Jaroslav Halak had at the very least an intriguing season going from the St. Louis Blues to the Buffalo Sabres (for a minute) in the Ryan Miller trade before ending up with the Washington Capitals. Halak’s brief tenure in Washington was marred with controversy as he clashed with (now former) coach Adam Oates over a start against his former team. In early May his exclusive negotiating rights were acquired by the New York Islanders and a deal was reached between both sides today.
The Islanders’ goaltending situation was an absolute mess as Evgeni Nabokov and whole array of other subpar goalies were among the league’s worst. This atrocious goaltending led to the Islanders regressing in the standings after appearing to be a team on the rise after their amazing series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last spring. Bringing in Halak adds stability between the pipes, but much work remains to be done if the Islanders wish to be back in playoff contention.
After trading away two of the top free agent forwards on the market this summer in Matt Moulson and Thomas Vanek, the Islanders alienated both of them, making it a long shot for them to return to the Isles. Having said that, this market is rife with talent, and the Islanders have a number of selling points (The move to Barclays Center in 2015, a stud center in John Tavares, the allure of the New York area, etc.) and can use free agency as a great way to improve their team. A star winger to play along Tavares and Kyle Okposo such as Marian Gaborik or even Ryan Callahan would be another key building block.
While the Islanders will surely be better than they were this season — they better be since the Sabres have their 2015 first-round pick — they cannot stop looking for ways to improve this summer. Look for the Islanders to be in on trades all summer long as various defensemen will be on the move (Alex Edler and Adam McQuaid to name a few). Garth Snow’s job is not done yet. If they can buck the trend of making foolish mistakes seemingly annually, the Islanders, led by Tavares with a capable goalie in Halak, should be a playoff contender for years to come.