Red Wings still searching for backup goaltender; Is Ty Conklin the leading candidate?

After nearly a week of free agency, the Detroit Red Wings appear close to having their roster set for next season.  The acquisitions of free agent defensemen Ian White and Mike Commodore , along with the contract extension given to Jonathan Ericsson will stabilize the blueline, and the resigning of Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller fills out the rest of the forward corp.

The only hole the Wings have yet to fill, is finding a backup for Jimmy Howard.  Ken Holland says he has plans to talk with veteran netminder Chris Osgood about his future with the team on Saturday, and he hopes to have the back up goalie situation resolved by the end of the week.

Osgood’s injury history over the last couple of seasons, coupled with bouts of inconsistent play, may signal the end of his storied career in Detroit.  What Ozzie has done for the Red Wings organization is absolutely first class, but his body may be telling him it’s time to call it quits.

He has said he is feeling really good, but he said that during the season as well, and he kept having set backs every time he was set to return to the lineup.  Questions about his health may be too big of a risk for the Wings to take.

Suppose they did sign Osgood as the backup.  Then suppose Jimmy Howard goes down with a minor injury as he did this year, and suppose that Ozzie’s groin injury flares up again.

With Joey MacDonald‘s return to the team in question, who would the Wings be left with?  Jordan Pearce, and Thomas McCollum, neither of whom are close to being NHL ready.  Another injury bug affecting Howard and Osgood in such a situation, would cause a disaster for Detroit.

This is why the Wings are almost certainly looking towards signing a free agent to round out their goaltending duo, and why Ty Conklin should be the frontrunner in that race.  Conklin isn’t the only option the Wings have right now, but he does appear to be the clear cut favorite.

For starters, the market on backup goaltenders is looking extremely shallow right now.  That’s not a knock on Conklin, as he is a solid backup, but once you get past him, there’s not a lot to choose from.

There’s Ray Emery, who did have a solid comeback year with Anaheim, but he will most likely be looking for starting duties before he considered taking significantly less ice time as a backup.

Then there’s Marty Turco, who up until recently had been one of the more established starting goalies in the NHL.  He signed on with Chicago this past season, and was outplayed fairly quickly by rookie Corey Crawford.  So while he would be more used to limited action, his numbers took a pretty severe dive this season, and the Wings may want more consistency in net.

Consistency and familiarity is what the Red Wings will get with Ty Conklin, and Ansar Khan at Mlive.com, has reported that Ken Holland is negotiating with Conklin’s agent, and that they have “a pretty good chance at signing him.”  Conklin played for the Wings in the 2008-09 season, and split time with Chris Osgood in a 1A, 1B scenario.  Conklin posted a career high 25 wins, a 2.51 GAA, and .909 Sv%.  Not elite numbers for sure, but definitely solid.

At the end of the day, that’s what the Wings, or any team for that matter, really need from their backup.  They just need someone who will show up when they’re called upon, and someone who will give them some stability.

They need someone who can start 20-25 games, give Jimmy Howard some rest, and someone who can give the team a chance to win when they are in net.  Ty Conklin does all of these things, and he comes with the added bonus of already knowing the Red Wings’ system.

He’s familiar with nearly the entire roster, and though he did have an offseason this year with and injury riddled St. Louis team, there’s no reason to believe he won’t bring his numbers back up in Detroit.  The Red Wings will ice a better team in front of him, and hopefully they will avoid their seemingly annual bout of ailments.

As was previously stated, Ken Holland still has to talk to Chris Osgood on Saturday, but that conversation could very well end in Osgood announcing his retirement.  As nice as it would be for Ozzie to get one last shot at success, Ty Conklin is the safer, and at this point, the more probable decision.

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