The New York Islanders placed Jaroslav Halak on waivers Friday, adding the latest wrinkle to a two-season long three-goalie saga that began when Halak was injured for the opening of 2015-16 and the Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off waivers.
Though Berube has hardly played during the past two seasons, the Islanders have clung to him — at the expense of a roster spot and awkward feelings in the crease — like he’s a goalie of the future.
Halak, meanwhile, has been treated like a cap problem and a goalie who’s used — sometimes for weeks of consecutive starts — but who they’d rather be rid of. Halak was pulled in the middle of last night’s loss to the Minnesota Wild in favor of Berube.
That was a second consecutive start after he was in goal for the win over the Washington Capitals. But Jack Capuano was unusually vocal in critique of the goalie’s play after the game, and who knows if there was more fallout after that:
Capuano: "Jaro wasn't sharp at all, he gave up some soft goals and we had to battle back. We did against a real good team."— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 30, 2016
He was reportedly on the trade block last summer, but that was a tough sell since he was coming off season-ending (and ultimately surgery-requiring) abdominal injuries that cut short his 2015-16 season. A decent performance for Team Europe at the World Cup, followed by drunk pedestrian numbers (.904, 3.23 GAA) for the Isles this season, has not changed that.
Indeed, it seems his injury history and his reaction to both that — “work habits” has been whispered about — and the three-goalie situation are big factors in why the Isles have been heading down this road.
Of course, waiving Halak is no guarantee they’ll be free of him. But this may be the latest gambit in a chess/pissing match between team, goalie and agent.
Less than zero chance someone claims Halak with another year at $4.5m due. Believe he'll be sent to the AHL if he clears.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 30, 2016
In theory, halfway into the season and with a few more goalie injuries around the league, it’s at least a little more possible that a team will grab him and his $4.5 million cap hit. But the problem is taking on that full $4.5 million cap hit for next year, the final year of his four-year contract.
Maybe they hope he refuses to report to the AHL (if assigned, if he clears). Maybe they hope he’ll seek release and work overseas. Maybe this weird drama will continue to infinity.