Jaroslav Halak has played well in limited action for Vancouver this season. However, in his latest column for the Toronto Star, Chris Johnston reports that the Canucks are open to moving the veteran netminder.
Through his first eight appearances this season, the 36-year-old has posted a 2.59 GAA along with a .915 SV%, numbers that are better than the league average in both categories. But if you’re thinking that his games played total is awfully low for someone with those numbers – he hasn’t been injured – there’s a reason for that.
It’s that reason that seemingly has him on the trade block. As part of his contract for this season, Halak is owed a $1.25MM bonus when he reaches his tenth game plus another $250K for maintaining a save percentage of .905 or higher which he’s clearly above at the moment. Placing those incentives in there helped the $1.5MM AAV of Halak’s deal become more affordable for them on the salary cap this season. However, with Vancouver deep into LTIR with Micheal Ferland’s contract, they won’t have any unused cap space to offset those bonuses against, meaning that they’d face a $1.5MM overage for Halak when his incentives are met which would come off their 2022-23 cap room.
Under new management, it appears as if that’s a price they’d prefer not to pay, both in money spent and the corresponding cap penalty. On the other hand, that type of upcoming payment could also scare off potentially interested teams as they’d be on the hook for the full bonus amount plus the remaining balance of Halak’s salary.
It’s a little early for the trade market for a backup goaltender to really materialize with the deadline still more than two months away but Halak’s games played total acts as a shorter-term pressure point. He has placed just twice in the last six weeks which has allowed them to stretch this out for the time being but Thatcher Demko can’t play basically every game in the second half of the season. At some point, Halak will have to play if he isn’t traded. As a result, his situation will be one to watch over the next couple of weeks.