The New York Islanders have a good NHL goalie on their roster. This is not a drill.
For the low, low price of a fourth round draft pick - one picked up from the Blackhawks in the mostly now forgotten Pierre-Marc Bouchard/Peter Regin trade - Garth Snow acquired pending unrestricted free agent goalie Jaroslav Halak from the Washington Capitals. The Islanders now have a two-month window to sign Halak to a contract for next season before he hits the market on July 1.
Halak's stats for the season, to put it mildly, outstrip all three goalies who suited up for the Islanders. In 52 games with the Blues, Sabres and Caps, Halak was 29-13-7 with five shutouts. His .921 save percentage (and 2.25 goals-against average) dwarf those of Evgeni Nabokov, Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson, the latter two of whom didn't even break .900. For his career, the 29-year-old Halak has a .918 save percentage and 144 wins.
Seven months after the start of the regular season, and one day after the first round of the playoffs ended, the Islanders finally addressed their biggest need, one that reaches back to the end of last year's first round. Going into the season with a 38-year-old starter and two unproven back-ups helped sink the Islanders season effectively before it began. Predictably, their team save percentage was 29th in the NHL and they seemingly never got that save that they needed to win a game all season. Yes, that's a little dramatic, but so was the 82-game tragedy we all watched.
The giant caveat with the deal is Halak's UFA status and whether the Islanders can or will sign him. Snow has tried this gambit before, trading a fourth rounder for the rights of then-Canucks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in 2011. The Islanders came with what was reported to be a generous offer, but Ehrhoff balked and signed with the Sabres for a comically front-loaded (but now sorta reasonable) deal. That Snow was able to recoup the draft pick by dealing Ehroff to Buffalo for an identical one was small consolation.
But the goalie market only has 30 starting spots available. And Halak, who split time in St. Louis with Brian Elliott for the last few years, won't find too many places where he can take the net and run with it. Obviously, it will ultimately come down to cash on the barrel. But with Nabokov an aged UFA himself, Nilsson making noise that he won't go to the AHL and Poulin a shaky RFA, the Islanders have, essentially, no goalie on the roster for 2014-15.
It's Halak's job if he wants it. The Islanders clearly want him to have it. Let's hope he does, too.
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