NHL

Numbers Game: Islanders ink Halak

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Scott Cullen
5/23/2014 5:03:43 PM
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The New York Islanders signed a goaltender to a long-term deal, signifying their expectation that they will be better next season.

Numbers Game looks at the Islanders securing the services of Jaroslav Halak.

The Islanders Get: G Jaroslav Halak.

Halak, 29, was going to be one of the best free agent goaltenders available this summer when the Islanders made a pre-emptive move to acquire him from Washington.

While there are ups-and-down in Halak's game from year to year, over the past five years, he has the third-best save percentage among goaltenders with at least 200 games played. Over the same time period, Halak has a .927 save percentage during 5-on-5 play, which puts him in pretty good company.

As noted, there have been ups and downs in Halak's performance, with the worst of the downs his 2012-2013 season -- an injury-plagued season in which he finished with an .899 save percentage in 16 games. In every other season, since 2008-2009, Halak's save percentage has ranged from .910 to .926, so there is a good chance that he can provide above-average goaltending for the Islanders and that would represent a significant upgrade.

Using Hockey Reference's Goals Saved Above Average, for example, Halak has saved approximately 42 goals above average over the past five years and will effectively be replacing Evgeni Nabokov, who is 11.51 goals above average over those same five years (one of which was spent in Russia), so just on average over those seasons, Halak would provide a five-to-six goal difference and factoring in that Nabokov is 38 and Halak is 29, it's clear that Halak is likely to have superior numbers over the next four seasons.

Halak signed for four years and $18-million, which is entirely reasonable for a starting goaltender. His cap hit of $4.5-million ranks 15th among goaltenders already signed for next season.

The decision to sign Halak and, on the same day, announce that they would be keeping this year's first-round pick (meaning that the Islanders' 2015 first-round pick goes to Buffalo) is a clear indication that the Islanders expect to rebound from this down season and, believe it or not, that's a perfectly reasonable decision.

They finished 19th in Fenwick Close (unblocked 5-on-5 shot attempts, within one goal in first two periods, tied in third), which is a good measure for puck possession and did so with several notable injuries and players departing via trade, so it's fair to think that the Islanders can be a middle of the pack club, with goaltending offering the chance to be a bit above average or, if it goes wrong again, below average.

Those expectations will put Halak in the spotlight, but his track record is strong enough to justify the Islanders' investment.

The Capitals Get: A fourth-round pick.

While Halak played well for Washington, after coming over in trade from St. Louis, posting a .930 save percentage in a dozen games, it's also not a surprise that Washington might not be inclined to keep him long-term.

After all, the Capitals already have Braden Holtby, who has a .919 save percentage in 105 career games, as well as prospect Philip Grubauer (.924 SV% in 19 GP with Capitals) waiting in the wings, so there wasn't a lot of upside to spending on Halak.

Of course, this decision can't entirely ignore the fact that the Capitals don't have a general manager since firing George McPhee. Brian MacLellan made out quite well in the interim, however, securing a fourth-round pick in exchange for negotiatiing rights to an asset that the Capitals apparently didn't intend to keep.

There isn't a lot of value to a fourth-round pick, maybe a 15% chance that it turns into an NHL player, but for a player that could provide zero value to Washington next season, that's well-played.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Jaroslav Halak (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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