Khabibulin kept by Blackhawks

Nikolai Khabibulin will likely open the season with the Chicago Blackhawks, despite recent attempts to unload him.

Veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will open the season with the Chicago Blackhawks after all.

Khabibulin, 35, was listed Tuesday on Chicago's regular-season roster, despite recent attempts to unload the pricey puck stopper.

Final rosters must be submitted to the NHL by 3 p.m. ET Wednesday.

"Nik is with us," Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard said.

Khabibulin was placed on waivers on Sept. 29, but he went unclaimed by NHL teams, likely because he is slated to make $6.75 million US in the final season of a four-year, $27-million US contract signed Aug. 5, 2005.

Chicago then tried — and failed — to trade Khabibulin, leaving two options: keep him or clear salary cap space by demoting him to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs.

But if Khabibulin had to be recalled to the NHL, another team could claim him on re-entry waivers at half of his salary — with the Blackhawks on the hook for the other half.

"As we move on, we have a lot of assets," Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon said. "We will do whatever is right for the Chicago Blackhawks."

'We're happy to have him'

Khabibulin was deemed expendable when Chicago signed free-agent netminder Cristobal Huet to a four-year, $22.5-million US contract on July 1.

"The best goaltender is going to play," Tallon said. "Nik knows that and I know that."

"It is going to be day-by-day for both goaltenders," Savard said. "[Khabibulin] and Dale had a great talk and we're happy to have him."

Khabibulin posted a 23-20-6 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and two shutouts in 50 games last season, his third in Chicago.

The four-time all-star is 274-259-17 (58 ties) with a 2.69 GAA and 38 shutouts in 636 games over 12 NHL seasons with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Blackhawks.

"He has been around the horn," Savard said. "He has been a great goalie."

Khabibulin won a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

With files from the Associated Press