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Goalie has no hard feelings toward Coyotes

Nikolai Khabibulin said he does not regret his two-year holdout in Phoenix.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 10, 2001


BRANDON -- Nikolai Khabibulin said he holds no hard feelings toward the Coyotes from his nearly two-season contract dispute.

Nor does he regret standing firm after the 1998-99 season, when he established himself as one of the NHL's top goaltenders.

"I always thought you have a contract and play to the best you can, 100 percent every game," Khabibulin said. "But once you're up for the next contract, you have to take care of yourself and your family. I have nothing to apologize for because for five years I played for whatever I was being paid."

The Coyotes and then-general manager Bobby Smith offered Khabibulin $9-million for three years. Khabibulin and his agent, Jay Grossman, reportedly were looking for up to $5-million a year.

The impasse lasted until March, when Phoenix traded Khabibulin's rights to the Lightning, which gave the goalie a three-plus-year deal worth $14.75-million in base pay.

"I don't feel great about what happened with ownership," Khabibulin said. "But it's like everybody said, it's part of the business. They decided to do that. Whether it was right or not, they have to live with that. I decided to do what I've done and I have to live with that too."

It appeared Khabibulin and the Coyotes would get together last season when a new ownership group headed by Steve Ellman and Wayne Gretzky took control. But the team's tenuous finances and arena problems made Khabibulin, not to mention Keith Tkachuk, luxuries Phoenix could not afford.

"They knew they couldn't have signed me," Khabibulin said. "I don't have any bad words for them."

As for the time off, Khabibulin said, "I know I lost some money, but so have other people. At the same time, I got almost two years with my family, basically being at home every day. How many people can afford to do that? So I have no regrets about anything."

Nikolai Khabibulin

BORN: Sverdlovsk, Russia.

HT.: 6-1. WT.: 196.

AGE: 28.

FAMILY: Wife Victoria; daughter Alexandra, 9.

HIGHLIGHTS: Idolized Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. ... Drafted 204th overall in 1992 by the Winnipeg Jets. ... Won a gold medal with the Commonwealth of Independent States at the 1992 World Junior Championships. ... Won a gold medal as a backup at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville. ... A two-time NHL All-Star. ... NHL career: 127-114-30, 2.75 goals-against average with 21 shutouts. ... NHL playoffs: 10-13 with a 2.75 goals-against average, one shutout and a .916 save percentage. ... Holds Coyotes career records for shutouts, consecutive 20-win seasons (four) and consecutive 30-win seasons (three). Holds season records of 72 games (1996-97), 4,091 minutes (1996-97), eight shutouts (1998-99), 10 ties (1997-98) and 33 losses (1996-97). ... Named to the 2002 Russian Olympic team.

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