— Joanne Ireland (@jirelandEJ) March 10, 2013
If this tweet sent by Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal holds weight, we can expect to see Nikolai Khabibulin back with the team in a week or less. If he’s back on or around March 20th, that’ll be two weeks before the trade deadline.
WHY TRADE KHABIBULIN?
Nikolai Khabibulin’s four year, fifteen million dollar tenure with the Edmonton Oilers will end at the end of April. At 40 years of age, the team should not offer him a contract extension, and a turbulent chapter in the history of the Edmonton Oilers will hopefully be allowed to turn a page towards the future.
Barring a near epic turn of good fortune, the Oilers are looking forward to the draft as the end of April approaches. (Even if they were looking towards the playoffs, I wouldn’t include Nikolai Khabibulin in that conversation due to his injury history, or his history of playing in months that don’t start with the letter ‘O’)
With that in mind, I’ve combed the National Hockey League and have identified three possible trade targets who may be looking to “bolster” their net for a run to the playoffs. Khabibulin had a nice little run before being put on IR, and I’m probably more optimistic than I should be about GMs remembering this.
I wouldn’t expect a lot of loot in return for Nikolai Khabibulin, but it would be nice to get back that fourth round pick that was dealt to the Maple Leafs for Mike Brown. If the club can swing anything more, it’d be extra gravy on top.
So where could Khabibulin end up?
My top choice is Carolina. Cam Ward is out for the regular season with a knee injury suffered last week. This leaves the Hurricanes with Dan Ellis (4-2-1, 2.60 / .921) and Justin Peters (1-1-0, 3.53 / .897) to mind the nets. Carolina currently leads the Southeast with 29 points. If Dan Ellis’ SV% can stay at the level it’s currently at, the need for a goaltender might not be as much as I’m betting. But if a couple of losses bring Ellis’ SV% down to his career average of .909 and the Hurricanes lose ground, Raleigh might be a sensible landing spot for Khabibulin.
Martin Brodeur has been the starting goaltender in New Jersey since Chris Terreri, or the mid 90s. Brodeur has been on IR since February 25th with a back injury. Although there’s “no timetable” to return according to Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, the 41 year old Brodeur is back skating and is expected to be taken off IR tomorrow. Who’s been running the ship since Brodeur’s injury? Johan Hedberg (4-7-2, 2.97 / .879) and a combination of Keith Kincaid (23 minutes) Jeff Frazee (19 minutes). The Devils have struggled mightily since Brodeur’s injury, going just 2-6-1, and sit precariously close to the playoff bubble at the moment. Khabibiulin could be a viable insurance policy.
WILD CARD: TORONTO
If I could pick a trade destination for Nikolai Khabibulin it would be Toronto just so I could read the wonderful reactions from the Barilkosphere. Mind you, I like a significant number of Leaf fans, it’s just that the reading would be ten times Fifty Shades of Grey. The Leafs are getting better than advertised goaltending from James Reimer (9-3-1, 2.66 / .919) and Ben Scrivens (6-7-0, 2.76, .920). Heck, the Leafs are better than advertised this year at 15-10-1, good for third place in the Northeast behind Montréal and Boston. If Reimer and Scrivens can hold their numbers and the Leafs keep up their pace, there’s a good chance they’ll make the playoffs and stand pat. But if a couple of clunkers are rolled out by either Reimer or Scrivens, I’d pick up the phone.
If they could do it for the same fourth round pick the Oilers sent to Toronto for Mike Brown, I’d pull that deal faster than you could say ‘yes’. If they wanted to make it a third, that’d be fine too.
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