Trading Khabibulin – If Possible – Is The Only Reasonable Course Of Action
If there’s interest in Nikolai Khabibulin, there is absolutely no reason not to move him. No reason at all.
For starters, Khabibulin’s value in the grand rebuilding scheme is all but nonexistent. He’s 39 years old. He is not the answer long-term. Even if he weren’t old, he’s been either hurt or lousy for his entire Oilers’ tenure, outside of nine games. The injuries, mixed with stretches of incompetence, have been a big factor in the Oilers’ finish the last few seasons.
Then there’s the fact that Khabibulin is blocking an actual goaltending development strategy. Devan Dubnyk has been a better goalie than Khabibulin during their shared tenure. Dubnyk’s save percentage is 0.907 as opposed to Khabibulin’s 0.902. Dubnyk’s record with the Oilers is 26-35-11; Khabibulin’s is 29-57-11, meaning that Dubnyk would need to go 3-22-0 to match Khabibulin’s record with the team – and that isn’t happening. Yet, somehow, Khabibulin ends up making starts when the coach should be rolling with the guy who might actually be starting when the games matter. Yet, reducing Dubnyk’s number of starts is only one way that Khabibulin is retarding a goalie development strategy. The Oilers could be using that second roster spot on a free agent to compete with Dubnyk – a guy like Josh Harding, for example, who is both young enough and has shown enough over his career to be a legitimate candidate for the starting role in his own right. Instead of investing starts in a duo of promising goalies, however, the Oilers keep rolling with the veteran. If they were trying to win now, it wouldn’t make sense; the fact that they aren’t really trying to win now makes it even more insane.
This is before we even get into Khabibulin’s salary, which is high. Or the fact that whatever the Oilers get in return – a prospect, a draft pick, whatever – might be an asset they can use down the road, as opposed to Khabibulin, who they can’t.