Evaluating the Edmonton Oilers’ options after Khabibulin’s guilty verdict
So far, I’ve shared the possible affects the guilty verdict could have on Nikolai Khabibulin and Oilers GM Steve Tambellini’s statement on the matter. Barring the unclear possibility of a league-mandated suspension, the last big piece of the puzzle is how this situation impacts Edmonton’s messy goalie situation.
The first thing to note is that we can debate the quality of their netminders, but the Oilers aren’t hurting for quantity. Along with Khabibulin, Edmonton employs three other goalies who can technically be considered “NHL level": Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, (almost) Chara-sized goalie Devan Dubnyk and Martin Gerber. While it’s highly questionable that a good NHL team would want to roll with any of those three goalies, the crowded room in net makes the seemingly reasonable concept of giving Antti Niemi’s agent a call seem unrealistic. So the Oilers are likely stuck with what they have in net - at the NHL level, anyway - regardless.
Moving on, we have the nebulous issue of the “morals clause.” I wrote about that unlikely scenario in July, but Tyler Dellow (one of the first to point out the vague possibility) responded quite reasonably.
To be perfectly clear: I think that the morals clause is a dead end. People who have been focusing on it as a possible out are wasting their time, I think. Failing to show up for games though - that’s a breach of contract that doesn’t require delving into the murky waters of what falls below the expected level of conduct. This is a far more real problem for Khabibulin and a far cleaner shot for the Oilers, if Tambo can stomach cutting his 2009-10 MVP.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal asked an NHL agent about the chances of the Oilers terminating the contract on the grounds of that morals clause.
The agent doesn’t believe a team would challenge the conduct clause over impaired driving. If a team did that, the NHL Players’ Association would likely file a grievance.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you challenge the validity of a contract and you go to arbitration and the team loses. Then they get the player back who, say, has a no-trade clause and is completely unmoveable.
“You get a player back who plays goal. How motivated do you think he’ll be?” said the agent.
Long story short, the Oilers aren’t likely to get out from under the blemish that is Khabibulin’s contract (unless he misses actual regular season games).
Overall, all signs point to everyone losing. Khabibulin’s disastrous 2009-10 season looks like it will spill over into 2010-11 to at least some extent, especially if he’s “rusty” like many wonder. The Oilers will probably have to lay in the bad contract bed that they made - and even if he’s gone, their goalie situation is ugly. Ultimately, it’s like a bad hangover ... something Khabibulin might have been able to relate to the morning after that unfortunate incident.