Not that he has anything against Vancouver or the Canucks, but depending on which team comes calling and how much playing time is made available, one could understand why goaltender Jaroslav Halak would want a chance to play somewhere else.
Should the Vancouver Canucks find an opportunity to move him, Halak has the final say. He’d have to waive the no-move-clause in his one-year contract prior to the March 21st trade deadline. The Canucks wouldn’t mind of course, as we understand it, the $1.5-million in dead bonus money on next year’s salary cap would transfer right along with him. He’s about to earn a bulk of that bonus by playing his 10th game of the season and he’ll make a little extra by finishing with a save percentage above .905%.
At age 36, times-a-tickin’. He hasn’t won a Stanley Cup and he’d love to get one. On a personal level, he clearly expressed at the start of the season the desire to get to 300 NHL wins. He began the year at 281. In eight starts, not really due to much fault of his own, he’s ticked off two.
He definitely won’t get 17 more this season unless he becomes a clear cut starter somewhere and even then it would be a monumental effort.
This past October it would have been reasonable for him to believe that two more years of NHL hockey as a back-up would allow him to reach 300, but it hasn’t gone well for multiple reasons in season one.
1) Starter Thatcher Demko is a workhorse who loves to play as much as possible and has a new coach who loves to play him.
This doesn’t mean Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t appreciate Halak because he does. Halak’s out-of-this-world goaltending performance for the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, picking up starts ahead of a young netminder named Carey Price, knocked Boudreau’s Presidents Trophy winning Washington Capitals out of the playoffs in the first round. They finished the regular season 33 points ahead of the eighth-seeded Habs.
Yes, that was 12 years ago, but there’s almost something a bit ageless about the Slovakian. He won a Williams Jennings Trophy for lowest goals against average in Boston just two seasons ago with his mercurial netminding partner Tuukka Rask. Rask started 41 games, Halak 31.
Halak won the same trophy with the St. Louis Blues in 2012 with partner Brian Elliott. Halak started 46 games to Elliott’s 38 and both had goals against averages under 2.00.
As it stands now, Halak will probably get two starts in the month of February and four in the month of March.
“I just want to prove myself that I can still play,” Halak said after his victory Monday. “You never know when it’s your last game, so I just go day-by-day, game-by-game and whether I get a chance or not, I try to do my best and help the guys to get the points.”
2) Early in the season, his Canucks teammates simply couldn’t score goals for him.
Even when he played well, which was a great majority of the time, he’d lose low scoring affairs. For example, over Halak’s first three starts of the season the Vancouver Canucks scored him a grand total of 4 goals. Opponents: Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Anaheim Ducks.
“I never blame any of the guys, we score, we don’t score,” Halak said. “We have a job to do to win a game, we have a job to do to play our best every night. Obviously you’re not going to have your best every night, but you need to stay in the moment. Goals will come, they always come, you just have to stay the course and be patient.”
3) A positive Covid test knocked him out of a road start in Carolina on January 15th and contributed to him going a full month without playing an NHL game. His last start before Chicago was a 2-1 shoot-out loss in Los Angeles on December 30th. Again, note the fact that his team tallied him just the one.
Oddly enough, the two games in which this old whipper-snapper gave up obvious soft goals – against Columbus at home on December 14th and again Monday night in Chicago – those are his two wins.
At the moment the Canucks arguably have the strongest goaltending combination in the Western Conference. For what it’s worth.
Two weeks out of the upcoming All-Star break we’ll have a clear picture of where the Vancouver Canucks are headed this season and a clearer picture of what NHL teams might need or be desperate for goaltending. There’s a chance they’ll come knocking on the door of a savvy veteran with a career goals against average of 2.48 and save percentage of .916.
Not bad for 9th-round draft pick.