TCL Isles Round Table Discussion: The Back-Up Goalie

The New York Islanders had many reasons for not qualifying for this year's quest for the Cup. One of these issues was lacking a steady force between the pipes. Although Evgeni Nabokov has been brilliant at times throughout his tenure with the Isles, he simply was not a strong enough net-minder to handle the starting role this season (Photo credit: spotboslow/Flickr).

Throw in multiple injuries and two inexperienced goaltenders, and you have added some major ingredients to the mixing bowl of inconsistency. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson proved this year that neither are close to establishing themselves as full-time NHL goaltenders after posting dismal numbers and records.

Garth Snow is currently holding onto the negotiating rights to Jaroslav Halak, who would indefinitely become the Islanders number one goalie if signed to a new contract. However, Halak would not solve the goaltending issues altogether; the Islanders would still be lacking up a back-up keeper.

I've summoned some of the TCL Isles staff to weigh in on the issue of who should take over as the back-up for next season. You will see that some share the same perspective, while others may have a few individual suggestions of their own

John Santamaria

If Nabokov is willing to take a backup role here I would bring him back in that spot. I am concerned he could have backup jobs offered elsewhere where he may have a chance to win a Stanley Cup especially in his home area of California. If Nabokov was to leave I don't believe Poulin is the answer behind Halak so they would have to look elsewhere and it should be for someone who has a track record in the NHL.
 
For the Islanders to take that step back into the playoffs, seasoned veterans are important to have and when Nabokov was hurt last year the poor play in net was shown. 
 
Mike Hrankiwskyj
 
Let's be clear- if the Islanders fail to sign Halak, it's a failure. There are no two ways about it. The team took a big step back, in large part due to the shoddy goaltending provided by Evgeni Nabakov, Kevin Poulin, and Anders Nilsson much of the season. With that said, I am reasonably confident they will sign Halak, partly because I believe Garth Snow realizes the dire need for improvement, and partially because I don't believe Halak will have a large market for his services.
 
With Halak in the fold, it's time for the team to upgrade the backup position as well. There appear to be plenty of options out there that make sense, none of them which should be anyone who was with the organization last year. So yes, that means "see ya later Poulin"..."enjoy Europe Anders"...and "thanks for the memories Evgeni."  The team needs an enema in the goalie department this summer.
 
I think an under-the-radar option is Phoenix Coyote Thomas Greiss who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.  The 28-year old career backup has surprisingly solid numbers throughout his career and could be this summer’s Anton Khudobin…a backup goalie who eventually grabbed a share of the number one spot in Carolina and put up strong numbers.  Greiss’  2013/14 season also was his most productive season, posing a .920 save percentage in 25 games played (20 as a starter).  With questions about Halak’s durability, having a goaltender with the ability to step in and start 20 or more games while giving the team a chance to win is necessary if the Islanders hope to get back to the playoffs in 2014/15.
 
It wouldn’t be an Islander-related post if we didn’t talk about money.  My best estimate is that Halak will command a contract in the range of five years, $25 million while I believe Greiss could be signed for approximately $3 million over two years.  A $6.5 million cap hit to solidify the goalie position the next several years would be the wisest investment Snow has made with the team in quite some time. 
 
Bryan Curran
 
Assuming Halak does get signed, which if he doesn't the team will have a huge problem, I think they need to pursue a legitimate NHL backup or 1b type of starter. It seems like a bit of an obvious answer, but what I mean by a legit backup would be someone of the Thomas Greiss caliber. The 1b type goalie I would like to see them pursue is either Brian Elliott or James Reimer via trade. Obviously Elliott wouldn't require giving up any current personnel since he is a free agent, but Reimer seems like a change of scenery would do him well and I really like how he plays the game. The only thing is that Reimer may want to be a starter somewhere since the duo of him and Ben Scrivens and now James Bernier didn't sit well with him and if Halak is in the mix I do believe Halak should be the starter. There are options, but the quality options are limited.
 
It was announced yesterday that the St. Louis Blues have signed goaltender Brian Elliot to a three-year contract, making him their starter for next season and taking him off the list of the Islanders' goalie options. 
 
But in addition to potentially retaining Evgeni Nabokov, some other choices have included Thomas Greiss and James Reimer. 
 
My pick would be to stick with Nabokov. A proven veteran winner behind someone as talented as Halak could go a long way if the Isles were to make the playoffs next year. Throw in that Nabby should be capable of playing 20-30 games, giving Halak plenty of starts without wearing him out by the time the post-season would arrive.
 
As we can see, signing Halak is not the only solution for solving the problems between the pipes.