The biggest fish left in the free agent pond has been snatched by Chicago.
Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the Blackhawks have signed free agent goaltender Niolai Khabibulin to a four-year contract for $27 million ($6.75 million per season).
"When we began this process, we targeted Nikolai Khabibulin and Adrian Aucoin as the two main players we wanted to sign," said Blackhawks General Manager Dale Tallon. Not only did we accomplish our goal in signing these players, but we were also able to sign Martin LaPointe and Jaroslav Spacek. Along with Jassen Cullimore, Matthew Barnaby, and Curtis Brown whom we signed last year we feel that we have really improved our team."Tallon added, "I know our fans have gone through some difficult times, but we said that we would remain flexible and give ourselves a chance to improve our team under the new rules governing the NHL with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. We planned ahead with this day in mind and we are extremely happy that we were able to achieve some of our goals."Khabibulin, a four-time NHL All-Star (1998, 1999, 2002, 2003) and Stanley Cup Champion (2004) was Winnipeg's 5th choice, 204th overall in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. A 32-year old, 6'1" and 203 pound goaltender, he has appeared in 476 career regular season NHL games posting a record of 209-187-58 with 35 shutouts while posting a 2.61 goals against average for the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning in his nine NHL seasons.
Khabibulin has also played in 57 Stanley Cup playoff games posting a record of 31-25 with six shutouts and a 2.27 goals against average and one Stanley Cup Championship.Khabibulin played in 55 regular season games for the Lightning during the 2003-04 season, posting a 28-19-7 record with three shutouts, a 2.33 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. In the playoffs, he served as a cornerstone of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning appearing in 23 games and posting a 16-7 record with a league five shutouts and a 1.71 goals against average. His five playoff shutouts led the league with his 1.71 goals against average ranked second among all playoff goaltenders. Khabibulin skated overseas last season (2004-05) for Ak Bars Kazan in the Russian Elite League appearing in 24 games and posting a 1.65 goals against average (no record available). He also saw action in two playoff games.Khabibulin represent the Russia at the 2002 Winter Olympics appearing in six games and posting a 3-2-1 record with one shutout and a 2.34 goals against average.