The immediate future of Chicago Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin remains in doubt after he cleared waivers on Tuesday.
Other NHL clubs had 24 hours to make a claim for the goaltender after Chicago put him on waivers on Monday, but there were no takers.
Khabibulin, 35, became expendable when the Blackhawks inked Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5-million contract in July. Chicago also has Finnish goalie Antti Niemi, who started in goal in a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday, and Corey Crawford waiting in the wings.
The Russian netminder was to make his pre-season debut against Dallas, but Chicago coach Denis Savard changed his mind after the team's morning practice and gave the starting job to the rookie free agent from Finland.
Chicago's starting netminder the last three seasons, Khabibulin is entering the final year of a four-year deal that will pay him $6.75 million US this season.
The Blackhawks waived the netminder to try and create some salary cap space (Chicago is roughly $1.5 million under the league's $56.7 million salary cap). They could still do that by sending him down to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.
But such a move comes with a risk: if Chicago wanted to recall him during the upcoming NHL season, Khabibulin would go through re-entry waivers and another team could pick him up for half his salary, with the Hawks responsible for the other half.
The other option is a trade with another NHL team.
Khabibulin led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a Stanley Cup in the 2003-04 NHL season and signed with Chicago in 2005 after becoming an unrestricted free agent.
His three-year tenure in the Windy City has been less than impressive, as he has struggled with injuries and inconsistent performances. Khabibulin played in 50 games last season, posting a 23-20-6 record with a 2.63 goals against average and .909 save percentage.