Jaroslav Halak is an NHL goaltender playing in the AHL, a
victim of the combination of a big contract and the salary cap. That could
change in short order, though, with reports suggesting that 31-year-old goalie
is attracting trade interest.
One team supposedly entertaining a deal is the Edmonton
Oilers among the interested in Jaroslav Halak. Could see Flames & Bruins in there too. Islanders would have to retain salary though.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) February 28, 2017
Halak is an interesting player, one of four I identified
last week as a potential “bargain” acquisition at this year’s trade
deadline. He’s had a distinguished career (including some brilliant playoff
performances) and is 14-2-1 with a 0.933 save percentage in the AHL this year.
Despite that, he probably won’t be too costly.
The reason for that has everything to do with that
contract, which runs into next season at a salary of $5.0 million and a cap
hit of $4.5 million. That’s a lot of money to fill the 1B goaltending position.
The obvious option is for the Islanders to retain salary,
which could potentially knock Halak’s cap hit down to $2.25 million. There are
two potential problems with that. The first is that Halak can’t be protected
from Las Vegas by the Oilers, and presumably the Golden Knights would jump at
the chance to get a good goalie at $2.25 million, though it’s possible that
would be seen as a feature rather than a bug.
The other issue is that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has
typically used the backup goalie position as a place to save cap space:
- 2012-13: Anton Khudobin, $875,000
- 2013-14: Chad Johnson, $600,000
- 2014-15: Niklas Svedberg, $600,000
- 2015-16: Anders Nilsson, $1,000,000
- 2016-17: Jonas Gustavsson, $800,000
Maybe the possibility of losing Halak to Vegas cancels out
that concern of sinking a lot of money in net, but I have to think that Halak at 50% cap hit is a valuable
piece, the kind a team has to pay for and hopes not to lose in expansion.
The other option for a deal is a big contract going the
other way. Edmonton has two that might conceivably qualify: Mark Fayne and Benoit
Fayne, like Halak, has one year left on his deal and has
been impressive at the AHL level. He has 11 points in 22 minor-league contests,
and head coach Gerry Fleming is obviously a fan. Asked about Fayne’s attitude in
late January by 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer, the coach offered the following:
Absolutely fantastic, he’s a real pro. He’s made guys
better, no doubt about it. I think he’s helped [Griffin Reinhart], like you
mentioned, but not only Griff but he’s helped our team. We’ve got some young
guys this year and his voice in the dressing room, his leadership on the ice,
the way he approaches practice, nothing but great things. He’s come down here
and he’s worked hard. He understands his role and he’s accepted his role. He’s
really made a difference on our back end.
The Islanders are in a tight playoff race and are presently without right-shooting veteran Travis Hamonic. Fayne could certainly be a fit there immediately and offer
the club a veteran third-pairing presence next season. Also of interest: the
gap between the salaries of Fayne and Halak ($1.5 million) next season is a lot
bigger than the gap in cap hit ($875,000) and that might well appeal to a team
looking to save dollars.
Fayne’s probably a better fit than Benoit Pouliot, who has
two seasons left on his current contract and has been a disaster for the Oilers
this season. It’s also hard to see where Pouliot would slot in on an Islanders
team that has 14
forwards already signed for next season.
It’s the kind of deal which would address immediate need for
both teams, save the Isles some money and give Edmonton either some expansion
cover or a dynamite goaltending tandem next season.
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