I’ve apparently never posted this here, but with the news that Nikolai Khabibulin is having a “procedure” on his back to “kick-start his recovery” as well as the strong indications that they didn’t review any medical records before agreeing to pay him $15MM over four years, I thought that this was worth pointing out. Earlier this year, NHL.com did a story about Fernando Pisani and colitis. Pisani’s quotes cleared up some of the backstory here:
“I was diagnosed in 2005, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago I basically felt the wrath of my illness…”
For the first two years after his diagnosis, Pisani had experienced minor symptoms, but he never took action. Because of the private nature of the symptoms (constant diarrhea mixed with blood) he chose not to divulge his diagnosis. Whenever the illness flared up, Pisani shrugged it off and battled through it until they went away. But just prior to the 2007-08 season, these symptoms were altering Pisani’s lifestyle and hockey career so drastically that he had no choice but to see a doctor and face the reality that his life as he knew it could change drastically.
“I kept telling the team trainers and everyone else it was just a flu or basically I was just sick, but sooner or later everyone could see this was serious and I finally told them what was wrong,” Pisani said.
If you take what Pisani is saying at face value, he didn’t disclose his illness to the Oilers, although they may have known that he was experiencing “…constant diarrhea mixed with blood.” Whatever doctor he was seeing, they either didn’t request his medical records prior to signing him to a contract worth $10MM or didn’t care that he’d been diagnosed with colitis.
The fact that Pisani knew about the diagnosis and didn’t disclose it to a team making a $10MM investment in him does change the colour of things a little bit as far as I’m concerned. The Oilers have been deservedly praised for not suspending Pisani without pay, as is their right under the SPC. It’s one thing to do that when you think a fellow’s had a hard break. It’s quite another when he knew something that he chose not to tell you when you were signing him to a $10MM contract.
In any event, it happened, and the Oilers apparently took on a risk that they probably didn’t want (or would have wanted a discount if they were taking) because they didn’t check his medical records. We have no way of knowing whether Khabibulin’s current problems are related to his past history of back problems. We can be reasonably certain that they didn’t look at anything before signing him to a deal. Given that they’d been burned before with Pisani, it is amazing to me that they went out and signed Khabby without making any investigations.
Incidentally, the Oilers weren’t the only team this summer that signed a player without doing a physical beforehand. Chicago signed Marian Hossa and, in a post-signing physical on July 10, found out that he needed shoulder surgery.
Dale Tallon’s firing was announced two business days later.