Anton Khudobin is looking like the real deal.
The Carolina Hurricanes signed the free agent goalie to a one-year contract over the offseason for a reasonable, $800,000 and the player has more than earned his keep.
His stats have placed him well above the other goalies in the organization and he has earned the right to be Carolina's number one, at least for now. In the same number of games that Cam Ward has played in, (20), he has allowed 18 fewer goals while facing 11 more shots.
But not only is he making a name for himself in Carolina, the rest of the league is taking notice as well. Khudobin was recognized as the NHL's first star for the month of January.
Some fans are thinking it might be time for Jim Rutherford to extend the goalie's contract, to keep him with the Hurricanes longer than this season. But there are some issues that are probably holding this up.
The biggest problem to re-signing Khudobin might be Cam Ward's contract.
Currently, Ward is the fourth highest paid goalie in the NHL as he earns $6.6 million this year. (Cap Geek). While this season is not a problem because we are almost done with it, the goalie is also on the books for the next two years, which does pose a problem.
Khudobin is due a raise, there is no arguing that. Perhaps he has earned a contract worth $2 million a year, or $3 million, or maybe even a little more. But regardless of the raise, the question is, how much can Carolina afford to put into that position? It does not seem reasonable that they can continue to pay Ward his $6.6 million and give Khudobin much of a raise. Something has to give.
Of course, Khudobin might want to test the waters to see what he is worth on market this summer. When asked about his future with the franchise in a recent interview, he did say that he liked the team, liked the area, and would like to stay.
But it seems like the Hurricanes need to find some kind of resolution regarding Ward before they start negotiating with Khudobin. Can they trade him? Would they buy him out? Are they willing to continue to pay superstar-like money for a lesser performance or gamble on the future regarding that?
If management does think they will hang on to Ward and look for a cheap backup option for next season, (cheaper than Khudobin's future contract), they may want to consider trading the Russian goalie before the deadline, so they can get something for him before he tests the market.
Of course, no one knows what Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is thinking regarding this, but the days ahead will not be easy ones.