Nikolai Khabibulin: Four Years, $27 Million Down the Drain

Signature SportsCorrespondent IJanuary 9, 2009

When Chicago signed Nikolai Khabibulin, they never knew the result that they were going to get.

At $6.75 million per year over four years, he seemed like a pretty good deal at the time, but he ended up not to be.

In the previous season, Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup with a great offence and defence. Khabibulin also had his best run in his career.

Before that run, Khabibulin had only won one playoff series for his respective team. His G.A.A. wasn't spectacular and his consistency wasn't at the best.

As soon as Khabibulin won the Cup, he seemed like the goaltender of the future, but that proved to be wrong. In 2005, with the salary cap at only $39 million, Nikolai signed his deal. Comparing the salary-salary cap ratio, that would be over $9.5 million in today's NHL—as much as Alexander Ovechkin makes on average!

In his first season, he had 17 wins, 26 losses, no shutouts, a goals-against average of 3.35 and a stunning save percentage of 0.886. Remember, he was the highest-paid goaltender at the time and he still is.

He ended up getting injured, but that was just the beginning.

In Nikolai's second season, he got 25 wins, 26 losses and five OT losses. His GAA and save percentage were up, but they still were a lot lower then normal NHL Standards. In Nikolai's third season, he did a bit better but still not good enough to get a pretty solid Chicago Blackhawks team into the playoffs.

This season, he's fighting for the role of starter with Cristobal Huet, who is also making tons of money. Also, he was reportedly placed on waivers before the season even started but nobody even claimed him. It just shows that his salary is too high for his playing ability and expertise.

Don't get me wrong, Nikolai is not a bad goalie—he's just not good enough at the salary that he's currently getting. His injuries have cost this Blackhawks team several times.

Let us all hope that Nikolai can capitalize on his last chance at proving his worth, his salary and that he can actually play at a solid level in the new, revamped National Hockey League.