Chicago Blackhawks: Rumor Mill Churning Slowly

Michael WagnerSenior Analyst IOctober 27, 2008

Ever since Chicago Blackhawks GM, Dale Tallon, signed defensemen Brian Campbell and goalie Cristobal Huet this summer, the rumors about Nikolai Khabibulin being shopped have been swirling. But as the season approached those rumors began to die down.

Only this week did we once again start hearing Khabibulin's name mentioned in trade rumors, especially ones involving the Ottawa Senators.

Out of the gates, the 'Hawks struggled, and new free agent signee, Cristobal Huet, looked extremely uncomfortable and completely lost in the 'Hawks net. Both goaltenders struggled in the early going. But in the 'Hawks third game of the season, Nikolia Khabibulin made his case to be the number one goalie in the windy city with a win over the Phoenix Coyotes.

Khabibulin continued his campaign for the 'Hawks number one spot with a shut-out against the then unbeaten Edmonton Oilers. This season Khabibulin is 2-1-2 with a 91.2 save percentage and a 2.53 goals allowed average.

The Blackhawks' goaltending has been fairly solid in the early going, with both goalies being shaky at times (Huet especially), but the 'Hawks also have other holes that they need to fill on their team, such as a second line center. 

Common wisdom would say that you would look to shop Huet because of his cheaper contract. But the length of his contract, four years, might make teams hesitant to discuss Huet as a trade option.

Right now Khabibulin looks like the player that will be shopped if the 'Hawks want to add scoring depth. Teams that have been brought up in recent trade discussion are the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avs seem like the team that the 'Hawks would least like to deal with. They would not like to deal Khabibulin within the conference, and the Avs do not have the type of player the 'Hawks are looking for: a second line center. 

So it would seem as though the Senators would be the most likely partner to ship Khabibulin off to, right? Well yes and no. The Senators do have players that might interest the 'Hawks, such as Antoine Vermette and Mike Fisher. But it has also been reported that the Senators are insisting that the 'Hawks also take Martin Gerber back in any trade, which might pose a problem for them. 

The Senators would also need to take back some other type of salary from the 'Hawks, such as a Brent Sopel, to make a trade work financially for the 'Hawks. If the 'Hawks need to take on Gerber and his salary, it is likely that they would place him on waivers and hope that he either got picked up or just assign him to the AHL, to give themselves more cap flex ability. 

While I am on the topic of the Ottawa Senators, I would like to address the topic of Jason Spezza and his so called availability. It has been reported that the Senators are listening to offers for the Ottawa top line center. If I was Dale Tallon, I would have to consider putting a major package together that would involve Khabibulin and top 'Hawks prospects (Dustin Byfuglien, Jack Skille, etc.) for Spezza and Gerber. 

I highly doubt that Spezza is really being shopped, but if I was a GM of a team in need of a real scoring presence at the center position, I would consider calling up Ottawa. Anyway, back to the Chicago Blackhawks rumor mill...

It has also been speculated that former first round pick Cam Barker has been shopped around to teams, in order gauge interest and determine how much he is worth on the market. It is likely that if the 'Hawks are still in the playoff race come the trade deadline, that he might be the big chip that is moved to bring in veteran talent.

Although this is all just speculation, it is conceivable that right now would be the time to strike a deal for Khabibulin, because his value is probably as high as it will be all season. I know this is cliche, but you need to strike when the iron is hot Mr. Tallon.