Evaluating the Edmonton Oilers' options after Khabibulin's guilty verdict

khabibulinscoredon.jpgSo 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.

dubnyk2.jpg(The Oilers named an MVP for last season? I would have gone with whoever chose the lottery ball for the No.1 pick.)

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.

Eh, if you ask me, Khabibulin rarely finds much motivation in non-contract years, anyway.

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.

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    Video: Blandisi scores great between-the-legs goal vs. Flyers

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    What a story Joseph Blandisi‘s been for the New Jersey Devils this season.

    The 21-year-old played in his first NHL game on Dec. 11 and has stayed with the Devils ever since.

    It took him five games to pick up his first career point, but he’s done a whole lot more damage since then.

    Blandisi came into Saturday’s action with 10 points in his last 12 games and he added to that against the Flyers.

    He opened the scoring with this beautiful between-the-legs goal on goalie Michal Neuvirth (top of the page).

    That’s Blandisi’s fourth goal of the season.

    Some Twitter reaction to the goal:

    Bruins’ Bergeron ruled out for Saturday’s game against Wild

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    The Boston Bruins will be without center Patrice Bergeron in Saturday afternoon’s matinee against the Minnesota Wild.

    It’s unclear how Bergeron suffered the undisclosed injury, but there’s reason to believe it occurred after he dropped the gloves with Jets forward Blake Wheeler (above).

    He’s considered day-to-day at this point.

    Losing him for an extended period of time would be devastating for Boston.

    “You don’t like seeing your star players (fight), but you also understand that it’s an emotional game and that stuff happens and at one point a player says, ‘Enough is enough and I’m going to stand up for myself,’” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after the game, as per the Boston Herald.

    “From what I gathered there was a lot of slashes behind the legs behind the play and stuff like that. He took things upon himself. As much as you don’t like it, you can’t tell him he’s not allowed. He’s a big boy and he can certainly make some decisions on the ice. And it’s not the first time that he’s fought. But I like the fact that he doesn’t fight much.”

    After this incident, there’s no doubt that the Bruins will tell Bergeron to keep his gloves on from now on.

    Jets will take one more crack at re-signing Andrew Ladd

    Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Ladd (16) and Blake Wheeler (26) celebrate Ladd's goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL action in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)
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    Jets captain Andrew Ladd still doesn’t have a contract for next season and with the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaching, something’s gonna have to give.

    According to TSN’s Gary Lawless, the Winnipeg Jets will make one last push to sign the forward before making him available on the trade market.

    Ladd doesn’t want to leave and the team wants to keep him, but after Dustin Byfgulien got an extension earlier this month, there may not be enough money to go around.

    At one point, the Jets reportedly made Ladd a six-year offer worth $6 million per year, which he obviously didn’t accept.

    Can they top that? Time will tell.

    Waiting to trade Ladd is probably the smartest decision.

    Keeping the captain around would be great, but if the two sides can’t agree to a new contract, there’ll be no shortage of suitors for Ladd’s services.

    Lawless mentions the Penguins, Panthers and Blackhawks as potential landing spots for the 30-year-old.

    The Kings have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Ladd.

    Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will have to make some crucial decisions over the next few weeks.

    Flyers’ Neuvirth (lower body) will be between the pipes vs. the Devils on Saturday

    Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) of the Czech Republic stops a shot from the Dallas Stars in the third period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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    Michal Neuvirth will make his first start of the month in Saturday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

    The 27-year-old missed five games with a lower-body injury. He was activated off the injured list earlier this week and served as Steve Mason‘s backup in Thursday’s game against Buffalo.

    Neuvirth has an 11-6-2 record with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage in 2015-16.

    He’s put up some solid numbers against the Devils in his career. Neuvirth has a 5-2-4 record with 2.03 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage in games against New Jersey.

    Steve Mason, who’s coming off a 41-save performance in a win over Buffalo, hasn’t been as good against Saturday’s opponent.

    Mason is 0-7-0 lifetime against the Devils.

    Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m. ET.