Editorials

New York Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak Is the Odd Man Out

Mar 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) watches a puck against the New York Rangers during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) watches a puck against the New York Rangers during the second period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /
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The New York Islanders face uncertainty in the blue paint going into the offseason. With three goaltenders on the books, something is going to have to give.

It’s going to be a busy summer for the New York Islanders. Not only do they face a conundrum with their goaltenders, they also have 14 pending free agents that they have to sort out and a draft to prepare for. But with presumed starter Jaroslav Halak requiring another surgery, the story in the crease has come to life.

Newsday’s Arthur Staple was the first to reports that Halak was going to require a second surgery this calendar year to fix a potential sports hernia. At the time, it was reported that Halak would need 6-8 weeks to recover from the surgery.

Generally, such news wouldn’t be so…well news-worthy. The offseason is when surgeries if required, happen. Players have time to get the procedure done and give themselves plenty of time to recover and get back to playing shape, without risking re-aggravating the injury.

In Greiss we Trust

But nothing happens without context. Halak was sidelined for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs with a groin injury sustained on March 8th against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Isles nation went into panic mode. All they had to fill in for Halak was 30-year-old career backup Thomas Greiss, who at that point had played a total of 89 games over his six years NHL career. How was he supposed to help the team make the playoffs?

Before going down with injury Halak was a dependable if nothing but average starter that Isles fans had been craving for years. In 36 contests in 2015-16 Halak had a strong 2.30 GAA and .919 SV%.

It’s not like GM Garth Snow had any options better than giving Greiss the net. Trading for a goaltender was possible, but doing so after the trade deadline would mean that this new goaltender would be ineligible for the playoffs.

Greiss repaid the faith shown in him by the team by playing up to the standards of a regular NHL starter. In his 41 games played in 2015-16, he put up a 2.36 GAA with a 9.25 SV%. But it was in the playoffs where he really shined.

In the conference quarterfinals against the Florida Panthers, Greiss had a 2.16 GAA with an astounding .944 SV% while routinely facing almost 40 shots a game.

Halak is the Odd Man Out

With this recent setback to Halak’s health, the cap conscious Snow might try to ship his starter out and turn to Greiss for the start of the 2016-17 season.

Greiss carries a cap hit of $1.5 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2017-18. Halak, on the other hand, carries a cap hit of $4.5 million until the 2018-19 season. A $3 million saving on the payroll would go a long way to securing some more coveted UFA’s and RFA’s currently in the lineup.

But sending Halak out is easy when speaking in hypotheticals. In the real world, it’s harder. For one, every trade requires two parties. For the Islanders, this would be a team with a need for a goaltender with something that the Islanders need, like draft picks.

The first team that comes to mind are the Calgary Flames. The Flames have an aging Jonas Hiller and Niklas Backstrom at 34 and 38 respectively, as well as an ineffective Karri Ramo. They also had a league worse SV% of 0.892 according to sportingcharts.com. They need, at the very least, an average starter.

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The Flames also have an abundance of second round picks in this year’s draft with three, something the Isles have none of. Both teams have something the other wants. It’s up to the GMs to figure out what is fair compensation in order for either to give it up. But seeing Halak go for futures in the form of draft picks would be well worth it.

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