August 28, 2010
(Ed. Note: Coming up,
the Edmonton Oilers Mount Puckmore. Khabibulin likely not on it.)
As the hearing for Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) grew nearer, talk about whether jail time for "extreme DUI" in Phoenix might trigger a morals-clause voiding of his contract grew louder.
On Friday, Khabibulin was found guilty of excessive speed, extreme DUI, and DUI over the 0.08 level; he could face 30 days in a "tent city" jail, which may include the indignity of pink underwear, second only to the electric chair for its criminal deterrence.
So what would jail time mean for Khabibulin's 4-year, $15-million contract with the Oilers?
Their statement on the matter, from GM Steve Tambellini:
"The Edmonton Oilers acknowledge and respect the decision handed down today by the Scottsdale City Court to goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Both Nikolai and the Oilers organization recognize the severity of what has transpired. We plan on meeting with Nikolai, his agent and the National Hockey League in the near future."
Oliers blogger Tyler Dellow, one of the first to bring the "morals clause" into the conversation, has since clarified that he feels it's a "dead end." However, should Khabibulin's jail term extend into the season and he misses games, he wrote that's a more direct path to the Oilers going after his contract.
An agent speaking with the Edmonton Journal was skeptical of any action being taken against the goalie's contract by the team:
"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.
(One could ask how motivated he'd be playing for Edmonton next season anyway.)
As Copper & Blue notes, the issue of Khabibulin's health likely renders any debate about this contract status pointless:
Even if Khabibulin were to avoid jail time during the season, which is highly unlikely, there remains yet another major issue outstanding -- the fact that Khabibulin has yet to be declared officially healthy. Khabibulin ended the season on long term injured reserve and it now becomes in his best interest to stay on LTIR. He can't face punishment for non-performance, nor can he be suspended for the conviction while on injured reserve.
Finally, the brilliantly named Black Dog Hates Skunks feels the Khabibulin situation serves as a reminder that, in hindsight, it's been a rather unsuccessful signing for the Oil:
The biggest losers in all of this are the Oilers of course. This signing is the one that just keeps getting worse and worse. It makes the Souray deal look like the gold standard in comparison. Four years for an aging injury prone keeper was bad enough and inevitably he went down last year. Now its probable that another year is going to be wasted with DD and ADD between the pipes. The best part about the Khabibulin deal, other than the Oilers are stuck with it, is the fact that the market has been flooded with younger cheaper alternatives each of the last two summers and will probably be again next year. They could likely have this year's Cup winning goalie for half of Khabibulin's ticket and just a single year if they so desired.