After being criticized most of the 2013-14 season for not addressing his team’s defense in a meaningful way, Islanders GM Garth Snow moved quickly to shore up the back end, trading a fourth-round draft pick to Washington Thursday for the rights to pending unrestricted free agent goaltender Jaroslav Halak. While the deal might not have been the first choice for either the Isles or Halak – Snow’s first choice may have been someone younger than the 28-year-old Slovakian, while Halak’s first choice was likely a team that has a solid record of playoff success in the past decade – it’s a move that can pay off for both parties.
Of course, Snow has to get Halak’s name on a new contract, but that shouldn’t be difficult. It’s not as if Halak was going to have his pick of suitors this summer; the goalie market is as flat as it’s ever been and although Halak’s statistics last season (including a .917 save percentage and 2.23 goals-against average in 40 games with the Blues, and a .930 SP and 2.31 G.A.A. in 12 games with the Caps) were solid, St. Louis dealt him because he hadn’t grabbed the starter’s job as the organization hoped he would.
The dearth of options Halak has makes him Evgeni Nabokov 2.0 on Long Island, although there’s potential for him to last longer with the Isles than the three seasons Nabokov spent with the organization. If I know the franchise as well as I think I do, Halak is likely to sign a one-or-two-year, bonus-laden contract that gives him the option to move on to a better situation if one presents itself – and that also gives the team a chance to develop a younger netminder for the long term.
But for now, at least, Halak and the Islanders are a decent match. There will still be issues (most notably, the sub-par blueline Halak will be playing behind), but the goalie market has become a game of musical chairs – and it makes sense for the Isles and Halak to secure a seat before the song stops playing and both are left standing by themselves and looking foolish.