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Numbers Game: Oilers Turn To Khabibulin

Scott Cullen
7/1/2009 11:25:34 PM
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Once Dwayne Roloson moved on to the Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers grabbed a new number one goaltender.

Numbers Game looks at the Oilers' signing of Nikolai Khabibulin.

The Oilers Get: Nikolai Khabibulin.

Khabibulin, 36, generally underperformed for three seasons after signing a four-year contract in Chicago, to the point that the Blackhawks waived him prior to the 2008-2009 season. 

With no takers, Khabibulin suddenly returned to his elite puckstopping form, with his .919 save percentage his best since 2001-2002.

If Khabibulin can keep his play at a high level, he'll be an asset to the Oilers, but it's also worth noting that the Oilers allowed four shots per game more than the Blackhawks, so even if Khabibulin stops pucks at the same rate, his goals against average could very well increase anyway.

What Khabibulin will have working in his favour in Edmonton is that, with unproven Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers as his backup, Khabibulin will be expected to be a serious starter, possibly getting more than 60 starts for the first time since 2002-2003, which will give him a better opportunity to increase his win totals.

While Khabibulin's track record makes this signing somewhat questionable, the Oilers are getting a starter who has won a Stanley Cup at a reasonable price (four years, $15-million).

In Chicago, Khabibulin's departure will pave the way for Cristobal Huet to assume the starter's role, where he should get more than the 40 starts he had last season.  If Huet falters, he'll be challenged by Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford, prospects who figure to battle for the backup job.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca

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