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Stephon Williams, Kevin Poulin and Islanders' Changing Goaltending Picture

Kevin Poulin will be a free agent again, and two NCAA products are candidates to take over.

Goalies always looking over the shoulder.
Goalies always looking over the shoulder.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Word out of Minnesota is that Stephon Williams will be leaving Minnesota State-Mankato after his junior year to sign with the New York Islanders. Assuming that report from Shane Frederick of the Mankato Free Press comes to fruition [UPDATE: Indeed, the signing was announced Thursday], that will signal yet another shift in the Bridgeport Sound Tigers goal, and another step in the Islanders goalie pipeline.

For Williams, an "overage" fourth-round pick of the Isles in 2013, it would be a two-way, entry-level contract. He'd join the pro system next season, regardless of whether he'd leave school to get some games in this spring. Rebounding from an injury-soiled 2013-14 to put up gaudy numbers on a number-one seed team this season, it would be good market timing for Williams to sign now.

But another NCAA product is already making a case, as CJ Motte just had his second impressive start since signing out of Ferris State last week. At this point Motte, who was reportedly headed to an ECHL squad before he got the call to Bridgeport, is only signed through the end of the AHL season.

So there's no guarantee that Motte's in the picture next season. But the fact he's here, and getting some looks ahead of Kevin Poulin (and Kent Simpson, who was returned to the ECHL), and the organization's recent trade of David Leggio, all points to multiple changes in the crease next season.

Add to this a few more variables:

  • Poulin filed for arbitration last summer, and while the sides avoided a hearing, he got a deal that gave him a bigger AHL salary. The one-year contract is up again this summer though, and you could understand if the isles didn't want to pay up again if they don't see an NHL future for him.
  • NHL backup Michal Neuvirth, who the Isles brought in to replace Chad Johnson (signed to a two-year deal last summer), is a pending unrestricted free agent.
  • As an age 20 college draftee, Williams (who turns 22 later this month) can make himself a free agent this summer if he leaves college now.
  • Bridgeport has eight remaining games, finishing the season on April 19.

It's possible this summer sees the Isles part ways with Poulin, whose career has not blossomed over the last two seasons, and whose lone appearance in the NHL this year did nothing to change that.

Neuvirth's status means the Isles could have three goalie job openings to fill over the summer. As Michael Fornabaio pointed out when Motte signed for the rest of this season, that situation isn't exactly new:

It's that time of year, when players come in on tryouts after their college and junior seasons, so teams can get a look and players can get their feet wet.

Bridgeport's springtime goalie tryouts have included Yale's Dan Lombard and Quinnipiac's Dan Clarke (who only backed up for Bridgeport), junior Phil Trudeau (who re-signed this year but went back to school at midseason) and Minnesota Duluth's Kenny Reiter (who signed and stuck around for two more years).

Some stick, some move on. The next few weeks could clear up who's who.