Khabibulin Waived, Blackhawks Plot Next Moves in Crease

Steve JankowskiAnalyst ISeptember 29, 2008

The Chicago Blackhawks have placed Nikolai Khabibulin on waivers, signaling the end of the Stanley Cup champion goalie's time in Chicago.

He signed as a free agent with the Blackhawks after the lockout for four years and $27 million, but he has since been mediocre at best.  

The move is also a sign that the Blackhawks brass has settled on free agent signee Cristobal Huet as its starting goalie for the 2008-09 season.

The Blackhawks have looked to move Khabibulin since signing Huet on July 1 to clear up cap space and free up the goaltending logjam in Chicago's crease.  

With Khabibulin seemingly out of the picture, Huet will likely be backed up by Corey Crawford, unless Antti Niemi beats Crawford out for the backup goalie spot.

Chicago also can free Khabibulin's big contract from its books and use the cap space to acquire another forward before the regular season opens.  

One rumor being floated is a three-team deal between Chicago, the Los Angeles Kings, and Ottawa Senators.

Ottawa wants a playoff-proven goaltender and Khabibulin is just that. They have lost confidence in Martin Gerber, and he is rumored to be a part of such a deal. He could be headed to the Kings, and the Blackhawks would likely target either Patrick O'Sullivan or Chris Neil in the deal.

The Kings also need to get to the salary floor established in the CBA, and taking on the contract of Gerber would get them there.

Expect Khabibulin to be traded out of Chicago, either to the Senators or Kings. It would seem unlikely that Chicago GM Dale Tallon would let Khabibulin go without getting something back in return to fill a need.

Notes: Khabibulin was the highest-paid player in Blackhawks franchise history prior to the club's signing of Brian Campbell on July 1...He went 23-20-6 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage last season in 50 games for Chicago.