Sentencing decision expected this afternoon in Nikolai Khabibulin's extreme DUI trial

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for khabibulindui.jpgThis afternoon will mark a pivotal moment for the Edmonton Oilers and Nikolai Khabibulin’s life in general, as an Arizona judge will pass along the Russian goalie’s prison sentence after he was found guilty of three charges related to an extreme DUI incident.

Here are a few quick facts about the situation, in case you haven’t been following the coverage of the court case.

  • Khabibulin will face at least 30 days in jail by Arizona state law, but could receive a maximum of six months if the judge finds his cause particularly unsympathetic.
  • While we discussed the far-out possibility of the Oilers voiding Khabibulin’s contract, it seems like that is highly unlikely. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson made an interesting comparison to Mike Bell, a troubled forward who honestly is almost a forgotten player even though he’s not that far removed from an up-and-down NHL career.

On the surface, this is a different scenario than the one involving former NHL winger Mark Bell a few years back.

Bell was convicted of drunk driving in 2007 after his rented Toyota Camry rear-ended a pickup truck in California, plowing that vehicle into a telephone pole. The truck driver was injured in the accident over the Labour Day weekend in 2006. Bell was subsequently suspended by the NHL for 15 games.

Bell, who took a breathalyzer that registered .21, was sentenced to six months in jail, but only served six weeks behind bars.

There was personal injury in the Bell accident. Nobody was hurt in Khabibulin’s case.

Of course, a devil’s advocate stance would be that Khabibulin was simply fortunate that no one else was hurt in his scenario. After all, that’s one of the dangers of drunk driviing; you’re not just putting your life (and your passengers’ lives) in jeopardy, but other drivers as well.

  • It would be a surprising turn of events, but you cannot totally rule out the NHL suspending Khabibulin either. As Matheson pointed out, Bell missed 15 games for his transgressions.
  • Chances are, Khabibulin will miss either a portion of training camp, if not the entire proceedings altogether. That’s not exactly great news for a team with a lot of new faces in the first place.
  • Whatever way you slice it, the Oilers’ goalie situation is murky. Khabibulin has back problems and is old. Devan Dubynk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers are unproven if not below average. Martin Gerber is the definition of a journeyman goalie. They might not lack bodies in net, but would you want any of them starting for your NHL team right now?

OK, so that’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the Khabibulin extreme DUI situation. We will keep our eyes open for news on the case and pass along information once word of his sentence surfaces.

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    BREAKING: Isles acquire Eberle from Edmonton for Strome

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    Everyone knew this was going to be a massive offseason for Islanders GM Garth Snow.

    And Snow has now responded in kind.

    Per TSN, the Isles are on the verge of acquiring Jordan Eberle from Edmonton. No word yet on what’s headed to New York in return. Sportsnet has confirmed the move, saying all involved parties are being informed of the move.

    Update: Ryan Strome headed to Edmonton in exchange, per Darren Dreger.

    The move comes after weeks of speculation about Eberle’s future with the Oilers. He had a solid regular season in Edmonton, with 20 goals and 51 points through 82 games, but struggled mightily in the postseason. He went scoreless through 13 games, finishing with just two points while watching his ice time dwindle to 14:32 per night.

    Eberle is still a quality offensive talent, though, and should be thrilled about the prospect of playing with Isles captain John Tavares. Tavares, in turn, will undoubtedly be pleased with Snow’s bold move to bring in additional scoring up front, which could go a long way towards signing an extension with the Isles.

    It’s safe to assume Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli will feel some heat for this deal. While he did get out from under Eberle’s contract — $6 million annually for each of the next two years — Strome is coming off a disappointing year, and was exposed by the Isles at last night’s expansion draft.

    That said, Chiarelli does have bigger fish to fry. Connor McDavid is eligible to sign an extension this summer, as is Leon Draisaitl.

    Needless to say, those contracts are going to be expensive.

    Losing Neal to Vegas was a ‘pretty big price to pay’ for Predators

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    The Vegas Golden Knights named their team on Wednesday, and it was no surprise that James Neal was among their selections in the expansion draft.

    Why not? Since entering the league in 2008, Neal has scored at least 20 goals in each of his nine seasons, hitting the 40-goal mark in 2011-12 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    But after coming up two wins shy of a Stanley Cup this spring, Neal was left unprotected by the Predators.

    Predators general manager David Poile had reportedly been in talks with Vegas GM George McPhee, but a deal couldn’t be achieved.

    “With how well we played in the playoffs, I’d certainly like to bring everybody back, but the prices [to make a deal with Vegas] were very high,” Poile told the Predators website.

    “[McPhee] was looking for younger players or high draft picks, and at the end of the day, I just felt that we had to do what the Expansion Draft was set out to do and that was to lose a player. In this case, we lost James Neal and that’s a pretty big price to pay.”

    Neal has one more year left on his six-year contract that has an annual cap hit of $5 million, before he’s a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of next season.

    Nashville has about $22.7 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, but five pending restricted free agents — Austin Watson, Frederick Gaudreau, Pontus Aberg and most notably Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson — in need of contracts. In Arvidsson’s case, he’s due for a significant raise from the $640,000 he made in NHL salary last season, in which he scored 31 goals and 61 points.

    “James had a much bigger contract and he only had one year left before he was an unrestricted free agent. We didn’t have any negotiations, but there was no guarantees that we would be able to keep him. It really was a business decision. It was as simple as that,” Poile the Tennessean.

    Caps re-sign Christian Djoos, who could get his NHL shot next season

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    The Washington Capitals have re-signed defenseman Christian Djoos to a two-year, $1.3 million contract.

    It’s a two-way deal in 2017-18, and a one-way deal the following season.

    Djoos, 22, is expected to push for an NHL spot next season, along with Madison Bowey and possibly Tyler Lewington.

    That’s because Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk, both unrestricted free agents, aren’t expected to re-sign with Washington.

    On top of that, the Caps lost d-man Nate Schmidt in yesterday’s expansion draft.

    Djoos, a seventh-round pick in 2012, had 13 goals and 45 assists in 66 games for AHL Hershey this past season.

    It was his second full season in the AHL.

    Bettman says NHL will call more slashes next season

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    Commissioner Gary Bettman says the NHL will look to enforce slashing penalties more next season.

    Following the league’s board of governors meeting, Bettman said pointless slashes to players’ hands will be called more. Ottawa’s Marc Methot and Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau were among the players to miss time last season with hand injuries from slashes.

    Related PHT coverage:

    Gaudreau (finger) out six weeks, Treliving says Staal slash the culprit

    — Flames made ‘mountain out of a molehill’ over Gaudreau slash

    — Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby slash

    — Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash