Isles return from bye week after waiving Halak
Goalie in Bridgeport as Brooklyn NHL Squad Heads to Colorado
The New York Islanders’ all-time single-season wins leader stopped 30 shots in a tough shootout loss Wednesday night… in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Jaroslav Halak, who was placed on and ultimately cleared waivers Saturday, hit the ice for the Islanders’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, doubtlessly in an effort to stay active and ready in case — or until — another NHL franchise comes calling, if not his own.
The 31-year-old native of Bratislava, Czechoslovakia went 6-8-5 with a 3.23 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage for the Isles this year before being yanked after surrendering four goals in an eventual 6-4 loss at Minnesota last Thursday.
Head coach Jack Capuano intimated following the game that Halak “gave up some soft goals.”
Halak was placed on waivers Saturday and cleared, meaning no one else in the league was interested in brokering a deal for his talents or picking up the back end of his four-year deal just yet.
The move cleared the way for the Islanders to install Thomas Greiss, last season’s playoff hero, into the No. 1 slot, while still-developing Jean-Francois Berube remained as the back-up.
“We want to give Thomas and [Jean-Francois] an opportunity to play, get ice time,” said general manager Garth Snow as New York posted a 6-2 New Year’s Eve victory in Winnipeg prior to the NHL’s league-wide bye week.
“Obviously, get a chance to get some wins that we desperately need.”
Halak came to New York in a May 2014 deal from Washington and was inked to an $18 million pact designed to give the Orange and Blue a franchise-type goaltender.
In his first full season between the pipes for the Isles, Halak went 38-17-4, setting a new team standard for wins. He earned a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star squad and helped New York advance to the playoffs, where they were unceremoniously dumped in the first round by the Washington Capitals.
But after going 18-13-4 with a solid 2.30 GAA during last season’s inaugural campaign here in Brooklyn, Halak was sidelined for the remainder of the year with a lower-body injury.
That allowed Greiss to show Snow and Capuano how valuable he could be as he backstopped New York to its first postseason series victory since 1993 in a six-game first-round classic against Florida.
The Isles carried Halak, Greiss and Berube throughout this season, with Snow rumored to be looking for a trading partner for his most expensive netminder.
But as the losses piled up and 2016 neared its end, the Isles got tired of waiting for Halak to play significantly better.
So after nine years in the NHL, Halak was relegated to minor league duties and wasn’t in any mood to discuss his precipitous fall in the organization.
“I’m not going to comment on anything like that,” Halak told the Connecticut Post upon joining Bridgeport on Tuesday.
“I’m here now. I’m going to try to do my best and see how it goes.”
With their three-headed goalie situation dismantled, the Isles will head to Colorado on Friday, seeking their fifth win in six games as they continue their quest to rejoin the Eastern Conference postseason race after qualifying in each of Halak’s first two seasons with the team.
Snow intimated that he wants Halak to remain ready in case he is summoned from Brooklyn at some point later this season.
“Obviously, last year [Halak] got hit with the injury bug a little bit, but that first year he was an All-Star, and we’re looking for him to get back to that level of play,” Snow said.
“[After the break] it becomes a condensed schedule again and you need more than one goalie to carry the mail,” he added. “It’s not the NHL of old when a goalie could play 70, 75 games. There are just too many games in a short span of time.”
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