Last night, Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen detailed how Allan Walsh, the agent for New York Islanders goalies Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube, was upset with the team. In two tweets released yesterday, Walsh questioned the three-goalie system that the Islanders are using for the second year in a row. The Isles are currently employing both Halak and Berube, as well as Thomas Greiss. The likely reason for carrying three goalies is that attempting to send the 24-year-old Berube to the AHL would almost surely end in a waiver claim and the loss of the New York’s top goalie prospect. However, Walsh argues that using three goalies has a negative effect on practice time, alleging that Halak had only one “quality practice” leading up to his last start. Meanwhile, Berube has yet to even make a start this season, which also cannot make Walsh happy.
The implied purpose of the not-so-cryptic tweets is to put pressure on the Islanders to make a decision. Now, it appears they have. Although GM Garth Snow, a former Islanders goalie himself, has not made any official statement, Elliotte Friedman reports that following Walsh’s statements, Snow has made Halak available to the rest of the league. If forced to move a goalie, it appears that Snow is more comfortable with moving the 30-year-old Halak, who has term left on his contract and an injury history, rather than impending free agents Greiss, the default starter in 2015-16, and Berube. Given the injuries in net across the league, now may be as good a time as any to trade Halak.
Thus far in the new campaign, the Islanders are 3-5, good enough for last place in the Metropolitan Division, and Walsh’s comments on the lack of focus on just two goalies being detrimental may hold some weight. Halak is 2-3 with a .901 save percentage and 3.01 goals against average, while Greiss is 1-2 with a .907 save percentage and 2.71 goals against average. Both keepers are greatly under-performing based upon their numbers last season and their career averages, behind a very good defensive unit. Should the Islanders trade Halak, arguably their best goalie, their relationship with Walsh could break down further (it’s already in rough shape following the P.A. Parenteau debacle) and make agreeing to a new deal with Berube more difficult. It could also leave them severely short-handed this season if injuries hit or if Berube struggles under greater pressure. The Islanders future in net is very much unknown at this point, but as far as 2016-17 goes, the pressure is on for New York to make a move in an effort to right the ship, but trading Halak could be a potentially disastrous decision. Whatever Snow decides to do with his goal tender carousel, it will have lasting effects on the Islanders this year and in the future.