swept 4 straight the problem was in the mirror not with the ref.Classic, I howled listening to him.

That is why they never finish and win the Cup.It is always the fault of someone else.If only Tim Thomas had pumped Lou's tires

Avatar
#83 Smokey
May 08 2013, 08:53PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
DSF wrote:

None of their defensemen are overpaid.

Bieksa is junk at 5 mil. Many in Vancouver think this, remember they wanted to run him outta town for being junk. Garrison is widely concidered an overpay. Hamhuis and Edler fine. Tanev I like. Goatending is over-rated. Lou is the albatros that not only is closing Vancouvers window, but smashing it in the process. Shoulda traded him for peanuts when teams would take for him. There is no cornerstone pieces of the youth rebuild coming. If Philly wants to trade Voracek and Schenn for Edler and Schneider, that might save Vancouver.

Bye AV, maybe Gillis....

Avatar
#84 DSF
May 08 2013, 08:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Spydyr wrote:

The best part for me with the Canucks getting swept .Listening to one of the sisters whine about penalty calls.You got swept 4 straight the problem was in the mirror not with the ref.Classic, I howled listening to him.

That is why they never finish and win the Cup.It is always the fault of someone else.If only Tim Thomas had pumped Lou's tires

The sad thing is, despite all their troubles, the Canucks are a vastly superior team compared to the Oilers.

Avatar
#85 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 08:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
DSF wrote:

The sad thing is, despite all their troubles, the Canucks are a vastly superior team compared to the Oilers.

Really,what have they won.Ever.Personally I equate success with Cups.5-0.

Avatar
#86 Spartacus
May 08 2013, 09:00PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Cheap Shot Charlie wrote:

AH haha!!! You always say the darnest things!!!

It's like the less sense you make the funnier it gets! Like a little kid debating that they are smarter than scientists because he knows his H2O is water! You are hillarious!!! Keep up the good work!

I love you, man! *HUG*

I look forward to your responses to whatsisname's comments.

I love YOU, man.

Avatar
#87 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 09:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Oil Kings are down 2-0 start of the third.Lets go Boys!!!!

Avatar
#88 Cheap Shot Charlie
May 08 2013, 09:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

The sad thing is, despite all their troubles, the Canucks are a vastly superior team compared to the Oilers.

Ahaha!!! how do you keep doing it?!? *My dad is tougher than your dad* *I'm smarter because I'm older* *Sam Gagner has a lot of growing up to do - said by his junior coach over 6 years ago*

Best entertainment ever! Keep it up!

I love you, man! *HUG*

p.s. I checked out Canucks army...why don't you post there? Did you get asked to move to a site with more traffic to dispense your vending machine of humor?

Avatar
#89 The Soup Fascist
May 08 2013, 09:03PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
2
cheers
DSF wrote:

None of their defensemen are overpaid.

So you don't think Keith Ballard should be bought out? He is "good value" at $4.2 million?

Avatar
#90 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 09:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

2-1.....Go Oil Kings

Avatar
#91 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 08 2013, 09:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Perhaps something could be done for Viktor Fasth. He has had a solid first yr. Don't see the Duckaroos spending nearly 8 million on their goalies alone.

Oilers are on the outside looking in again next season, so there's no rush to deviate from the path that management has chosen. Lotsa time to deal with this issue.

Avatar
#92 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 09:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

None of their defensemen are overpaid.

No everything is perfect in Lotus land.It hardly ever rains there either.

Avatar
#93 DSF
May 08 2013, 09:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Spydyr wrote:

No everything is perfect in Lotus land.It hardly ever rains there either.

Far from perfect.

A lot of work to be done.

Avatar
#94 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
May 08 2013, 09:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Spydyr wrote:

Really,what have they won.Ever.Personally I equate success with Cups.5-0.

Do pre-modern era Championships still count in todays NHL?

Avatar
#95 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 09:12PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

Far from perfect.

A lot of work to be done.

Same with Florida Even with the genius GM Tallon.

Avatar
#96 DSF
May 08 2013, 09:13PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Next up, is Connor McJesus. wrote:

Do pre-modern era Championships still count in todays NHL?

No.

Avatar
#97 The Soup Fascist
May 08 2013, 09:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Cheap Shot Charlie wrote:

P.s. You almost caught me! I was going to argue your point but it's you! You don't even believe the things you say!!!

Like, Florida will pick Drouin...They won't. McKinnon is a lock in FLA

You are a better man than me Charles. How can you not respond to this drivel? Are you a descendant of Gandhi ? Mind you if Mo had met DSF he may have chosen to swear off non-violence.

I doff my chapeau.

Avatar
#98 Spydyr
May 08 2013, 09:15PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
DSF wrote:

No.

Better take all of Gretzky's records out of the books then.They don't count either.Orr's they mean nothing .

Two handed facepalm.

Avatar
#99 Cheap Shot Charlie
May 08 2013, 09:25PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

No.

Someone else is on your team!!! The three of us can now be considered a gang! WE BE TOUGH!!! Wanna go claim the monkey bars as our territory?!?

I love you, man! *HUG* - oh wait! Tough guys don't hug...we cuddle!

Avatar
#100 DSF
May 08 2013, 09:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The Swedish national team just added 3 players.

Daniel, Henrik and Edler.

No mention of Magnus.

Must be a mistake,

Comments are closed for this article.