Less than two months after they acquired Jaroslav Halak at the trade deadline, the Washington Capitals made it clear they didn’t intend to re-sign the pending unrestricted free agent.
The Capitals traded Halak to the New York Islanders on Thursday for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft in a deal that makes sense for both teams.
Washington likely wasn’t going to dish out the term or salary (potentially upward of $4 million annually) that Halak could be seeking as a free agent.
And they add another draft pick, giving them nine this year. The Islanders, who have been in search of a goaltender of the future for a while, get the exclusive negotiating rights to a netminder who wants to be a full-time starter.
The decision to trade a pending free agent has been a frequent move for the Capitals in recent years.
In 2012, they sent Dennis Wideman and Tomas Vokoun to Calgary and Pittsburgh, respectively, when it became clear that neither was going to have a long-term future in Washington.
Halak’s agent, Allan Walsh, said he and his client hadn’t discussed the possibility of returning to Washington given the uncertainty following the dismissal of both general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates.
McPhee, while under contract until July 1, is no longer serving as general manager.
Brian MacLellan, who is in his seventh season as assistant general manager, is filling that role and completed the trade.
Halak, 28, posted a 5-4-3 record, .930 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average in 12 games with the Capitals this season after they acquired him from the Sabres on March 5 in a deal that sent home-grown goaltender Michal Neuvirth and Rostislav Klesla to Buffalo.
But what will be remembered most from Halak’s brief stay in Washington was the apparent miscommunication with Oates. On April 8, in the final week of the regular season, the Capitals were in St. Louis to face the Blues when Oates told reporters the netminder wasn’t “100 percent comfortable” facing his former team. While Halak didn’t deny Oates’s comments, the next day his agent said Halak had been misrepresented and expressed his surprise that a coach had shared anything from a private conversation with a player.
Even after parting with Halak, it’s still unclear what the Capitals’ depth chart in goal will look like. Washington has Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer in the mix, but there’s no way to predict if a new general manager and coach will be comfortable with that youthful tandem. Bringing in a veteran, likely at a lower salary cap hit than what Halak will receive this offseason, to work alongside Holtby, 24, would allow Grubauer, 22, to continue to develop in the American Hockey League.