Islanders trade for rights to goaltender Jaroslav Halak

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia,

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak, of Slovakia, cannot stop a goal during the third period of a game on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (Credit: AP)

PITTSBURGH -- The Islanders made their opening move in addressing their dire goaltending situation Thursday, acquiring the rights to pending free agent Jaroslav Halak from the Capitals for a fourth-round pick.

"He's a guy we think highly of,'' Islanders general manager Garth Snow told Newsday. "We'll give our best effort to get him signed. We're addressing a need.''

The trade gives the Islanders an exclusive two-month window to sign Halak, 28, before the start of free agency.

Halak was the top goaltender for the Blues at the start of the 2013-14 season and posted solid numbers for St. Louis in the final year of a four-year contract worth $15 million.

But the Blues went for bigger fish near the trade deadline, sending Halak in a package to the Sabres for Ryan Miller. Last-place Buffalo then flipped Halak to the Capitals, who narrowly missed out on a playoff spot and subsequently dismissed general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates.

So the Islanders jumped into the offseason early with Halak, who has a career .918 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average since entering the NHL with the Canadiens in the 2006-07 season.

Asked if Halak would be interested in signing long-term with the Islanders, his agent, Allan Walsh, told Newsday, "Absolutely. The Islanders are uniquely situated -- they have some very good young players on their roster and some more good young players coming up. They took a step back this season, but I think it's temporary. Why wouldn't we be interested in talking?''

Snow said he spoke briefly with Walsh and Halak Thursday and that further talks will take place.

The Islanders need to fully revamp their goaltending after posting an .894 team save percentage this past season, worst in the NHL.

Snow said he has interest in bringing back unrestricted free agent Evgeni Nabokov, 38, as a backup.

Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson are restricted free agents, but neither was consistent enough to be firmly in the team's plans next season. Nilsson already has informed the Islanders that he'll likely sign in Europe for next season.

"Right now, we have zero goalies under contract,'' Snow said. "It's a position we need to strengthen and [the trade] is the first step.''

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