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Islanders waive Jaroslav Halak in attempt to clear up crowded crease

Jaroslav Halak’s unsightly numbers have seen him fall to second and sometimes third string in the Islanders’ crease, and after failing to trade him over the past two months, the Islanders have waived the veteran netminder.

New York Islanders GM Garth Snow reportedly let the rest of the league know that Jaroslav Halak was available via trade in late October, but after failing to find a landing spot for the veteran netminder over the past two months, Snow is attempting to take a different route in clearing up the Islanders’ goaltending situation.

According to multiple reports Friday, Halak, the senior member of the Islanders’ goaltending platoon, has been placed on waivers and is free to be picked up by any of the league’s other 29 clubs, if there’s one willing to take on his $4.5-million cap hit. And if there’s no club willing to take on that hefty cap hit for the next two seasons, there’s a very real possibility Halak could find himself in the AHL by the end of the weekend.

It’s been awfully clear since Halak was made available in October that his days in New York were numbered, with the entire situation sparked by public comments made by Halak’s agent Allan Walsh. After the Islanders had run a three-goalie system that saw Halak split starts with Thomas Greiss and youngster J-F Berube from seeing the ice for the entirety of the opening month, Walsh said that it was hard to understand why the Islanders continued to use a three-goalie system.

“Biggest issue is goalies don't get enough practice time to stay sharp,” Walsh said, via Twitter. “Starting goalie for NY Islanders last game had only 1 quality practice in last 5 days before Penguins game. Going on (two) years of this now.”

It was shortly thereafter that Halak was reportedly made available.

Despite the fact that Halak can now be had for nothing but the cost of his contract, it’s hard to figure there will be any team willing to fork over the necessary $4.5 million next season to bring him into the lineup. That’s especially true given how the 2016-17 season has gone for the veteran keeper.

Halak, 31, has had an incredibly trying start to the campaign, which has in no way been helped by the Islanders’ overall struggles or the fact that he has spent much of the season on the trade block. In the 21 games Halak has appeared in this season, he has posted an unsightly 3.23 goals-against average and .904 save percentage, posting a record of just 6-8-5. The lone bright spot is the one shutout he posted, which came at the start of the month against the Washington Capitals.

Not only that, but at 5-on-5, Halak has been among the very worst goaltenders in the league. There are 47 goaltenders to this point in the campaign who have seen at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 action, and of those, Halak ranks 42nd with a .908 SP. That’s well below Berube’s .918 SP — though he has managed that mark over just 126 minutes at 5-on-5 — and considerably worse than Greiss’.932 SP, which is 16th-best among the 500-minute goaltenders.

Halak’s numbers alone aren’t the only reason it’s improbable someone will pick him up. Realistically, there is no team in need of Halak’s services, especially not at his cap hit. There are only a handful of teams — the Hurricanes, Devils, Panthers, Jets and Senators — who could pick up Halak without needing to move out another piece. Hard to fathom a scenario in which any of those teams would want to add $4.5 million in goal next season.

If Halak clears waivers, that leaves the two sides with only a few options. The simplest, of course, would see Halak remain with the team despite clearing waivers, but Snow could instead choose to demote the netminder to the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Even if that is the case, the Islanders would continue to seek a way to ship Halak out. Another option could be a contract termination, especially if Halak doesn’t want to report to the minors, but Halak probably doesn’t want to walk away from the $4.5 million he’s set to earn in 2017-18.

What the future holds for Halak will become much clearer by Saturday afternoon, but the one thing that’s near certain is that it won’t include him pulling on an Islanders jersey for much longer.

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