What are the chances Ales Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin are moved by the Edmonton Oilers by the NHL trade deadline? I don’t know for sure, but their names came up in a conversation today between two people I trust, so I’m paying attention.

Of course, Hemsky’s name has been the subject of untold speculation for months, some might say years, so hearing his name come up today as being moved along is hardly stop-the-presses material. Likewise, fans around here and elsewhere have mentioned Khabibulin, even if much of the talk falls into the category of wishful thinking.

But when long-time Ottawa Sun beat man Bruce Garrioch, one of a handful of people in the hockey writing business I consider to be in the know, mentions Hemsky and Khabibulin, as he did today in a segment on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on 630 CHED, I put considerably more weight in it than I do in garden variety what-if talk offered up by fans and outsiders pretending to have inside info.

Yes, Garrioch throws a lot of stuff against the wall to see what sticks – that’s part of his mandate and comes with filling with his widely read weekend column – but I made and took enough calls from him over the years while working the beat to know he’s got a pretty good grasp of what’s going on.

Just one example of that came at the NHL Entry Draft in Nashville when Garrioch strongly suggested I look into the possibility all was not right between the Oilers and Mike Comrie – that was months before the crap hit the fan between No. 89 and then GM Kevin Lowe, but I digress . . .


Today, Stauffer, who is more in the know than anybody in this town by a long shot when it comes to the Oilers, asked Garrioch who he’d list as most likely to move between now and the deadline Feb. 27.

Garrioch mentioned seven players, including Hemsky and Khabibulin on his list with Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason, Jaroslav Spacek, Bryan Allen – Jason Gregor and I talked this quartet from the Carolina Hurricanes on his show at TEAM 1260 Wednesday – and Bobby Ryan of Anaheim. I’d also add Andy Sutton to that list, but neither Garrioch nor Stauffer brought his name up.

With Hemsky approaching unrestricted free agency, it’s a no-brainer he’s grist for the rumor mill. I have no doubt Tambellini will shop him. The only question is how aggressively, and who returns his calls.

What got my attention, given his age and what would seem a very limited list of teams in the market, was Garrioch’s insistence Khabibulin will be in play, which leads me to believe he’s heard something.

With 33 days until the deadline, the buzz, guesswork and speculation will increase once the all-star game is done. For fans, that means throwing out scenarios and wish-lists of acquisitions (often one-sided deals that will help their team). For reporters, it means working the phones and checking with agents to get an inside track on what’s likely to happen. The scribes on top of things, like Garrioch, have already made a lot of those calls.

Stay tuned.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

    • Bruce and others toting press passes for a living talk to GMs and pro scouts and agents on a daily basis as part of their duties, so, yes, they hear things.

      That doesn’t mean what they report as being discussed always comes to fruition. Lots of serious talks amount to nothing. Having done the job, I can attest to that.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Comrie,Smyth,Pronger,Souray…Hemsky, who’s next to be heading out of town? Looks as though they’ve done a good job wizzing Taylor Hall off lately.

    When in doubt, wait till you exausted your options and move one of your better players for the weakest of returns. The reasons for this losing culture has never been more evident.

  • Given that Tampa Bay just passed on Antero Niittymaki, why would they take Khabibulin for anything?

    Khabibulin makes almost $4.0 million next season, and has been a 0.902 SV% goalie for the Oilers. Since his first nine games, he’s been a 0.899 SV% goalie.

    He has negative value.

    • Souby


      I know that Khabby has another year at a cap hit of $3.75 million ,but looking at the numbers for the goalies that Tampa currently has, Khabby has been better. I am not sure where you got the .902 SV%, but on NHL.com, his numbers are 30GP, 2.45 GAA and .918 SV%.

      If the Oil had to take Roli back along with someone else to offset the $$$, don’t you think a deal could be had here? It wouldn’t be a blockbuster, but if the Oil could get a 3rd rounder in the deal, I think that would be good.

      Just a thought…

    • Clyde Frog

      Because he is known-commodity with a history and is outperforming their current tandem.

      Again it boils down to price, history and performance. If a GM is going to make a splash I would posit they would want to minimize risk and there is a lot of “seen him good” when trying to make a decision over just the stat sheet spread.

      If we ask the right price, take enough in return I would argue Khabibulin is not un-tradable, especially with the flashes of brilliance he has shown.

      I’m not saying it will happen, just that its not as far fetched as someone buried in piles of stats sheets may want us to believe.

    • D'oh-ilers

      In fairness, he also spent the majority of the past 20 starts without an actual NHL defense in front of him. He’s had a few brutal games, but he’s kept the team in several games they should have been blown out of.

      That said, I’m equally skeptical about him being moved, though he could prove to be a solid backup on a contending team. That extra year is the main problem to moving him.

      • Khabibulin’s been a 0.902 goalie over his Oilers career. In the same span, Dubnyk’s been a 0.908 goalie.

        He’s had good games – as the start of the season shows, he’s even had stretches of them. But overall he’s been a sup-average backup at an outrageously inflated price.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    I think Hemmer in a package deal to LA that can bring us Bernier would be good. Khabby to TBL for some overpaid depth player and a pick/prospect makes sense?

  • vetinari

    This season is another wash so moving a goalie (like Khabi), a defenceman (Sutton), and a forward or two (Hemsky, Gagner, Hordichuk, Green, etc.) should be expected. Hopefully, the Oil can land one or two foundation stones on defence and in goal in return. I would think any UFA would be in play at the deadline as a rental and any “second tier” or fringe youth players.

  • Souby

    Now things are starting to get interesting…..

    Robin, It has been rumoured that Tampa Bay has been looking for help between the pipes and with Khabby’s history there, do you see this as a fit? What, if any, other suitors might be out there?

    Whether it is Tampa or someone else, what do you think the return would be on a 39 year old goalie with lots of miles on him?

  • Soccer Steve

    I just recently watched Moneyball. In a few separate scenes, for those who haven’t seen it, Brad Pitt’s character yells out on a whim for his secretary to get some other MLB GM on the phone. The GM picks up. Pitt proposes a trade. The GM says yes, no, or other. Pitt hangs up and lets the GM mull it over meanwhile calling another colleague GM. This continues until the trade is done or dead.

    Every year we read the blogs or listen to the talking heads on TV or the radio. Every year it’s the same. The media knows nothing. I reckon some of the GM’s know nothing and make a lot of trades on a whim.

    Maybe we should save the energy and time and effort and just let it all happen.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Souby

      Just let it all happen?????

      Where is the fun in that? If you don’t like to hear the rumour mill churning and that is certainly your choice; change the station. I like it because it adds a bit of mystery and intrigue to following your team or hockey in general.

      I feel the media and GM’s know a little more than you give them credit for though. Guys like Mackenzie, Dreger, Garrioch and Stauffer are in the know and more often than not, they peg something pretty close to the mark. They might not get the destination 100% of the time, but usually if a players name comes up as available, they know about it.

    • “The media knows nothing. I reckon some of the GM’s know nothing and make a lot of trades on a whim.”

      No question there’s lots of baseless speculation and guesswork to weed through, but you’re way over the top with that statement.

      Until a trade is actually made, all reporters can do is track who is talking and try to find out what players are being discussed. There are lots of talks that result in nothing, but to suggest the etablished guys out there who have national audiences know nothing and, it follows, are making things up, is a bit much.

      • Soccer Steve

        Fair enough and I retract the generalized use of the word “nothing”. Maybe shove “Most of” at the beginning of the line.

        The problem for me is the mentality with much of the media that ‘a man’s gotta eat’. In the day of 24 hours news coverage and 4 sports channel within remote control distance, never mind the endless void that is the internet, it just gets…old and predictable (not you, I quite enjoy your articles, just the whole rumor mill industry, as it were). I guess that’s all I’m trying to say.

        Moneyball showed a side to GM’ing that I hadn’t seen before and it was refreshing.

        • John Chambers

          You also realize that movies have two hours to tell stories that play out over months or years.

          In fact, I thought they showed Pitt in Shapiro’s Cleveland office several months before the deal got consummated. That fat kid also had a list of players they coveted from the other teams directly in front of him, so they weren’t exactly throwing sh!t against the wall.

          You can think that pro sports general managers may be mavericks like the Billy Beane character, but you should also realize the Hollywood factor, and how that probably doesn’t translate much into reality except for in the world of Mike Milbury.

          • Soccer Steve

            Ok, you may have a point. Except!

            Pierre Gautheir: Kaberle
            Craig Button: Staios
            Peter Poklington: Gretzky
            The curse of Babe Ruth

            Of course, there are GM’s on the other side of these deals. Hollywood or not, these and many more happened.

            It’s just that the Oil Change aspect of deals is much more entertaining to me than hearing about yet another rumor that is probably just a rumor for it’s own sake (again, I’m not singling out this particular article, per se).

      • It makes sense to me that GMs would need to float who is available to potential suitors and that info could realistically flow down from GM to support staff (or other) to media. So its logical to put some weight into media suggestions on who is on the trade block. It wouldn’t make sense for teams to keep their cards tight on who they’d like to move.

        But on the flip side I can’t think of a logical reason why anyone on either side of the equation would divulge the return. Unless the team shipping a player out wanted to up the bidding war by proving what someone else offered? Otherwise it seems like any trade rumor that includes what might come back the other way would be almost entire speculative no matter who its coming from, media or otherwise.

        • GMs and hockey ops staff absolutely talk to some reporters from time to time.

          You might recall I did a series of items here a few years ago leading into the deadline outlining that the Oilers were talking to the Hurricanes about sending Erik Cole back to Carolina — as unlikely as that seemed to a lot of people because they’d just acquired him from there.

          That turned into the roundabout deal involving Patrick O’Sullivan and LA with Cole going back to Carolina. I didn’t get a whiff of that from ticket takers or janitors at Rexall.

          By the way, the player the Oilers really wanted for sending Cole back to Carolina was Tuomo Ruutu.

  • Clyde Frog

    Any chance the lightning take a shot on Khabibulin?

    They seem to like older goalies who played for Edmonton, he has a good history with them…. We could take back Roloson!