With ‘no timetable’ for Frederik Andersen’s return, Hurricanes sign Jaroslav Halak to a tryout

The Carolina goalie is suffering from a "blood clotting issue"

The Hurricanes have signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a professional tryout. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

MORRISVILLE — A bumpy start to the Hurricanes’ season has hit another pothole.

The team announced following Monday’s practice that goaltender Frederik Andersen is suffering from “a blood clotting issue” and there is “no timetable for his return.”

“He’s got a medical issue he’s dealing with,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said before the team released more information on Andersen’s condition. “We’ll know more as this goes along.”

Andersen, 34, is 4-1-0 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in six appearances for the Hurricanes this season. He missed a handful of games earlier in the season after being struck in the mask by a shot at San Jose on Oct. 17, leaving that game and not playing until nine days later at home against Seattle.

Andersen’s latest medical issue led to two corresponding moves, with Carolina recalling Pyotr Kochetkov from the AHL and also signing veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak to a professional tryout.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got that position covered,” Brind’Amour said of bringing in Halak, “and we’re kind of covering our bases there a little bit.”

Without a dedicated AHL affiliate, the Hurricanes had loaned Kochetkov to the Syracuse Crunch — Tampa Bay’s top farm team — but have only first-year pro Yaniv Perets, who is playing with the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals, as remaining depth in goal.

The 38-year-old Halak has played for seven teams in his 17-season NHL career, most recently serving as the backup goalie for the Rangers last season. The Slovakian has been skating in Boston, where he lives with his family and played from 2018 to 2021, and waiting for another opportunity to play in the NHL.

With Andersen sidelined, the Hurricanes came calling.

“You never want to see anyone get hurt,” Halak said after practice. “And I think at the same time, I was excited that I got a call, and I’m here to see what happens. First practice is behind me — obviously, a tough one, but hopefully I can just keep getting better.”

Halak has compiled a 295-189-69 record with a .915 save percentage, 2.50 goals-against average and 53 shutouts as both a starter and one of the league’s top backups. He earned votes for the Vezina Trophy twice in his career, finishing 10th in voting with Montreal following the 2009-10 season and sixth with St. Louis in 2011-12.

Halak said reaching 300 career wins is one motivation for continuing to play.

“It’s kind of one of my goals,” Halak said, “and obviously win a Stanley Cup. So that’s a team goal, and kind of my personal goal is to get to 300.”

Halak’s path hasn’t crossed much with current Hurricanes players — he played briefly in Washington with Dmitry Orlov — but he’s very familiar with the team after having played for three other Metropolitan Division teams over the last decade.

“One thing I know about this group is that they’re always hard to play against,” Halak said. “They play hard, forecheck hard, and it’s always a tough game when you come to Raleigh or you play against them even at home — it doesn’t matter. I know this group works hard.”

Hurricanes goalie coach Paul Schonfelder said he is familiar with Halak only from his years in the league. On top of playing for the Rangers, Bruins and Capitals, Halak has had stops with the Canucks, Islanders, Blues and Canadiens.

While Halak seemed frustrated with his play at times during Monday’s practice, Schonfelder didn’t put too much weight into it.

“Today was just the first day,” Schonfelder said.

Schonfelder said any goalie under 6-foot-1 — Halak is among the shortest goalies in the league in recent years at 5-foot-11 — is considered “small” by today’s standards, but there are plenty of examples of undersized goalies succeeding.

“There are lots of guys around the league — (Juuse) Saros in Nashville in an example — of smaller goalies,” Schonfelder said.

Schonfelder coached the 6-foot Alex Nedeljkovic in 2020-21 with Carolina, and he said the key for any goalie is how well they can move from post to post. Schonfelder said Antti Raanta, Carolina’s current de facto starter with Andersen on the shelf, uses his superior flexibility to move laterally and make up for being an even 6 feet. Andersen is 6-foot-4.

The Hurricanes would need to sign Halak to an NHL contract for him to join the roster, and he would have to clear waivers to be assigned to the AHL. For now, both the player and team are just determining if there’s a fit.

“I didn’t come here with a lot of expectations,” Halak said. “I’m here, and we’ll see what happens.”