It was just another day at Islanders practice Monday, with three goaltenders working in the two nets during team drills.
Thomas Greiss, who was the star of Sunday’s 5-1 win over the Maple Leafs, had one net all to himself, usually a sign of who’s starting the next game — in this case, Tuesday night at Barclays Center against the Lightning.
Jaroslav Halak and J-F Berube shared the opposite goal, primarily working with goaltending coach Marc Champagne. Berube got the final bit of practice to himself while Halak chatted with coach Jack Capuano.
Halak and Berube are clients of agent Allan Walsh, and it was Walsh’s tweets Saturday night that threw the Islanders’ unwieldy three-goaltender situation back into the spotlight.
It’s happened before, notably a few times last season, when Halak sounded off about his unhappiness over having three goaltenders, and earlier this season, when Berube spoke candidly about his lack of work. The 25-year-old hasn’t played a game this season and played in only 13 games between the Islanders and Bridgeport last season.
Islanders general manager Garth Snow responded by sending an email to the league’s GMs informing them that Halak is available for a possible trade, though with one more year at $4.5 million in salary-cap value left, a midseason trade seems like a long shot.
Which means the goaltenders are in the same spot they were before Walsh’s tweets: three of them sharing space meant for two.
“Everyone knows it’s not the ideal situation. I think we’ve been repeating ourselves,” Berube said. “It’s hard to get ready for a game when you don’t have the workload you get when you have your own net. You real ly don’t have a rhythm in your practice. It is what it is. You have to find some way to get ready.”
Halak (2-3-0 with a .901 save percentage this season) was more tight-lipped. “I have no comments on what he wrote, what he said,” he said of Walsh. “I didn’t write anything, so I have no comment on it.”
Halak also was cryptic when saying he hasn’t asked for a trade. “I haven’t asked about a trade yet, so far,” he said. “I have no interest [in that].”
Capuano is the one who has to manage all three players on a daily basis, so even if his boss and Halak don’t see eye-to-eye, the coach has to keep everyone focused. “We have a good relationship and I just want to make sure how he’s feeling, what he’s feeling,” Capuano said. “We need to sit down. If he’s got something on his mind, we tell the guys all the time, it doesn’t matter if it’s your wife, your kids — you don’t want to take that stress home. The best way to do it is to communicate, and we’ll keep talking about it.’’
Berube and Halak said the relationships among the goaltenders haven’t changed. “All three of us, we get along,” Halak said. “We don’t make these decisions. I’ve said it before.”
“Since two days ago, nothing has changed,” Berube said. “We have a good relationship, all three of us. I think it helps us as goalies to let all those distractions stay away and just prepare for games. I don’t see anything changing. We’re all professional, we’re all mature, so I think the best way of handling it is minding our own business and do our things to help the team win.”
Snow’s decision to offer Halak around the league might have lasting implications. He again declined to discuss the goaltenders, and Halak didn’t sound interested in mending fences with his general manager. “We’ll see,” he said. “He’s the GM. We’ll see whether he wants to talk to me or I want to talk to him.”