Shameless plug incoming!
As I mentioned on yesterday’s all new, mostly Halloween free edition of the Islanders Anxiety podcast, I was especially looking forward to this week’s edition of Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column at Sportsnet because with the Maple Leafs and their media throng having had a bad time in Brooklyn on Sunday night, there was bound to be a rush of Islanders info in the indispensable weekly article.
In an event even more rare than the Islanders appearing in a 30 Thoughts column, I was right in my analysis. Friedman does indeed shed some more light on the team’s unusual goalie situation and how things are progressing.
To refresh your memory, Allan Walsh, the agent for both Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube, tweeted some critiques of the Islanders goalie trio on Saturday night and GM Garth Snow countered by putting Halak on the trading block. Arthur Staple of Newsday later surmised that Halak was targeted by Snow as an indirect shot at Walsh, and Friedman basically corroborates that line of thinking by quoting Walsh client Patrik Elias who said, “Do you think [Walsh] would do any of it without the player knowing first?”
So with that established, Friedman lets us in on some of the inner workings of the team, in particular their mindset in having three goalies on the roster:
...The Islanders feel one of the reasons they need three good ones is Halak never seems to be 100 per cent. They also tried to make Halak more comfortable by hiring Marc Champagne, who worked well with him in Montreal. They’ve tried to make the situation work for him.
After a year or so as Halak’s personal coach (and flown in by the team periodically), Champagne is listed as one the team’s goalie consultant, with longtimer Mike Dunham still as goalie coach.
Moving on, Friedman brings up mystery man Berube, who has played very sparingly over his season-plus as an Islander. Friedman agrees with the team in that the young goalie would be plucked off waivers by another team if given the chance. But he also echos Staple in that letting him sit for long stretches isn’t conducive to improvement.
12. There’s a sense this is really about the Islanders’ other Octagon-represented netminder, Jean-Francois Berube. Berube, 25, has appeared in just seven NHL games the past two seasons (none this year), a brutal time in his career to be so inactive. He can play, and the Islanders are correct to think he’d be claimed on waivers if available. Should Halak get traded, Berube gets more action. It looks like he’ll be a Group 6 unrestricted free agent if the Islanders don’t get him into 21 more games.
CBA Time! (which means Winging It In Motown time because JJ is the best). Basically, the Islanders need Berube to play in 28 NHL games in order to keep him from becoming a UFA at the end of this season.
Group 6 (Unrestricted) Free Agents Any player 25 or older with at least three professional seasons who has not played in at least 80 NHL games (28 for goalies) becomes a UFA at the end of his contract. For this part, the definition of a professional season is pretty lenient. 11 games for 18-19 year olds and just one game played anywhere professionally counts for anybody over 20. It's nearly an unnecessary definition, since a guy with that much experience who is obviously not that wanted by the team isn't likely to draw the kind of salary which would bring draft pick compensation in, but it's a nice bit of a catch-all just to keep teams from being dicks to people like that.
(Are the Islanders being dicks about this? A little. The situation has certainly dragged on long enough and Snow is nothing if not stubborn, but his options are and were limited. So not total dicks, but still. It’s not a good look.)
Berube possibly becoming an unrestricted free agent is tricky on a number of levels. For one, it might be inhibiting whatever little trade value he has (although it seems unlikely the Islanders are trying to move him). More importantly, Thomas Greiss - the third, non-Walsh represented member of the trio who just keeps on keeping on - is going to be a UFA at the end of this season and given his performance over the last year and change, he’s due a raise.
So yeah, lots of things are happening. For what it’s worth, the three goalies are cool with one another and are doing what they can to be as comfortable as possible, according to a report yesterday from Staple.
Berube and Halak said the relationships among the goaltenders haven’t changed. “All three of us, we get along,” Halak said. “We don’t make these decisions. I’ve said it before.”
Friedman also shared some items on the Islanders unrelated to their goalies.
13. The Islanders are a really interesting team to try and predict. In the next two years, their list of unrestricted free agents includes John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Jason Chimera, Cal Clutterbuck, Mikhail Grabovski, Thomas Hickey, Nikolai Kulemin, Dennis Seidenberg and all three goalies. There are some very impressive prospects, including in net. There’s new ownership, so we’re not sure how they will approach all this other than chaining Tavares to the Brooklyn Bridge. The first test will be Clutterbuck. There was a heartfelt ovation for Matt Martin in his return. Clutterbuck doesn’t have the same charitable resume, but he does a lot for that team. Same agency as Martin, too — Newport.
Clutterbuck will turn 29 on November 18 and has 63 points (35g, 28a) in 235 games as an Islander. Of course, his value extends beyond just offense as a member of the team’s crash-and-bang fourth line. There’s a lot to be hashed out before the Summer so I’ll just say what I think a lot of folks are gonna think: I like Cal, but as with all bottom six players, the Islanders cannot afford to give him too much against the salary cap. If that means he walks, then he walks.
The Casey Cizikas contract extension ($3.35 AAV) that we debated (or outright hated) all Summer has, so far this season, not seemed like an issue. Emphasis on the “so far” there. But if Clutterbuck wants a raise over the $3.5 million he’s taking home (or $2.75 AAV against the cap), then the Islanders are going to have a lot of dough tied up in essentially third or fourth liners, which will spell trouble for when the top guys need to be paid.
Speaking of Top Men, I take some degree of comfort in how this is phrased. I’m not sure why. Seems like Friedman thinks it’s an inevitability.
14. New wager amongst friends: which potential 2018 free agent re-signs first? Tavares or Carey Price
Blast from the Past
Finally, way down on the list, Friedman has a Dynasty era Islanders story, which is like cat nip to us after all these years.
28. Denis Potvin’s talked before about how Montreal tried to acquire the first pick in the 1973 Draft from the Islanders. The Canadiens wanted Potvin and Sam Pollock offered Bill Torrey several different players to get that spot. Torrey said no to all of them, the final offer coming as then-President Clarence Campbell tried to begin proceedings. Did Potvin ever ask Torrey who the Canadiens — three years from starting a run of four straight Stanley Cups — were willing to trade? “No, I didn’t ask and I didn’t want to know,” he said last week.
I think Torrey made the smart move. That’s quite a hot take, I know.
Thanks to Friedman for the great info. Make sure you read 30 Thoughts every week.