CHICAGO – Veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is returning to the Chicago Blackhawks on a one-year deal, part of a busy Friday for the Stanley Cup champions that also included new contracts for defenceman Michal Rozsival and forward Michal Handzus.
Khabibulin, who played for Chicago for four seasons from 2005-09, replaces backup Ray Emery, who left the Blackhawks for a $1.65 million, one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. Viktor Stalberg also left, agreeing to a $12 million, four-year deal from the Nashville Predators.
Rozsival and Handzus each played a role in Chicago’s second championship in four seasons. Rozsival agreed to a two-year contract, and Handzus got a one-year deal.
Emery returns to Philly after teaming with Corey Crawford to win the William B. Jennings Trophy awarded to the team with the lowest goals-against average.
Emery, who played for the Flyers in the 2009-10 season, went 17-1 with a 1.94 GAA last season. He spent two years in Chicago and will now compete for the Philadelphia starting job with Steve Mason.
Khabibulin spent the past four seasons with Edmonton. He went 4-6-1 this past season with a shutout and a .908 save percentage in 12 appearances.
“I think he is able to be the tandem with Corey that’s worked so well over the past couple of years,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “It was very appealing for both sides. We have a lot of familiarity with Nik.”
Bowman said the team had several conversations with Emery, but he thought the veteran wanted to go somewhere where he could be the No. 1 goalie.
The deal for the 40-year-old Khabibulin allows the Blackhawks to bring prospect Antti Raanta along slowly. Raanta agreed to a one-year contract last month.
“We had confidence in Ray this year and we’ll have confidence in Nik next year,” Bowman said.
In his first season with Chicago, Rozsival had 12 assists in 27 games and contributed four more in the playoffs. He has 64 goals and 208 assists in 783 games with Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, Phoenix and Chicago from 1999-2013.
Handzus, acquired from San Jose on April 1, had two goals and six assists for the Sharks and Blackhawks during the regular season. He added three goals and eight assists in 23 playoff games for Chicago.
The speedy Stalberg showed some promise but struggled to earn playing time on a crowded roster. He had nine goals and 14 assists in 47 games, but was in and out of the lineup during the post-season. He had three assists in 19 playoff games.
The Predators are hoping a change of scenery will help after he struggled to fit on a team loaded with stars such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa.