The New York Islanders face an interesting choice when deciding who will be between the pipes to start the 2016-17 season. They have three goalies on one-way contracts – Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube – though realistically when it comes to the starting job, the choice will be between Halak and Greiss.
Halak had a solid season in 2015-16, winning 18 of his 36 starts and stopping nearly 92% of the shots he faced. The advanced stats crowd holds Halak in particularly high regard due in large part to his ability to limit goals against on high danger shot attempts. Over the last two seasons, Halak has stopped 84.03% of shots against from high danger scoring areas in 5v5 situations. That figure is good for seventh overall in the NHL among goalies who have seen at least 1,500 minutes of 5v5 play. Halak ranks higher than bigger names like Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist.
Greiss was excellent in goal for the Islanders in the postseason with Halak unavailable due to injury. He also ranks among the best goaltenders in preventing goals in high danger situations. His 84.97 HDSv% at 5v5 is the fourth highest over the last two seasons. It’s his strong play last season and the presence of Berube that has led some to postulate the Islanders could look to trade Halak to address other needs.
This issue was addressed by Arthur Staple of Newsday in this reader mailbag. Staple points to Halak’s strong play in the World Cup as the starter for the surprising Europeans and indicates that the Islanders organization is intent on keeping him on board. That means Greiss is likely headed back to the #2 role while Berube is likely to have to wait his turn while suiting up for Bridgeport in the AHL.
Other points of interest in Staple’s mailbag and roster notes on the Islanders Big Apple rivals:
- Staple takes an early stab at what it will ultimately cost the Islanders to extend captain and face-of-the-franchise John Tavares. He reasons that since Tavares is the “one true star” of the team – unlike in Chicago (Toews/Kane) and Pittsburgh (Crosby/Malkin), he will be able to command a larger piece of the Islander salary cap pie. Staple refers to it as a “blank check situation for him,” and a max length deal in the range of $9.5MM to $10MM annually is where the negotiation will end up. Tavares likely could push for more and certainly the Islanders would prefer a lower number but the team will undoubtedly do whatever necessary to ink their captain to a long-term deal.
- Answering a query regarding the continued development of defenseman Nick Leddy, Staple feels the 25-year-old blue liner can take the next step and become an “elite” defender. Staple suggests the Islanders will limit Leddy’s ice time by cutting his penalty-killing duties in the hopes he will remain fresher and produce better numbers at five-on-five.
- Steve Zipay of Newsday projects the Rangers opening night roster and notes the team will have a significant amount of cap space remaining for one of the few times in recent memory. The Blueshirts had just $200K in cap space to open the 2015-16 campaign but assuming Zipay’s projections are close to accurate, the team will have in excess of $3MM with which to play with. Of course having that flexibility would allow the Rangers to add salary at any point during the season, rather than waiting until the trade deadline, should they find a deal to their liking.