Halak has been a league-average (sometimes above-average) goalie for most of his career, but he declined so harshly in the opening months of 2016-17 -- a 3.23 GAA and .904 save mark over 21 games -- that the Islanders actually waived him at the end of December and assigned him to AHL Bridgeport after he went unclaimed. The Slovakian veteran proceeded to get his game on track over the course of almost three months in the minor leagues, and he returned in fine form for the NHL season's final weeks, going 6-1-0 with a 1.58 GAA and .949 save mark in his final seven outings. Even so, Halak was left unprotected (and again went unclaimed) in the Vegas expansion draft, meaning he'll be back again in 2017-18 to serve as the backup to Thomas Greiss. However, Greiss wasn't all that amazing himself last year, so there’s room for Halak to regain his starting gig (or at least an even timeshare) at some point if he can carry over his season-ending momentum.
Fresh off a season that saw him set a franchise record with 38 wins, Halak appeared to have his name set in stone as the starting goaltender of the Islanders for the foreseeable future. Injuries, however, create opportunity for others to step up, and when career backup Thomas Greiss got an opportunity to step in when Halak suffered a groin injury in March, he took full advantage. The injury ultimately sidelined the Czech netminder for the remainder of the season as well as the playoffs, where Greiss played very well (2.46 GAA, .923 save percentage) for the better part of two rounds. With injuries being an all too familiar reality in Halak’s career – as well as the emergence of Greiss at the tail end of last season – one has to wonder what the future holds for Halak in Brooklyn. The good news for Halak is that, despite being 31 years old, there isn’t a huge age difference between he and Greiss – who is 30 – so it’s not like Halak has a young, highly touted rookie breathing down his neck. Still, given his performance in the postseason, Greiss more than earned a shot at the starting gig, so it’ll be interesting to see who head coach Jack Capuano elects to roll out once the puck drops this season.
Halak vacillated between an above-average goaltender and an extremely pedestrian one over the course of the 2014-15 season, seeming to tire toward the end of the season before coming back with a strong playoff series against the Capitals. Starting a career-high 59 games, Halak went 38-17-4, setting a franchise record for wins in a season despite renowned goaltenders like Billy Smith and Chico Resch coming before him. He posted a 2.43 GAA and a .914 save percentage, neither of which are cripplingly bad, but Halak’s win-loss record was greatly aided by playing behind a high-scoring team. With last season’s ratios being just a shade below his career averages, fantasy owners can probably expect more of the same from Halak, though an effort will likely be made to slightly reduce his workload.
The Islanders acquired Halak's rights from the Capitals in May and signed him to a four-year deal soon after, providing the team with an immediate upgrade in the net. Halak caught quite a bit of grief during his four seasons in St. Louis, as he could never get the team over the hump despite his respectable underlying numbers. With the Islanders, Halak will have to contend with moving from one of the NHL’s best to defensive units to one of its worst, which should reveal once and for all the goalie’s true talent level. Because Halak figures to see more rubber from better angles than he ever did in St. Louis, expect him to notice at least a slight downgrade in his ratios, though he could still end up surpassing his projections.
Halak entered last season as the No. 1 goalie in St. Louis after sharing the Jennings trophy with Brian Elliott the previous season. But that is where the excitement stopped for Halak, whose struggled out of the gate and then had his season cut short by a groin injury suffered in early April. He didn't play another game after that and posted a pedestrian 6-5-1 record to go along with a 2.14 GAA and .899 save percentage on the year. Expect Halak to be the de-facto number one to start the season due to his contract. However, the leash will be short and with the Blues' glut of goaltending talent, Halak could lose his spot as top dog or he could be traded for needed depth on the blue line. Weigh the risks come draft day.
Halak overcame early-season struggles when he nearly lost the full-time starting job to Brian Elliott. However, from November forward, Halak was equal to if not better than Elliott, who ended up leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. The two maintained a 1A and 1B status on the Blues' goalie depth chart, though Halak got more starts and was the Blues' goalie to open the playoffs before injuring his ankle in the first round against the Sharks. All the reports out of Slovakia about Halak's rehab are good and he's expected to resume the top spot for the upcoming season. Barring a start similar to last season, the distribution of starting assignments should skew slightly toward Halak's favor in 2012-13.
The question we had about Halak entering last season was whether his phenomenal goaltending in the previous season’s playoff run with the Canadiens would hold up when he became a de facto No. 1 netminder. The answer is inconclusive at this point. He began the season as one of the league’s best goalies, but finished middle of the pack. Still, there were some remarkable nights and Halak finished with seven shutouts while backstopping a team that gave him little offensive support. The defense in front of him was top notch, holding opponents to just 27.7 shots per game (2nd in NHL). There’s a lot to like about Halak and the situation he’s in with St. Louis, but we’d like to see more week-to-week consistency in 2011-12.
The Blues were preparing to re-sign Chris Mason as their No. 1 goalie when they were informed -- much to their surprise -- that Montreal was making Halak available. After putting off Mason's agent for a few days, the team announced the deal to bring Halak to St. Louis, and eventually committed four years to its new No. 1 net-minder. Halak's impressive run in the 2009-10 playoffs was among the top post-season stories, but was his level of play in the playoffs what we can expect night-in and night-out, starting 60-65 games a year. The Blues are gambling he can repeat that caliber of play we saw in the postseason. He'll have a solid, but young, group of defenders in front of him and the offense won't win him many games when he's not at his best.
Whether he is named the starter or not, Halak will certainly see a fare share of playing time between the pipes in 2009-10. He is coming off a career-best 34 games played that included a GAA of 2.86 and an 18-14-1 record. The fourth-year netminder showed flashes of brilliance last season, especially during a stretch in February where he went 5-1 with a 2.80 GAA while stopping 94% of the shots he faced. He was promptly rewarded with Player of the Month honors for his efforts in February. Whenever he played it seemed like he got pelted with shots, and he was always able to hang tough and make some beautiful saves. In fact, Halak saw more shots than any goalie with fewer than 41 starts last season with 31.68 per game. He finished sixth in the NHL with 28.97 saves per game. If the defense can improve this season, Halak should put up better numbers in 2009-10.
Halak is a great young talent, but Carey Price is expected to start at least 50 games in the upcoming season, putting a major cut in Halak's value. Pending any training camp injury to Price, Halak should not be in your draft day plans. However, be ready to pick him up should Price hit a slump or the Habs decide to trade Halak after the Christmas no-trade zone for a high-end rental to bolster their Stanley Cup run.
Halak started last year fourth on the organizational depth chart but passed Yann Danis and became the top goalie for their farm team in Hamilton, Ontario. Once David Aebischer was hurt, Halak was called up to Montreal and never left. Halak faces competition from former first-round pick (5th overall) Carey Price for the backup job in Montreal this year but his play late last season gives him a slight edge over Price entering training camp.