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Garth Snow’s options are limited in fixing Islanders’ goaltending woes

Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak makes a save during

Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak makes a save during a game against the Jets at Barclays Center on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Jaroslav Halak put in a strong shift on Saturday, but the fact is that the Islanders’ goaltending situation is untenable. He and Thomas Greiss have combined to allow 123 goals in 36 games and zero shutouts.

The simplest fix, of course, is for Halak and his .916 career save percentage and Thomas Greiss and his .913 career save percentage to start returning to their average NHL forms. After Saturday’s start Halak is at .906, which isn’t great but is at least buoyed by his .932 even strength save percentage (courtesy Corsica Hockey). That latter number is 13th in the NHL among goaltenders with at least 200 minutes played.

Greiss, on the other hand, has had the bottom fall out. His .883 overall save percentage is third-worst among goaltenders with at least 10 starts and his .898 even-strength save percentage is absurdly low.

Fans have been clamoring for a trade, but GM Garth Snow has resisted making a quick move, likely because most of the available options aren’t much of an upgrade. Here are five goaltenders who might be on the block and their numerous flaws:

Petr Mrazek/Jimmy Howard, Red Wings. Mrazek is a pending restricted free agent and he’s still only 25 and under contractual control for a couple more seasons. Howard has had some success in the past and found his game last season after losing the starter’s net.

Mrazek, though a career .912 save percentage goaltender, has dropped from .921 in 2015-16 to .901 last season to .892 right now. Howard is 33, one year older than Halak and Greiss, and has another year at a $5.29-million cap hit left on his deal.

If the Isles were to go for either one, they would likely need Halak and his $4.5-million cap hit to go the other way. Mrazek makes $4 million and the Wings are already using long-term injured reserve to stay under the salary cap, so they would need to dump another unwanted contract in the deal and Snow certainly does not want to hamstring future moves this season.

Howard offers some cap relief for the Wings, but they are believed to want to be rid of Mrazek more than Howard.

Robin Lehner, Sabres. He’s put up remarkably respectable numbers (.915 save percentage/.929 even-strength save percentage) on a lousy team for the second straight year. But the pending RFA cost the Sabres a first-round pick when they acquired him from Ottawa in 2015 and Snow is unlikely to surrender one of his two first-rounders for a goaltender at this stage, if at all.

Still, Lehner might be the most attractive of the potential goalie trades.

Antti Raanta, Coyotes. The former Ranger is a bargain at $1 million, so the Isles wouldn’t necessarily need to send out Halak in a deal, though the Coyotes would need someone in net. He was injured early this season and came back to an Arizona team in freefall, so Raanta is almost assuredly headed elsewhere next season when he’s a UFA.

Arizona GM John Chayka made a slew of offseason deals but hasn’t yet started the sell-off for his last-place team. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the prized Coyotes possession and he fills a pretty glaring need for the Isles on defense; perhaps Snow can lasso a goaltender and a puck-moving defenseman in a larger deal, but that would cost many high picks and many young Islander assets.

Anders Nilsson, Canucks. Snow rarely goes back on his mistakes and perhaps he was too quick to give up on Nilsson after the 2013-14 season. Nilsson would be a cheap add, but the Isles brain trust is the same as it was when Nilsson departed for the KHL and they likely feel they can do better with what they have.

The internal option. Bridgeport goaltender Christopher Gibson was in net when the Isles clinched a playoff spot two seasons ago. The 25-year-old has been decent this year after losing all of last season to knee surgery. But an .894 AHL save percentage doesn’t exactly scream “call me up.”

So the Islanders go into the three-day holiday break with a lot of questions in goal and few answers. The NHL roster freeze ends on Wednesday, but the questions will remain until Snow makes a move or his veteran goaltenders pick up their games.

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