It appears that the Oilers and Nikolai Khabibulin are ready to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in the 37-year old keeper's back, which will come close to ending the Russian's first season with the club.
Khabibulin has not played since November 16th, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Blue Jackets and has been on the Injured Reserve retroactive likely to the 17th. If herniated disc surgeries are consistent, the Oilers should expect him to miss the next 6-to-8 weeks with the injury, but that will run over top of the Olympics, which could mean that he'll see some time in the last month of the season, if he's really fortunate.
In 18 appearances this season, Khabibulin has a record of 7-9-2 with no shutouts to speak of, so his points in the pool is only a mere 14 this season. Going into Week Sixteen, he was ranked a ways down in 343rd in pool rankings after he had made a return to the top 100 in 2009.
Khabibulin has not been a top 50 pool scoring goaltender since the 2004 season and should likely be considered as a large health risk going forward. He does have a few more seasons left on his contract, which should ensure him starts, but only when he's 100%.
Speaking of contract, the Oilers are not getting the early returns that they were hoping for when they signed Khabibulin to a 4-year, $15 million deal in July. Since he's been on the shelf for the long-term and will continue to be there, the team will benefit from a little extra cap space, if they so choose to use it. They are last in the West, so there's a better chance that they'll be a seller quite soon, but they could build a little bit more with this loss, prepping for next season. If Khabibulin was to be shut down for the remainder of the season, he had only been active for 47 days of a 193-day season (incl. Olympic Break), which means the cap hit goes down from $3.75 million this season to $913,000 (approx.). That's an injury savings of $2.837 million. A team could do a lot with that annual hit in their pocket.
Khabibulin will likely be a second round Waiver Draft drop for John B., as this news came just in time for the drop. Until now, there was a slight hope that he would return from injury and save the Oilers from this abysmal season, but since that isn't the case, he'll be dropped for a keeper that will definitely get some minutes here really soon.
To no surprise, Khabibulin was not taken at all from the starter's box on the Sheet.