Since the infamous Thomas Vanek for Matt Moulson swap in October of 2013, Garth Snow and the New York Islanders have shied away from blockbuster deals in the midst of regular season play. They have acquired complementary pieces, such as Tyler Kennedy, Shane Prince, and Michal Neuvirth, from time to time, yet nothing of true significance has taken place.
It is time for that to finally change.
Following their 6-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, the Islanders sit at 111 goals allowed, which is second to last in the league. The only team worse is the Arizona Coyotes, who conveniently sit dead last in the league with 19 points.
Out of the ten worst teams in that category, the Islanders are the only one to currently sit in a playoff position.
The immediate reaction is to look at the defense, however this year that is not the case. Although it can be improved, the likes of Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Scott Mayfield need to play in order to improve as players.
The same cannot be said for 32-year-old Jaroslav Halak and 31-year-old Thomas Griess. This season, out of goalies with 15 or more games played, Thomas Greiss sits last in save percentage at .887%. Jaroslav Halak is not far behind at 7th-worst with a .905 save percentage.
Both goalies lack an overall quality save percentage, but underlying numbers reveal that each rank low in specific categories as well.
For Halak, it’s low danger save percentage (all stats via Corsica). On shots that should have no real chance of going in the net, he ranks fifth to last in the league with a 95.94 SV%.
In the same regards with Greiss, he has a low save percentage on high danger attempts at a 91.52 SV%. Greiss does not need to take sole responsibility for this, however pucks are still going in the net and it is a problem that must be corrected.
It is clear that, by the stats and by watching the games, that the Islanders need a change in the cage. Continually scoring four, five, or six goals and losing is unacceptable.
The current goalie market certainly does not help their cause by any means. There are not many teams that have goalies that they are willing to shed. One interesting name, though, has come up recently in trade winds yet again is Detroit’s Petr Mrazek.
According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Red Wings are willing to listen on the soon to be 26-year old Czech goaltender. Mrazek, a potential RFA, is heading into the last year of his current deal and is reportedly a candidate to be left unqualified by the club.
Mrazek showed signs of brilliance in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons for Detroit, posting a .918 SV% and a .921 SV% respectively. Following that, he fell off a cliff in 2016-2017, as he posted a SV% barely above .900. This season has been even worse with a .888 SV% in 10 games.
When looking at this from a broad perspective, it seems like a lateral move for the Islanders. On paper, Mrazek provides equal to or less than what Halak and Greiss provide. With his prior history and age, though, it is worth it for the Islanders to take a stab with Mrazek backing their team.
The best goalie in the pipeline currently is Ilya Sorokin, but he shows no willingness to come to North America anytime soon, if ever. Linus Soderstrom is another name to keep an eye on, as he may come to Bridgeport next season, however he is still a few years away from becoming anything of note.
This is why it is the perfect chance for the Islanders to take a risk of this caliber. If it does not work out, you shed Mrazek over the summer just as you would with Halak and then re-assess the market. The fact of the matter is, Halak and Greiss do not give the team the skill or consistency to make noise in the playoffs, let alone make a run for the Stanley Cup.
Acquiring Petr Mrazek would not be a sure-fire, franchise altering move, but it has the capability to be. John Tavares, Mat Barzal, and Nick Leddy, three elite players, are making less than $12 million on the cap this season. That is a steal and it is time to make the necessary moves to augment that.
A further argument to bring in Mrazek to the fold is Islanders new goaltending coach, Fred Brathwaite. If Doug Weight and the organization have as much faith in Brathwaite as they say they do, he should be able to return a player with as much skill as Mrazek to form in due time. It is time to put their money where their mouth is in this regard.
Overall, as as risky of a move as it seems to be, it is one the Islanders have to make. Perhaps they could even manage to send one of Halak or Greiss to Detroit (more likely the former) to flip along with the young player or pick they would acquire.
Whether or not they pursue Mrazek in the end, the Islanders goaltending situation is something to keep an eye on and something that needs to be fixed.