Rambler's Top100


14 2006 . 
Khabibulin a luxury the Hawks can't afford. // Chicago Tribune

November 14, 2006, 8:58 PM CST

Tribune staff reporter Bob Foltman explains why the Blackhawks should trade their goaltender.

Nikolai Khabibulin is set to return this week, which is good news for the Blackhawks.

Once Khabibulin plays and shows he has recovered from the broken finger he suffered Oct. 21, general manager Dale Tallon immediately should let the rest of the NHL know the goaltender is available for a forwardpreferably a centerwho can score.

The last three games notwithstanding, the Hawks can't kid themselves into believing they can consistently win games 2-1 and 1-0 and reach the playoffs. Yes, the New Jersey Devils do it on a regular basis.

The Hawks are not the New Jersey Devils.

Even when Martin Havlat returns from his high ankle sprainearly December, mid-December, late December, no one really knowsthe Hawks need more offense to be a team that can last more than four games in the playoffs.

Considering they have yet to get so much as a point from any of the Norfolk call-ups, the Hawks will need to go outside to get offensive help.

They can't keep waiting for all their "prospects" to make an impact at the NHL level.

It was around this time last season that San Jose and Boston made the blockbuster deal that sent Joe Thornton to the Sharks.

That's the kind of deal Tallon needs to make, if he can find a willing partner.

To make a deal like that, you have to be willing to give up something, and Khabibulin may be the Hawks' most marketable asset.

Clearly Brian Boucher proved he can be a No. 1 goaltender again, and it's unlikely the Hawks' record would be much different if Khabibulin had not been hurt.

No matter how much the Hawks wish otherwise, you can't win if you don't score, and having a $6.75 million goaltender is a luxury a team can't afford when it is struggling to get 20 shots on goal per game.

That doesn't suggest signing Khabibulin was a mistake. It means priorities have changed. The Hawks can't expect Havlat to carry the load offensively and, so far, no one else has shown the ability to be his equal.

That means taking a chance and trying to make a major deal. And that means Khabibulin is the bait.

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