New York Islanders Revisionist History: The Jaroslav Halak Contract
By Matt O'Leary
Before the start of the 2014-2015 season, the New York Islanders gave Jaroslav Halak a four-year $18 million deal. Today we look at if the deal was worth it.
Jaroslav Halak’s tenure with the New York Islanders has been an odd one. He put up historic numbers in his first year in 2014-2015. But then, injuries and poor play knocked him down a peg in the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons.
What I want to look at today is if the Jaroslav Halak four-year $18 million ($4.5 million AAV) contract was worth it.
We’ll start with the good. All of 2014-2015 was fantastic for Jaroslav Halak. He was fifth in the league in wins, and set an Islanders record, with a record of 38-17-4. He ended up starting a career high of 59 games that year, mostly because the Islanders didn’t have a capable backup.
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Chad Johnson was initially Halak’s backup but he struggled with an 8-8-1 record, a .889 save percentage and a 3.08 goals against average. They ended up trading for Michael Neuvirth, but he wasn’t good either. He went 1-3-1 with a .881 save percentage and a 2.94 goals against average.
Halak was forced to play virtually every night due to the lack of goalie depth. He had a respectable .914 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average. His play helped lift the Islanders to their second playoff appearance in three years.
His play in Game 7 of the Washington series was one of the few things that kept the Isles in that game. In the series Halak posted a .926 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average.
The strong play took a dip the following year when injuries took over. On the 2015-2016 season, he was 18-13-4 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.30 goals against average. The story was the emergence of Thomas Greiss and he especially stole the show once April rolled around with his playoff performance.
There was some debate as to who would get the majority of the starts with the Islanders last year in 2016-2017. Obviously, the three goalie system played a bit of a role in this but Halak played very poorly to start off the season.
So poorly, in fact, the Islanders waived him and he passed through waivers ending up in Bridgeport. Part of the reason nobody picked him up was that $4.5 million cap hit. Anyway, the Isles later called him up and he performed great down the stretch.
He finished with a 12-9-5 record a .915 save percentage and a 2.80 goals against average. He was 6-1 with a .949 save percentage once he returned in March.
So, you have one really good year, a down year with injuries, a very poor first half followed up with a solid second half performance.
Now it’s time for a little context. His first season, his best, he put up similar numbers to Frederik Andersen and Antti Niemi. After the 2014-15 season Niemi received a contract with a $4.5 million AAV. In 2016, Andersen got a contract with a $5 million AAV.
Niemi has since been bought out and has a new $700K contract with the Penguins to backup Matt Murray. While Andersen put up decent numbers in his first year in Toronto.
Although Halak has seemed to take a step back, I think the contract was worth it and still is worth it even looking through the scope of a revisionist. Keep in mind the Isles were coming off an Evgeni Nabakov and Kevin Poulin tandem.
Nabby made a cool $3.25 million during the 2013-2014 season and put up some pretty poor numbers to boot. He went 15-14-8 with a .905 save percentage and a 2.74 goals against average.
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The Islanders desperately needed an upgrade at the goalie position and Halak was just that. They only spent $1.25 million more against the cap for their goalie with Halak but his production was a big upgrade. Even at Halak’s worst it was still an upgrade over what Nabby was giving you at the end. I have no issue with the Halak contract.