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Former Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, 51, signs contract to play in KHL

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Photo credit:Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
5 months ago
From the ice, to the coaching staff and back again.
51-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin is lacing up the skates again, signing a one-year deal through the rest of this season to play for KHL’s Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.
The news was confirmed by the KHL’s English Twitter account.
It will mark the first time in nearly 10 years that Khabibulin has played in a game, with his last professional appearance coming on November 16th, 2013. A veteran of 799 NHL games, Khabibulin was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 9th round of the 1992 draft, but didn’t come to North America to play until the 1994-95 season.
In those years between, however, Khabibulin played in the Russian league, but had a stint with the IHL’s Russian Penguins — a touring team of Russian players, who played 13 games against other IHL clubs.
He broke into the NHL the following year with the Jets, following them to Phoenix when they moved ahead of the 1996-97 season. Throughout his NHL career, he also had stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning, with whom he won the 2004 Stanley Cup, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers — the latter of which is still remembered well in Northern Alberta.
Khabibulin joined the Oilers as a free agent in 2009, signing a four-year, $3.75-m AAV deal at 37 years old. He debuted that October, and it didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off. By January 2010, he was undergoing surgery on a herniated disc in his back — an injury that would follow him into the next season.
While he started strong in the 2011-12 season, things fell off in the second half and in 2012-13, the lockout-shortened year, he played just 12 games backing up Devan Dubnyk. He played four games in Chicago in 2013-14 before retiring.
He was out of hockey for years, before in 2019-20, he started working for the Russian national team as a goaltending coach. He worked with the World Juniors team in 2020 and 2021, as well as other other teams playing internationally. In 2021-22, he was an assistant coach for Russia in the Deutschland Cup, and joined Torpedo ahead of this season as their goaltending coach.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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