The New York Islanders need a shakeup in net. In a season where the team was in the top 10 of teams in terms of goal scoring, the Islanders were also the worst at keeping goals out of the back of their net. This was due to a mixture of both the defense and goaltending, but to say that New York needs an upgrade in net is an understatement. In a season where the the Islanders had 5 20 goal scorers, none of their 3 netminders put up a save percentage better than .908% and something needs to change if they hope to make the playoffs next season. Barring a trade in the offseason, let’s take a look at 3 potential free agents goaltenders that could help the Islanders.
For the past 6 season, Braden Holtby has held the reigns of the starting goalie for the Washington Capitals. However, Philipp Grubauer has emerged as Washington’s reliable backup to Holtby, playing the last five seasons in the NHL for the Capitals. In this time he has managed to hold a save percentage above .920% four times along with compiling a 43-31-11 record in 100 games played. When the Vegas Golden Knights held their Expansion Draft last year, I was honestly shocked that Vegas didn’t take the German netminder as he could have been a serious addition to Vegas’ goaltending with Marc-Andre Fleury. This season Grubauer has raised the bar in multiple categories in terms of career highs appearing in 35 games gathering a 15-10-3 with a 2.35 GAA and .923% save percentage. As it looks right now, I’m unsure if the Washington Capitals will be able to lock him up again. The Capitals currently have just $16,773 in cap space and will need to give extensions to players like Tom Wilson, John Carlson and Madison Bowey in the summer. Add on the fact that Grubauer has arbitration rights and it seems more and more likely that he’ll be playing in a new city come next fall. Although not a UFA, the Capitals could always trade Grubauer’s rights to the Islanders and sign him. With Greiss being the only Islanders’ goaltender under contract past this season, Grubauer could either split games with Greiss or potentially even run away with the starting reigns if he plays well enough. At 26 years old and continuing to get better with each year, he could be a solid addition between the pipes.
Although this might seem like an ironic addition to this list, Halak is currently one of the better of the goalies on the upcoming free agent market. Despite being above average since joining the Islanders in the 2014-15 season, Halak struggled along with the rest of the team this season gathering a 20-26-6 record with a 3.19 GAA and .908% save percentage. Halak is currently on the final year of his $4.5 million a year contract and if the Islanders were to give him a one or two year extension the cap hit would certainly be about the same, if not significantly lower. With the retention of both Halak and Greiss, the Islanders could hope either both of their netminders rebound, or ride the pair until either New York trades for a new goalie or hopeful prospects Linus Soderstrom or Ilya Sorokin eventually take over the role.
Like the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins are pushed towards the cap ceiling due to spending on quality talent to help ensure they contend for the Stanley Cup year after year. So far that plan has worked incredibly well as they’ve won the Stanley Cup the previous two years and look to push for a third in 2018. However, this causes problems when it comes to re-signing the new talent that are playing with the team’s superstars. Pittsburgh currently has $284,556 in cap space and have a handful of players to re-sign during the offseason including Bryan Rust,Tom Kuhnhackl and potentially recently acquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. Due to Murray missing a handful of games because of personal reasons, the Penguins rotated between both Jarry and Casey DeSmith having both goalies be able to keep the Penguins afloat. Jarry, 22, gathered a 14-6-2 record in 26 games played along with a 2.77 GAA and .908% save percentage. The Penguins ultimately decided to keep DeSmith up and send Jarry down to the AHL, but they will have to make an important decision come July. With so little in cap space, the Penguins could do a similar situation to what the Capitals could do with Grubauer and trade Jarry’s rights (due to him being an RFA) allowing them to run with Murray and DeSmith for the foreseeable future. With only playing 27 games in the NHL, it wouldn’t cost the Islanders much to lock him up for a few years and his contract would likely be cheap enough that they could easily move him again if it didn’t work out. Young goaltenders with high potential don’t come around too often, so the Islanders could have an excellent option on their hands.