4 Reasons the Edmonton Oilers Should Give Nikolai Khabibulin More Starts
By signing Devan Dubnyk to a two-year contract during the 2012 offseason, the Edmonton Oilers made a statement that they were going to give the 26-year-old the opportunity to become the team's undisputed No.1 goaltender.
However, in Nikolai Khabibulin, the Oilers have a veteran presence that can provide leadership for Dubnyk, as well as a goaltender who still possesses the ability to steal a game for the team.
Since coming off of the injured reserve list, Khabibulin has looked solid in net for the team and has often provided a calming influence with his stability at the back end.
Here is a look at five reasons the Edmonton Oilers should give Nikolai Khabibulin more starts in net this season.
Might as Well Get What You Pay For
The Oilers have a significant amount of money invested in Khabibulin, and may as well get as much out of him during the last year of his contract.
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The Oilers made a significant investment in Nikolai Khabibulin when they signed the veteran netminder to a four-year $15 million contract after the 2008-09 season.
Unfortunately for Edmonton, Khabibulin has been unable to resist the injury bug and has missed significant ice time due to various injuries.
Khabibulin is now entering the final year of his contract, and since coming off the injury list, the team has been able to spell Devan Dubnyk with the veteran.
Though it is his last year with the team, the Oilers may as well get as much ice time as they can out of the "Bulin Wall" while they still can.
He Has Looked Strong During His Time on the Ice This Season
Khabibulin has proved that he still has the ability to play significant minutes for the Oilers.
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Since drawing back into the lineup, Khabibulin has looked extremely sharp for the Oilers at times and has allowed the team to compete in every game that he has been in net.
Offseason hip surgery hasn't seemed to hamper the veteran's performance, and this has led to a strong start for Khabibulin this season.
Khabibulin is currently 2-2 with a .942 save percentage and a 1.89 goals against, and appears to be more than a guy who the Oilers simply put in net to give Devan Dubnyk a rest.
As long as Khabibulin continues to play strong for the team, Ralph Krueger will have a tough time benching the former Stanley Cup winner.
Maximize Trade Value
If Khabibulin can continue to play well, the Oilers may be able to trade him for an asset.
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It will be hard to predict where the Edmonton Oilers will be in the standings come the NHL trade deadline, but if the team finds itself outside of the playoff picture looking in, they may look to trade expiring contracts for some potential assets or draft picks.
While many teams will be leery of trading for a 40-year-old goaltender, if Nikolai Khabibulin continues to shine as he has during his limited ice time, teams seeking a veteran backup may come calling.
The Oilers would be wise to continue playing Khabibulin, and if the veteran can continue his impressive performance, the team may be able to trade him instead of seeing him leave for nothing as an unrestricted free-agent in the summer.
It Allows Dubnyk to Rest
With Khabibulin playing so well, the Oilers can rest Devan Dubnyk and still be confident.
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While the Oilers want to see if Devan Dubnyk is able to handle the increased workload of a No.1 goaltender in the NHL, Dubnyk will need to rest from time to time. With a lack of depth of NHL-ready goaltenders in the franchise, Nikolai Khabibulin is the main option as Dubnyk's backup.
By consistently playing Khabibulin, the Oilers will be able to increase Dubnyk's games played without burning out the young goalie in the process.
Back-to-back games are usually the prime opportunity to rest a starting goalie in the NHL, but as Khabibulin has shown this season, he still has the ability to string together consecutive starts, allowing Dubnyk time to rest and perhaps heal any nagging injuries or issues that may occur during the course of the season.
He's a Strong Veteran Presence
Khabibulin has looked strong in his starts and relief appearances this season.
Khabibulin is a former Stanley Cup winner, provides a strong veteran presence and plays the role of mentor to the young Edmonton Oilers squad.
Beyond mentoring Devan Dubnyk, Khabibulin provides a steady presence for the entire team while he on the ice for the Oilers.
There have been times during the season that Khabibulin has bailed out his teammates with his stellar play in net, and he has made saves when his team needed them most.
With over 780 games played in the league, and another 70 playoff games under his belt, Khabibulin provides Edmonton with invaluable experience and is an asset on the ice and in the locker room.