Chris Osgood, Dominik Hasek, Manny Legace, Ty Conklin, Jonas Gustavsson, Joey MacDonald and now Petr Mrazek. All have tended net in Detroit alongside Jimmy Howard. But with the trade of Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers, there’s no question about who’s top dog now for the Red Wings.
As soon as Mrazek was left exposed in the 2017 expansion draft, the writing was on the wall. The Czech goalie, drafted 141st overall by Detroit in 2010 was on the market and available to the highest bidder. With a dire goalie injury situation, the Flyers offered a conditional 4th round 2018 pick and a conditional 3rd rounder in 2019 and Wings GM Ken Holland accepted, even agreeing to retain 50% of Mrazek’s salary for the rest of the season.
Howard becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and if the same management structure is in place then you can bet the farm that he’ll be offered a new contract. This worries me. Although I’m a fan of Howard, the guy is 33. We’ve seen some impressive performances recently but the end of his career will be here sooner rather than later. To that end, let’s take a look at Howard’s career stats, and just out of sheer curiosity, compare them to the Vezina Trophy winners’ for the same season:
Howard is not a Vezina contender by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m OK with that because he’s a dependable goalie. It’s unfortunate though that Howard likely won’t get his name on the Stanley Cup (he didn’t play enough games in 2008 and the Wings ain’t winning anything soon). The best recognition that Detroit can give is to let Howard tend net until the end of his contract. Until then (and hopefully beyond) what options are available for Detroit?
Keep Jared Coreau
With Mrazek’s departure, Grand Rapids’ Jared Coreau was called up to become Howard’s defacto back-up. I recently took a look at the talent pool in Grand Rapids and decided that Coreau was not good enough to usurp either of the Howard/Mrazek tandem. My opinion hasn’t changed, while Coreau is a serviceable back-up in the short term; the Red Wings need to bring in a replacement for Mrazek who has the ability to take over Howard’s role. This feels like too much of a leap for Coreau.
The Entry Draft
The next two seasons are going to be a tough transition period for Detroit. As that rebuild continues, a key ingredient is going to be a new goalie, one who can take charge when Howard hangs up his skates. It’s possible that there’s a young goalie with great potential waiting to be drafted, but finding and then grabbing that individual is a lottery (excuse the draft pun). The prospect rankings haven’t been kind to goalies this year and it’s unlikely to see one go in the first or second round.
Trade For A Goalie
The draft is an option, but it’s more likely that someone with some experience will be traded for. The latter option is better, given the short window in which that goalie needs to be brought up to speed. If the right deal can be done, the Red Wings have a lot of draft picks to play with when it comes to negotiating. Ideally Holland is looking for a goalie who has shown potential but isn’t getting the ice-time with their current team.
Free agency: the quick fix. Holland has a habit of picking up old free agents with just a season or two of hockey left in their legs. We see it time and again in Detroit. There’s no real long term gain to a move like this for a team that’s rebuilding, so I hope the front office gives free agency a pass time.
At one point Mrazek was the future of goaltending in Detroit, and he and Howard made a good tandem (were it not for their cap hits). Both goalies won games for the Wings, and rarely lost games for them. But the outlook is different now. Some may disagree but I’m happy to have Howard for another few seasons while the team looks to find his eventual successor.
Which route do you think the Wings should go down? Answer the Twitter poll below or join in the conversation on twitter.
— The 4th Line Hockey Podcast (@4thLinePodcast) March 1, 2018