Many Islander fans have been surprised to hear that the Islanders put Jaroslav Halak on waivers. While it is no secret that the team has been looking to trade Halak due to the fact that they have three goaltenders on the active roster, this move still comes as a shock. Halak is a very good goaltender. Islanders general manager Garth Snow knows that a good goalie would be very valuable to competing teams. One would assume that rather than just waiving Halak, Snow would at least trade him for talented young forwards or draft picks.
One possibility as to why Halak was waived could be that Snow was having a hard time finding good trade partners. Many teams may have been turned off by Halak’s contract. He is owed $4.5 million this year and next year. Halak also supposedly has a reputation of being a negative presence in the clubhouse, which could explain why the Islanders are the third team he has played for since 2013. Earlier in the season, Halak’s agent criticized the Islanders organization for carrying three goalies on the roster. As a result of these comments, the Islanders put Halak on the trade block, but haven’t found any good suitors to their liking.
The Islanders organization thinks very highly of Jean-Francois Berube and Thomas Greiss. Greiss took over the starting goaltender spot last season after Halak suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for the rest of the regular season. Greiss ended up playing very well for the Islanders for the rest of the season, including some of his best play occurring in the first round of the playoffs when the Islanders beat the Florida Panthers in 6 games. Greiss has continued his strong play so far this season, splitting playing time with Halak.
While Halak has been placed on waivers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Islanders won’t trade Halak. In fact, this may increase the likelihood that he gets traded, assuming another team doesn’t claim him first. Clearly, the organization views Halak as the least valuable of their three goaltenders. With Halak gone, Berube will be able to get much more playing time behind Greiss. This will also open a roster spot for the Islanders to add a forward or defenseman.
I strongly believe that Halak should be traded for some young forwards. The Islanders have been lacking in the scoring department. While Andrew Ladd has begun playing better, the Islanders are still in need of more forwards that can help move the puck around. We’ll see if Halak can get the Islanders a player of this caliber.
With spring training less than two months away, the Mets are still in need of bullpen help. With Jeurys Familia likely being suspended for at least the first 30 games of the season, the Mets are without a setup man since Addison Reed will be stepping in to the closer’s role for Familia. While Sandy Alderson has expressed a desire to lower the Mets payroll to under $140 million. As it stands now, the Mets payroll stands at just over $150 million.
It’s no secret that the Mets are currently trying to trade Jay Bruce for a good reliever or good prospect. This would potentially allow for the Mets to get their payroll under $140 million while also solving their problem with relief. Unfortunately, Jay Bruce’s value dropped due to the Jason Bay-like performance he had as a member of the Mets when he was acquired at the trade deadline. However, I believe that his value will rise when the free agency outfield market gets thinner this offseason. The Mets need to remind potential trade partners that Bruce hit over 30 homers last season while driving in 99. In addition to this, Bruce will only be 30 years old by early April. He is in the prime of his career.
I feel that the perfect trade partners for the Mets would either be the Orioles or the White Sox. I feel the Mets should offer Bruce and Kevin Plawecki to the Orioles for Brad Brach, whom the Mets have already expressed interest in. I would offer the same two players to the White Sox for David Robertson. The issue for the Mets with Robertson is that he is making a little more than what Bruce is currently making. The Mets would have to keep their payroll between $140 and $160 million. Both the White Sox and Orioles are in need of an outfielder and a long term catcher. In the White Sox’s case, they could flip Bruce at the deadline for high-level prospects assuming he raises his value. I feel that, in the White Sox’s case, they could get a lot more at the trade deadline for Jay Bruce than they would for David Robertson. In the case of Plawecki, while the Mets have just about given up on him, there are still other teams that may believe he can still live up to his potential. This is evident in the fact that his name was brought up during the winter meetings.
Another option the Mets have for their bullpen would be to try to re-sign Jerry Blevins. As it stands now, Blevins is demanding a 3-year deal, which Alderson doesn’t want to commit to with a reliever. If I were Alderson, I would offer Blevins a 2-year deal in the $15-$25 million range. He may be willing to accept this kind of offer since he doesn’t seem to be valued as highly by other teams due to the fact that he is still on the market. Many teams, like the Mets, may be reluctant to give Blevins the third year. I would love for the Mets to be able to hang on to Blevins. He reminds me a little bit of Pedro Feliciano in that he has the ability to get both lefties and righties out.
As it stands now, it is probable that the Mets would have Zack Wheeler and either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo pitching the 7th and 8th innings. While these options aren’t bad, I feel that getting a more accomplished reliever would be a better option. This would allow for more flexibility for the Mets in the back end of their starting rotation. The 2016 season taught the Mets that they need as many good starting pitchers with them as they can get. Gsellman and Lugo played key roles in getting the Mets to the playoffs in 2016. The Mets may end up asking them to do the same thing again in a different way in 2017 if they can’t fill out the hole in their bullpen from external options.
While the 2016-17 New York Islanders season has been a disappointment so far this season, one of the few bright spots for the team has been the performance of Anders Lee. His team-leading 13th goal of the season proved to be the difference last night in the Islanders 4-3 victory over Washington. While Lee has experienced success in the NHL before, scoring 25 goals in his rookie season in 2014-15, 38 of his 42 points that season occurred during his first 63 games of the season. Lee, like many of the Islanders current young players, has been very streaky throughout his career.
While it can be argued that Lee is just going through a hot streak right now, scoring 12 of his 13 goals of the season since mid-November, it can also be argued that Lee has changed his approach. When Lee is at his best, he is usually found right in front of the opposing goaltender, screening them and deflecting shots. Lately, Lee has been doing this, but he has also been handling the puck much better and getting himself in good positions to score. His hot hand has been rewarded with some power play time alongside John Tavares. Lee has 3 power play goals this season, and has been productive since being moved to the Tavares line.
Lee has also been playing with more grit. Just last night, he fought through a strong check on a one-on-one break and was able to get a strong backhand shot to the net that went just wide of the post. It is this kind of physical toughness that will allow him to get right in front of opposing goaltenders and be able to deflect shots past them.
If Lee is able to sustain success and prove that this is more than a hot streak, it could allow for the Islanders to finally have another consistently powerful offensive weapon for opposing teams to worry about other than John Tavares. Maybe Lee’s strong , tough, and gritty playing can be the inspiration the team needs to go on a hot streak, and maybe even a playoff run.
This blog multiple New York sports teams, primarily the Mets, Jets, and Islanders. The articles that will be published will include game summaries, offseason rumors, and my opinions on trades and signings as well as what each team should do regarding trades and signings. As a warning to potential readers, this blog may contain very opinionated articles, but I welcome feedback and criticism as well as the opinions of others. I will try to respond to emails sent to me regarding questions or ideas.