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Halak Waived, but More Questions Remain For New York Islanders

Jaroslav Halak (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Jaroslav Halak (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On Friday, New York Islanders’ General Manager Garth Snow took the advice of controversial sports agent Allan Walsh and waived one of Walsh’s clients, Jaroslav Halak. This is good news if you’re another one of Walsh’s clients: Jean-Francois Berube (how is this even allowed?).

With Thomas Greiss now seeming to be the clear starter, J.F. Berube will slide securely into the backup role, so long as Greiss stays healthy and consistent on his own, and Berube steps up when called into action.

Jaroslav Halak being waived is also good news if you like settling three-way goalie controversies quickly. Beginning with Halak’s injury problems last season carrying over into the postseason, the Islanders had elected to roll with three netminders, one of which served as a healthy scratch every night. This is a rather unorthodox move. Then again, Garth Snow is a rather unorthodox General Manager.

I’ll reiterate from the past that I have touted Snow as one of the better GMs in the NHL. What he has done for the New York Islanders to bring them from the depths of the abyss is outstanding? There was a point in time when the future of the franchise staying within the metropolitan area was in some noteworthy jeopardy. Rumors of relocation swirled around the hockey world. We even saw fans from Quebec travel all the way to Uniondale, Long Island to let the NHL and former Isles’ owner Charles Wang know that if the Isles ever considered relocating, Quebec would be a great place – because, well, it’s Canada and we all miss the Quebec Nordiques in our mesmerizing nostalgia for Old Time Hockey.

Snow started to put a better product on the ice. He gave head coach Jack Capuano some players to work with. The Isles even entered the playoff race a couple of times, winning their first series last spring, a first in 23 years! Sure, he made some questionable moves along the way – trading Matt Moulson who had developed as a fan-favorite, and more importantly, established good chemistry with Isles’ captain John Tavares; signing Tomas Vanek who did not want to be on Long Island; waiving P.A. Parenteau before the puck even dropped for the 2016-17 season; the list is vast, and I could go on and on. But I’d be beating a dead horse at this point.

To Snow’s credit, Kyle Okposo was not traded at the deadline last season so that the Islanders could make a serious playoff run. Had he been traded, the Isles may have missed the playoffs altogether. Unfortunately, Okposo walked, and Snow gained nothing in return, until he signed Andrew Ladd as a free agent. The problem there, however, is that Ladd has been largely inconsistent and totally subpar, especially given the opportunity to play alongside one of the best skaters in the game today. Look at what Tyler Kennedy accomplished in his years skating next to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. My point is: Snow has faced his fair share of bad puck luck. If he didn’t have bad luck sometimes, he’d have no luck at all, I guess.

When the Islanders locked up Cal Clutterbuck, that moment, I stopped sticking my neck out for Garth Snow, and instead started scratching my head. Character and leadership are great qualities to have in the locker room. Heart and soul players are not exactly a dime-a-dozen, but a lazy, disinterested player does not make it to the NHL and stay there, no matter how talented he is. But, to state the obvious, skill and production are also very much a part of the game of hockey.

When Allan Walsh called out Garth Snow publicly for mishandling the three-goalie tandem, Snow responded by placing Jaroslav Halak on the trading block. No one bit – or at least no one bit hard enough for Snow to make a fair enough swap. So he held onto Halak, who is having possibly his worst season in the NHL so far – a 6-8-5 record, a .904 save percentage and career high 3.23 goals against average. Instead of acquiring at least something, maybe a draft pick or two and a depth player or two, Snow let Halak’s value absolutely plummet to a discounted price of free (aside from the salary cap, of course). And in all fairness to Snow, Isles have no shortage of prospects and picks to gear up for another rebuild. We must give credit where credit is due, for whatever it’s worth.

Halak is five seasons removed from winning the William Jennings Trophy (awarded to the best goalie tandem that season) with current Flames’ goaltender Brian Elliot. Is Halak distracted by all the nonsense surrounding him off the ice? Is Halak plainly consistently inconsistent? I don’t know what goes on inside anyone else’s mind, but the answer to the latter question is “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Now, Halak is exposed to being taken, for nothing, from potentially 29 other NHL franchises. And if no one claims Jaro by the waiver deadline? Well that’s got to make the guy feel a whole lot worse as he will be relegated to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers where he will either stay to work on his game and get called back up when Greiss or Berube gets injured, or until perhaps it’s time for the Las Vegas expansion draft. With teams forced to expose one goaltender already, Halak does not seem like a forerunner to be the next knight in shining golden armor. In the strangest of scenarios, Jaro could refuse to report to Bridgeport if he clears waivers, but that would mean forfeiting a year and a half remaining on his contract. Where would he go? Europe?

In the meantime, Tavares’ contract is also good only through the spring of 2018. Perhaps the move is to give Snow some breathing room to sign JT to an extension. But will it matter by then? Snow has still not found two completely suitable line mates for the Isles’ captain. Perhaps Snow has something else up his sleeve, maybe a trade still in the works to get JT someone permanent to play with? Right now, it seems like Snow is treading thin ice, and there are more than just subway lines beneath it should it crack…

Fun fact, as if Isles’ fans didn’t have enough to lament about (and follow me here closely): when the Washington Capitals traded Halak, the Islanders traded to the Caps a fourth round draft pick that had originally belonged to the Chicago Blackhawks (remember Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard?). Looking to improve a particular draft position, the Caps exchanged this pick and another fourth round pick to the New York Rangers for their third round pick. With this particular fourth-round pick that started with the Blackhawks, the New York Rangers selected Igor Shestyorkin. Shestyorkin currently plays for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. He is 22-3 with an outstanding save percentage of .943 and a superb 1.53 goals against average with eight shutouts so far this season. Shestyorkin has yet to ink an entry-level deal with the Rangers, however. But, he’s only 20-years old, which means he might just be the next heir to the throne.

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Evan is the Hockey Editor for DoubleGSports.com. He provides coverage of the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers, as well as some league-wide content.
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