Isles Sign Halak, Fill Biggest Need

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The New York Islanders have come to terms with goaltender Jaroslav Halak on a four-year contract worth a reported $18 million.

The Isles acquired the rights to the 28-year-old Slovakian in a trade with the Washington Capitals on May 1st in exchange for a 4th-round selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Halak played for three teams this past season. In 52 games with the St. Louis Blues, Buffalo Sabres and Washington Capitals, he finished with a 29-13-7 record, a 2.25 GAA and a .921 save percentage. He also recorded five shutouts. Halak’s career record is 144-85-59.

Halak’s best postseason performance came in 2010 when he led the Montreal Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals.

This move significantly upgrades the Islanders goaltending situation. Halak gives the team a bona fide starter in the prime of his career for the first time since Rick DiPietro started his long string of injuries in 2007-08.

GM Garth Snow knew the Islanders had to improve the goaltending position. The Isles had the NHL’s worst team save percentage last season with .894. Last year’s starter, Evgeni Nabokov, is an unrestricted free agent. Kevin Poulin was too inconsistent to be an NHL goalie and Anders Nilsson signed in Europe after demanding a one-way deal that the Islanders were not prepared to give.

“We’ve still only got one goaltender under contract, but this is a good first step,” Snow told Newsday. “Jaro’s ability to stop the puck is obviously high-end. We think this is a good deal for both sides.”

Since the Isles have struggled to sign big-ticket free agents in recent years, the trade for Halak’s rights was a smart and aggressive move by Snow. Today, he managed to sign the goalie he targeted.

The quest to sign a backup goalie continues. Snow has indicated  Nabokov could be re-signed to fill that role, most likely to a one-year deal.

The signing of Halak upgrades one of the Islanders’ biggest weaknesses and makes the team better for 2014-15.

NOTES:

The Islanders officially announced today that they would keep this year’s fifth overall pick and give the Sabres their first-round pick in 2015.

 

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