Ty Conklin Needs Potty Break but Still Wins Another Outdoor Game

In the spirit of the Winter Classic played outdoors today in Wrigley Field, I figured if Ty Conklin and Cristobal Huet could play in the freezing cold of Chicago I could at least write outside in the (relative) winter cold of northern California.

It wasn’t exactly the type of New Years classic put on by the Montreal Canadiens and Moscow Red Army in 1975 and it might take some time for it to become a warm memory for Huet but it was a lot of fun to watch.

Conklin makes a save with Wrigley's ivey-covered walls as a backdrop.

Conklin makes a save with Wrigley's ivy-covered walls as a backdrop.

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Whatever Happened to Thibault and Cloutier?

In a previous post we hypothesized what would become of Dan Cloutier, and if you’re following the Sabres you may have wondered what happened to Jocelyn Thibault.  They’re both alive and kicking but neither knows if the NHL is a part of his future.

Pierre LeBrun (I like this guy more and more every time I read his posts or see him on the Hot Stove Lounge) has a good article in ESPN.com on “Meet the Limbo Club“, players who are waiting on the sidelines for a chance to make it back into the NHL.  You can read the full article from the link above but for those of you who are goalie-centric I’ve copied and pasted just the portions relating to Thibault and Cloutier.

Personally I’d love to see Thibault be a late-season pickup, similar to Curtis Joseph going to Calgary last season, if for no other reason than I’d hate to see his last game played wearing that horrible slug logo in Buffalo.  Seriously, does a guy with masks this good deserve to be remembered in a slug jersey?

jocelyn-thibault-buffalo1jocelyn-thibault-chicagojocelyn-thibault-quebec

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Goalie Dilemma in Chicago Gets More Dilemma-y

Everyone following the NHL knows the Chicago Blackhawks signed Cristobal Huet to a big free agent contract ($22.5M for four years) this summer so we’ve all been waiting to see what GM Dale Tallon was going to do with Nikolai Khabibulin (last year of a $27M four-year deal).  The Hawks couldn’t possibly support $12+M on two goalies, could they?  Khabibulin cleared waivers earlier in the season so Tenders Lounge was expecting to see a trade or possibly a loan to a team in the Russian league.

The goalie stories out of Chicago have grown over the past couple weeks as Huet’s play has been good (3-2-1, 2.45GAA, .916%) but Khabibulin’s has been great (4-1-3, 2.20GAA, .927%, 1 SO).  Earlier this week I sat down to watch Khabibulin and the Hawks play the Bruins.  First let me say that Tim Thomas was great in net for the B’s.  But Khabibulin was clearly the star of the game, even in a shootout loss, making one of the best saves of the season on Marc Savard in OT.  Apologies to Khabibulin as I could not find a photo of that save and chose to use a shot of P.J. Axelsson during the shootout.  Tenders Lounge has a policy of never showing a goalie being scored on but technically this photo was taken just before Axelsson netted the game-winner.

nikolai-khabibulin-shootout

Alternatively you can watch the save from the NHL YouTube Highlight video by forwarding to the 5:00 mark of this video:

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Khabibulin Headed Back to Russia?

ESPN.com’s Rumor Central today is reporting the Blackhawks are close to working out a deal that would loan Nikoloai Khabibulin to a team in the Continental League (KHL) in Russia.  The Russian team would pay most of Khabibulin’s salary and the Hawks would get his contract off the books for cap space.

This is a weird one to me if it’s true.  Ray Emery was persona non grata in the NHL this summer so the KHL was probably his best option, and for Wade Dubielewicz it’s probably a more lucrative route than backing up Rick DiPietro.  But Khabibulin is still a first-string goalie who lifted the Blackhawks out of the NHL basement and played over 50 games last year.  Seems to me his only sin is having a hefty contract ($6.75M) hanging around his neck.

If I’m Khabibulin and deciding between Russia (where a KHL goalie was beaten up and robbed last week) and Los Angeles (where 60 degrees F is considered winter) I’m grabbing my shades and heading to Hollywood.  Unfortunately it’s not his choice right now so I hope GM Dale Tallon allows him to stay in the NHL.

Bulin Wall Being Torn Down in Chicago?

Surprising almost nobody, the Blackhawks have placed Nikolai Khabibulin on waivers.  Folks have been speculating about Khabibulin’s fate since the Hawks signed Cristobal Huet to a monster free agent contract in the summer.  The most popular rumors have Khabibulin headed to LA since A) they are way under the minimum salary level and B) they’ve struggled in the crease for years.  In the “new” NHL era I can understand the Kings signing him for salary cap reasons.  But isn’t their long term success better served by continuing their youth movement and developing the goalies currently in their system?

UPDATE: Khabibulin cleared waivers so now the Blackhawks can get serious about their two-goalie situation.  Erik Duhatschek points out the Hawks have made it clear they intend to accommodate Huet as much as possible so we should see a move earlier than later.  Duhatschek confirms LA as the likely destination but also suggests GM Dale Tallon has some other (surprising) options.

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