Originally created 06/18/04

Easy decision: Lightning pick up option on Khabibulin



TAMPA, Fla. -- The Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning picked up the $6.5 million option on Thursday to bring back goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin next season.

Khabibulin, 31, tied for the league lead with five shutouts and posted a 1.71 goals-against average in the 2004 playoffs as he helped lead the Lightning to their first title with a four games-to-three win over the Calgary Flames in the Staley Cup Finals.

"Nik's performance throughout our Stanley Cup run only reinforced how valuable he is to our hockey club," general manager Jay Feaster said.

The native of Russia posted a 28-19-7 record this season with three shutouts and a 2.33 goals-against average.

Since being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes on March 5, 2001, Khabibulin has posted a 83-74-28 record while leading the team to consecutive Southeast Division titles. He holds franchise records in wins, shutouts (14) and consecutive wins (8).