Jaroslav Halak is the latest name to be linked to the Boston Bruins, in a move that doesn't so much come out of left field as step straight off the What The Hell Express from Weird City.
The ex-Hab and sometime Islander has experienced one of the most vertical falls from grace seen by NHL goalies in a few years...one matched arguably only by his predecessor at the Isles, Rick DiPietro.
He, and his $4.5 million salary, are currently languishing in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, with whom he has a 93.3 SV% and a GAA of 1.33 in 18 games since being waived earlier this season - but with teams desperately looking for goaltending help coming up to the deadline, he appears to be in demand again
Islanders are working on a trade involving G Jaroslav Halak. Told, barring a last min set back, he will be traded. At least 3 teams in mix.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) February 28, 2017
Further to earlier post, once/if trade gets finalized, expectation is NYI will retain significant chunk of Halak's contract, may be max 50% https://t.co/5JyL0cv8XT— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) February 28, 2017
This is even more surprising from teams considering that they could have had him for free barely a few months ago, but it says a lot about the panic mode of the trade deadline that this is now a conversation that's happening and also about how priorities change come deadline day.
On the face of it, trading for a backup goalie with a huge salary through next season seems a curious way to load up for the deadline run...however, if as mentioned above NYI retain a significant chunk of Halak's salary, then it suddenly becomes a lot more palatable for many teams.
One of those teams is Boston - a team whose goaltender struggles have been well documented the past few seasons. Today, it appears Don Sweeney may have finally decided to act.
Jonas Gustavsson, Anton Khudobin, and Zane McIntyre have all been given the chance to step in in relief for Tuukka Rask, but none of them have really been convincing at any point, which has led to the Finn taking a truly ridiculous workload the past few seasons - 70/82 (85%) of games in 14-15, 64/82 (78%) in 15/16 and 49 of 62 (79%) so far in 16/17.
Halak is, without question, a goalie who's a level above any of those goalies - indeed, on a good day he's on the level of an elite NHL netminder - his agility and reactions have allowed him to make a name for himself far beyond that befitting the current state he finds himself in.
Getting a player like Jaro Halak on your team for (assuming NYI take 50% of the salary) only a million more than the likes of Anton Khudobin is something that instantly improves any team - when that team has Tuukka Rask as their starter and a motivated Jaro Halak pushing him all the way for the spot, there's an argument that magic could happen in net.
The trouble is, like most things....price. The Bruins would have to give up something to the Isles, and the question here is how much they're willing to give. With trade deadline prices rocketing between sky-high and bargain-basement with seemingly no rhyme or reason so far, a trade for a fallen giant could be anything from a bargain to a major overpayment.
It is interesting, however, that Halak is so far the only big-name goalie besides the already-traded Ben Bishop to have any real buzz swirling about him as things heat up. That could be driving the price up a little, particularly with Garth Snow presented with a three team bidding-war for Halak's services - a situation that the Isles probably never really expected to have given the way he's settled in NY.
Halak clearly needs a change. The Isles are clearly willing to sell - the question here is how much should Bruins pay?
Here's the thing...they can afford to pay. Throwing in Anton Khudobin and offering the Isles one of their innumerable depth pieces along with a pick is a trade that wouldn't necessarily make huge dents in the Bruins roster but would shore up a problem area and convert the goaltending foundation from sand when Rask is out to concrete. It's a price worth paying, particularly if the Isles are willing to soften the blow even further with salary retention.
Yes, Halak is a risk. But the Bruins are now in a position where, realistically, they need to take risks to really move forward over the next season or two.
In this climate, with the potential reward he brings, Halak is probably an acceptable risk.