The rumblings began Saturday afternoon when Allan Walsh, the agent for Islanders goalies Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube, took to Twitter to voice his displeasure with the team's use of three goalies on the NHL roster.
Though he never mentioned his name, it was clear from what Walsh said that the goaltender in question was Halak. Hours later, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that the Islanders have made it known that Halak is on the trading block.
Word tonight is that after @walsha Twitter blast of NYI carrying three goalies, NYI GM has let league know Jaroslav Halak is available.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 30, 2016
Halak has started five of the eight games for the struggling Islanders this season. He is 2-3-0 with a .901 save percentage and 3.04 goals-against average. Meanwhile, the Isles sit last in the Eastern Conference with a 3-5-0 record. It's not time to panic, but as Friedman speculated, the team probably wasn't too pleased with it getting out that Halak didn't like how they were doing things this season. On top of that, there are a few teams in the league that are in the market for some goaltending help.
For full context, here's what Walsh tweeted Saturday that got the rumor mill turning:
Starting goalie for NY Islanders last game had only 1 quality practice in last 5 days before Penguins game. Going on 2 years of this now.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) October 29, 2016
Those points aren't without merit. Most teams don't use a three-goalie system for a variety of reasons, including the practice time situation. Additionally, a third goalie is kind of a waste of cap space when that third-stringer might not dress a whole lot.
Walsh is known for taking his battles on behalf of his clients public, too, which can make him a thorn in the side of general managers. Some will handle it better than others.
Last season, Walsh was essentially client Jonathan Drouin's spokesman during the ordeal that saw Drouin eventually suspended by the Lightning after refusing to play in the AHL while demanding a trade. The Lightning called Walsh's and Drouin's bluff, never traded him and the two sides have since patched up the relationship.
Meanwhile, the Islanders have a situation where Halak is probably their best goaltender on the roster. Thomas Greiss played brilliantly as a No. 2 last season and took the reins in the playoffs with Halak injured. While Halak is more proven in larger samples, Greiss has performed extremely well when given the opportunity. If the Islanders are comfortable making Greiss the No. 1 guy and leaving Berube as a primary backup, then there are plenty of reasons to explore a potential Halak trade.
That said, goaltending depth isn't something teams should willingly give away if they don't have to. Especially with how much it mattered to this one in particular last season. Berube, while promising, has only seven NHL games under his belt.
On top of that, Halak is not necessarily an easy player to trade. He has one more year remaining on his contract after this one and comes with a $4.5 million cap hit. There probably aren't a lot of suitors that are going to be willing to part with meaningful pieces to acquire that kind of cap hit unless they're in desperate need of goaltending help. At that point, it just comes down to how badly New York wants to ship Halak out.
This is an interesting situation, especially against the backdrop of the forthcoming expansion draft. Each team is going to be able to protect one goaltender. Halak would have a good chance at being exposed whether he's with the Islanders or not. There's no guarantee he gets taken, but the possibility certainly exists.
If there are teams out there, like perhaps the Los Angeles Kings or Ottawa Senators, that could use short-term goalie help, they might be a fit. Meanwhile, teams that have struggling goalies like the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators could be very interesting options, should they feel Halak would be a significant enough upgrade over what they have.
The 31-year-old netminder remains a talented goalie. He has a career save percentage of .917 and was one of the best players during the recent World Cup of Hockey, backstopping Team Europe to the championship round. He had a .919 mark last season, with a 18-13-4 record in 36 starts for the Islanders.
Halak is enticing enough an option to at least generate a fair amount of interest, but general manager Garth Snow shouldn't be pulling the trigger unless he finds a deal that can make the Islanders better right away. That's where it becomes tougher to get something done, but this is a situation worth watching closely.