The Bulin Wall has been a great help for the young Blackhawks this season, but he may be even more helpful in a new uniform.
There probably aren't many teams in the NHL happier to hit the All-Star break than the Blackhawks right now. While they'd no doubt like to remove the taste of two straight losses from their mouth, the fact is that after scoring only five goals in their last four games, their tired legs can use the time off. Of course, as the players rest, it will also give general manager Dale Tallon some time to think about what he needs to do if the Hawks are going to become serious threats to win the Stanley Cup this summer.
The Hawks are a very good team, but when you look at their record this season against the NHL elite -- the San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, and Boston Bruins -- their 0-7 record is a pretty clear indicator that they aren't exactly ready for prime time just yet. This could change, however, with the NHL's trade deadline coming sooner than you think on March 4th it's time for Tallon to start figuring out ways to improve his team. One of which may just be to deal from a position of strength.
The Blackhawks have a luxury that most teams around the NHL just don't have: two top-end goalies. In a league where it's pretty much impossible for a team to win a Stanley Cup without a great goalie, that puts the Hawks in a position of strength. Now they just signed Cristobal Huet this offseason to a four-year deal that pays him over $5 million a year, and though he got off to a slow start, he's settled in with an 8-3 record since December 7th. In those eleven starts he's allowed two goals or less nine times to lower his goals against average to 2.30. In other words, he's earning his money.
Nikolai Khabibulin has also played well while minding the net this season, but he's in the last year of his contract, and the team actually tried to move him before the season. The fact he's in the final year of his contract will make him more appealing to teams looking for somebody to help them make a playoff push -- not to mention the fact he's already won a Stanley Cup in Tampa -- and that means the Hawks can get something they need in return. Whether that would be another scorer or a center -- preferably someone whose both -- or another enforcer to help protect Patrick Kane, we'd have to wait and see.
Losing Khabibulin wouldn't be that big of a blow to the team either, as Corey Crawford has played very well for the Hawks AHL affiliate Rockford Icehogs this season, and would be more than capable as a backup.
The point is that while moving Khabibulin would be somewhat risky, with a young team losing a player with a lot of playoff experience, the Hawks really have nothing to lose. They'd keep the young core of their team intact, a young core that makes them Cup contenders in the future, but with both goalies in town they're not a legitimate Stanley Cup contender this season. Move the Bulin Wall for help elsewhere, though, and they just might become one.