Nikolai Khabibulin has unwittingly saved GMs across the NHL from themselves. The veteran goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers will be off the market ahead of next week's trade deadline on account of a groin injury:
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will be out of the #Oilers line-up for 7-10 days with a sore groin.— Edmonton Oilers (@NHL_Oilers) February 20, 2012
Khabibulin suffered the malady in Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. It's an unfortunate blow to the Oilers, to be sure, if for no other reason than that it gives the team one less piece to dangle on the block in hopes of bringing back a prospect or two for their full-scale rebuild.
As for all the teams around the NHL in search of a new netminder (i.e. the Chicago Blackhawks, the Philadelphia Flyers), Khabibulin's injury is a blessing in disguise. He's 39 and comes complete with a catastrophic cap hit of $3.75 million for next season.
On the ice, Khabibulin has been anything but a reliable backstop, at least since November. The old Russian ranks 26th in the NHL in goals-against average and 23rd in save percentage this season.
Surely that sort of efficacy in goal (or lack thereof) would be of little help to anyone's hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup. Those in such dire need of goaltending would be much better served inquiring with the likes of the St. Louis Blues and the New York Islanders to fill their needs.
At the very least, Khabibulin's injury will save some GMs a few precious minutes of wheeling and dealing as February 27th draws ever nearer.