Huh? What? I thought he had some type of groin injury? According to Stan Bowman,…he did. During the game he had a groin injury. Before that injury, Stan notes that the club did some imaging on his shoulder. The groin injury was 6 weeks long. As we saw from Corey Crawford's injury, a groin normally takes 2-3 weeks. So, the Hawks would have been forced to take Khabibulin off of LTIR for the injury if they didn't have this surgery…..CLEVER. So, Nikolai agrees to go under the knife to keep him on LTIR for at least 4-5 months. The Hawks are doing everything "By the letter of the law" here. They kept Khabibulin out as long as permitted with a groin injury. However, they would have been forced to make a decision with either Khabibulin or Raanta this week. So, they went into their bag of tricks and found an old injury that could use surgery or was told that needed surgery at some time.
*It is important that you understand that the Hawks cannot "create" an injury to keep someone on the LTIR.
*It is important to note that each injury has a time limit on LTIR status.
* It is important to note that if a player has an injury and chose not to have surgery, but later changed his mind, that is also within the guidelines of the rules.
So, the Hawks would have HAD to put Khabibulin back on the team this week and send Raanta back down had they NOT researched and found that he had a Rotator Cuff injury prior to coming with the Hawks that was recommended by a surgeon to have surgery, but the player chose not to have surgery. Every player prior to signing with the Hawks has a physical done by the Blackhawks physicians. The physicians of the Hawks found the shoulder acceptable enough for him to pass a physical.
Are you guy's seeing this? You understand why the Hawks are doing this? If not,…read the blog posted a few days ago I wrote on Khabibulin and you'll understand why.
It is becoming obvious that the Hawks are avoiding any talk about Khabibulin. NO updates on how his status is. NO update to what they plan on doing with him long term. The Hawks brass is avoiding Khabibulin updates like the plague (until today 07Jan/2014).
Here are a few scenarios for you.
1) IF Nikolai Khabibulin returns they have to restructure their line up….again. They are almost at the cap and with a healthy Bickell and Handzus, there isn't much room left. (approx. $189k and change).
2) IF Khabibulin retires mid season, the team is dinged for a $2,000,000 cap hit. Here is the explanation on this…" (the team) will be penalized in the event the player retires or "defects" from the NHL before the contract expires"… "contracts that fall under the "over-35" rule do not qualify for a cap benefit recapture."…" In these cases, the team is charged with the player's full cap hit.". In other words, the Hawks would rather pay Nikolai and have him nurse an injury for 8 months, rather than have an ineffective goalie on their team.
3) Khabibulin cannot be sent down to the AHL. He has a 1 way contract.
So, if you owned the Hawks what would you do? Easy answer here. Keep Khabibulin out. Let NO ONE know what the injury is and just avoid all questions on returning. That is EXACTLY what they are doing. The only way that he returns is if the Hawks feel he can be effective. But, why take the chance when Raanta is 10-1-3 with his brief time in the NHL?
The Hawks could entertain putting Raanta back down and have LaBarbera as a back up. Raanta's hit is $925,000 and LaBarbera's hit is $1m. The Hawks have barely enough money to cover that exchange. Why would the Hawks do that? To give Raanta more and more playing time. LaBarbera would most likely NOT come into a game (at least, not as a starter), and be shuttled back and forth to Rockford when they wanted to give Corey a break.
I would be very surprised if Nikolai returns. They've shocked me before in the past, but this one would be a HUGE shocker.
Hawks will have about $1m to $1.1m free on the cap, dependent upon which goalie they send down. This will give the Hawks a little leeway to bring up Pirri or Morin or Nordstrom or some other surprise player from Rockford. This will happen soon.
Brandon Saad was left off of the USA roster and so was Nick Leddy. This wasn't surprising at all. Hawks could use that rest during the Olympics.
Will Brent Seabrook and/or Patrick Sharp make the Canadian Olympic team? Sharp is getting closer and closer to becoming a lock. Seabrook, who played in the last Olympics in Vancouver, isn't a lock yet. Corey Crawford is on the outside looking in. My guess is that Keith, Toews and Sharp make the team.
Another decider on Antti's near future will be if he makes Team Finland.
Handzus, Hossa, Kruger, Hjalmarsson, Oduya, Rozsival are also being considered for their countries.
Hawks are warming up this morning on Long Island to take on the Islanders this evening. Islanders are on a 2 game winning streak and the Hawks are 7-1-2 with a 1 game winning streak. The Hawks follow up that game with a visit to New Jersey to finish off this first week of January.