Thursday, 19 January 2012
01/19/12 Trading Khabibulin
Another day, another loss. But of course, the one bright spot was Nikolai Khabibulin and his 0.974 save percentage on a night where he didn't get a lot of help. Is it time to sell high and move Khabibulin and his contract to a new home?
With a 0.921 Sv% on the year to go along with a 2.36 GAA and 11-14-4 record, Khabibulin has seen his stock rise dramatically. However, the case for trading him begins with the fact that the Bulin Wall won't be here when the Oilers become a good team (assuming that ever happens, of course), and that he is unlikely to be able to sustain his high level of play.
Those are Khabibulin's best numbers since 2001-02. The only time he's come close was with Chicago back in 2008-09 when he had a 0.919 Sv% and 2.33 GAA. Over the course of his career Khabibulin has a 0.908 Sv% and 2.71 GAA, which is about where his numbers have landed on average over his time in Edmonton. That's not enormously better than Devan Dubnyk's career numbers at 0.906 Sv% and 3.01 GAA. Dubnyk hasn't shown enough evidence that he is a starting goalie in the NHL, but his overall stats aren't that much of a downgrade from Khabibulin's.
At 39 years old, Khabibulin is not the future. The Oilers won't be good enough next season to need him for a Cup run, and extending him beyond his current contract is extremely risky and unlikely to be the right move. One way or another, Nikolai Khabibulin is nearing the end of his tenure in the Oilers' crease.
With that said, the Oilers are in a position to see what his value is on the trade market. There are a few teams out there that could use some goaltending help. The extra year on Khabibulin's contract means that he may have some appeal even to teams that are already out of the playoff picture this season, like Tampa Bay and Columbus.
The Bulin Wall may not fetch a prospect or pick that could turn the Oilers around, but it would open up $3.75 million in cap space. Right now his play makes that number look like a steal, but when his stats average out it won't be as flattering.
Khabibulin's value is unlikely to ever be higher than it is now, and eventually the Oilers will part ways with him for nothing. If he's going to be traded, now is the time.