WINNIPEG, Manitoba — From the franchise record for wins by a goaltender to the waiver list.
Jaroslav Halak’s trajectory in his two-plus seasons with the Islanders has slid steadily downward, hampered by injuries last season and bothered by a three-goaltender situation about which he voiced his displeasure.
Now the 31-year-old may have played his final game with the Islanders. If so, that occurred Thursday night in St. Paul, where he allowed three goals in an 80-second span late in the second period, was pulled and never returned to the bench nor talked with teammates or reporters afterward.
“I still think he’s a quality goaltender. He’s played some big games for us,” general manager Garth Snow said of Halak, whom he put on waivers Friday. “Last year he got hit with the injury bug a bit, but his first year, he was an All- Star. We’re looking for him to get back to that level of play.”
Halak was pulled from three of his last 11 starts. He has a .904 save percentage, below the league average of .914.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano was critical of Halak after Thursday night’s 6-4 loss to the Wild. “We needed a better effort from Jaro, quite honestly,” he said. “Four goals on 24 shots isn’t going to get it done. Jaro wasn’t sharp at all. He gave up some soft goals and we had to battle back. We did against a real good team.”
The Islanders will find out at noon Saturday if Halak, who is owed more than half of his $4.75-million salary for the remainder of this season and $5 million for next season, is claimed on waivers or remains in the organization. That financial commitment for next season means the latter is almost certain.
If so, Halak will be assigned to Bridgeport, where he’d play an AHL game for the first time since 2007-08, when he was in the Canadiens’ organization.
Now Thomas Greiss, who stepped to the fore last season when Halak was frequently injured and backstopped the Islanders to their playoff series win, and J-F Berube will man a more traditional two-goaltender rotation.
“It [stinks] to see a guy of his caliber being put on waivers,” said Berube, who shares an agent with Halak. “I don’t have much to say. It’s part of the game. I’ve been there before. All I’m worrying about is my game and trying to help the team win.”
Snow delivered the news to Halak Friday morning and the goaltender packed his gear and flew back to New York.
Snow wouldn’t speculate on where things will go with Halak after the season. The Islanders would have tried to trade him this past offseason, but hernia surgery in May derailed those plans.
Halak stood out as the main reason Team Europe advanced to the final of September’s World Cup, but that stellar play did not translate to his NHL team. Halak gave up four goals to the Rangers on opening night and continued to struggle.
“We’re just worried about right here, right now,” Snow said. “Starting tomorrow, the games ahead of us here. We’ll worry about long-term decisions at a later date. We’re looking for some wins and to give our team a spark.”