The New York Islanders have several free agent goaltenders this summer, and now one of them has left the North American ranks completely. Kristers Gudlevskis has signed with Dinamo Riga of the KHL, returning to the organization he played for as a junior.
Gudlevskis, 25, was acquired by the Islanders from the Tampa Bay Lightning last summer but struggled for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. The Latvian netminder recorded just an .897 save percentage and wasn’t given an opportunity in the NHL despite the struggles of the goaltenders there. Because of that lack of opportunity, both in New York and Tampa Bay, Gudlevskis qualified for Group VI unrestricted free agency this summer and could sign anywhere he chose.
The Islanders have the same problem with fellow minor league goaltender Christopher Gibson, who is a Group VI UFA himself. Jaroslav Halak is also set to hit the open market, leaving GM Lou Lamoriello an organizational void to fill. That might not be the worst problem to have though, as none of the Islanders goaltenders have been very good the last few years.
For Gudlevskis, it may not be the end of his North American career, but it certainly could be. With World Championship and Olympic experience under his belt, he should continue to be one of Latvia’s top options for international play and will try to prove his talent at the KHL level.