After several years in the wilderness of bargains, retreads and the Rick DiPietro Injury Spiral, the New York Islanders finally got more aggressive in addressing their goaltending situation in 2014. Not only did they trade a pick for unsigned pending free agent Jaroslav Halak, they also invested considerably in the backup position by luring free agent Chad Johnson with a two-year contract.
With Johnson struggling in most of his 2014-15 appearances, the Islanders got aggressive again at the trade deadline, dealing Johnson and his one remaining contract year plus a draft pick for pending free agent Michal Neuvirth.
As Neuvirth reportedly seeks a starter's role, could the Islanders ratchet up the aggression yet again by bringing in someone who might compete with Halak either immediately or down the line as he ages?
There are a lot of goalies theoretically on the market -- Eddie Lack are Cam Talbot (albeit with a rival unlikely to send him their way) are names that come up -- which might lower the price at a position that notoriously sees price volatility.
Two other names on some fans' lips are unlikely to be Brooklyn-bound. In Ottawa, Craig Anderson is the old hand and Robin Lehner is the up-and-comer not named Andrew Hammond. Problem is, not only does Senators general manager want good value for those proven goalies; he also wants teams to take on an extra contract.
From TSN's Ian Mendes:
Speaking to reporters in his final pre-draft availability on Thursday morning, the Senators general manager indicated that several teams have called about both Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson. And while the club is still not tipping its hand on which netminder is going to be moved, Murray did indicate that the goalie trade will likely include a player such as Colin Greening or David Legwand – veterans who likely won't have a role with the club next season.
No telling whether Garth Snow made one of those calls, but if he did it was likely due diligence for a price too high. Greening is signed for two more seasons at a reported cap hit of $2.65 million, while Legwand is signed through next season at a cap hit of $3 million. That's in addition to the goalies -- take your pick of Lehner at $2.225 million for two more seasons, or Anders, age 34, at $4.2 million for the next three seasons.
The Islanders have plenty of cap space now, but big raises are coming this summer to Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, while next summer brings a raise to Ryan Strome and new UFA status for Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner.
Having made big commitments to the two defensemen acquired by trade last preseason (Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk), and seeing younger and/or key players coming due for raises over this summer and next, the Islanders aren't going to be in the position of taking on contracts just to take them on.
That's true with or without a revenue boost from the Brooklyn move -- it's more about prudently managing the cap.
And while the Islanders have gotten more aggressive in trade acquisitions over the last two seasons -- going back even to the Thomas Vanek deal -- they're not in a position to add another full-price 12th or 13th forward to a lineup that already has heavy competition just to make the first 12.
Murray thinks he's in a good bargaining position with other GMs:
"I know there are a couple of other goalies on the market and [GMs] will use that as a negotiating tool for themselves and maybe look elsewhere," said Murray.
"All I've been telling them is, 'If you want the best one, you better call Ottawa,'" said Murray. "We have the best guy to trade."
The Islanders do need to find a new backup or 1A goalie, and Murray is just doing his duty by talking up the price of his prizes to anyone who will listen. But even discounting for hyperbole and gamesmanship, too many factors stand in the way of a match here.