You can put the pins and needles away for a while and rest easy.
The Islanders announced this afternoon that they have agreed to a contract with goaltender Jaroslav Halak worth $18 million over four seasons (which shakes out to an average of $4.5 million a season against the salary cap).
Put aside for a moment that the deal is very reasonable in both term and dollars. Forget that the news came moments after the team announced it was giving up it's 2015 first round pick to the Buffalo Sabres to complete the Thomas Vanek trade (more on this later). Don't think about the fact that Garth Snow once again traded a draft pick for a pending UFA. And never mind that the pick in question was acquired from Chicago for two bargain basement free agents, another Snow specialty.
The key thing to focus on is that the Islanders - the New York Islanders - have an actual, tangible, legitimate starting goalie on paper for next season. Halak's numbers, which we discussed at the time of his surprise acquisition from the Capitals, best those of any Islanders goaltender from the last three, four, who knows seasons by leaps and bounds. The 28-year-old posted a .921 save percentage last year while bouncing around the league and has a .918 for his career on some good but not great teams.
Likable Evgeni Nabokov is, at best, a veteran back-up at this point in his career. At worst, well, we saw that last season. Good for periods at a time, but much too inconsistent and unreliable at the NHL level and prone to injuries. His young back-ups, Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson, failed to establish themselves as anything other than continuing projects or organizational depth players.
With Poulin and Nilsson restricted free agents (and Nilsson angling for a one-way contract) and the 38-year-old Nabokov a UFA himself, Snow painted himself into a corner. No more waiting, or experimenting or holding out hope.
Getting a goalie with good stats at a good price for a good term is... good. That's really the best way to put it. It doesn't make the Islanders a contender, and it certainly doesn't mean they should stop exploring goaltender options for next season and the future. You can never, ever have enough goalies.
It does mean that they can finally reasonably expect goaltending on par with what it takes to win games in the NHL. And that is a significant step to take in their case as they build for their final year in Nassau Coliseum.
Jaroslav Halak has signed a 4 year contract with the NY Islanders. A new era begins and Jaro is thrilled to join the Islanders.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) May 22, 2014
ADDENDUM: In my haste, I forgot about this thread asking for speculation on what Halak would ultimately sign for. How close were you? I said $4.8 a year, which was over what the contract came in as. Thanks for the discount, Jaro! FYRE DAN!!