A Look At The Detroit Red Wings' Depth Between the Pipes

By Jonathan Katje
Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard (Scott Rovak – USA TODAY Sports)

The Detroit Red Wings have had a solid number one goalie the past three seasons in Jimmy Howard, but have lacked a consistent backup. They addressed this problem in the offseason with the acquisition of Swedish netminder Jonas Gustavsson, giving the team depth in net with Joey MacDonald also under contract for the coming season – and with the possibility of a tighter schedule and compact season, Howard will need adequate relief. Howard’s contract is up at the end of this season, making a long-term contract for him the Wings’ top goaltending priority this season. A look at the farm system and recent draft picks shows that there is some hope for the future, while other picks have so far failed to pan out. Here is a look at the goaltenders the Red Wings currently have under contract, as well as where they are playing and how long they are under contract for.

Howard has been the go-to goaltender for the Red Wings for three seasons, after years of maturing in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins while waiting for his shot. He has performed well in his NHL time, winning at least 35 games each season and getting to the playoffs all three seasons. He is in a contract year, and there should be no doubt that the team would like to lock him up long term.

Gustavsson was signed to a two-year deal this off-season and comes in as the likely number two netminder. The former Toronto Maple Leaf has shown flashes of greatness at the NHL level but has been unable to be consistent. It will be interesting to see if the change of scenery and having a better team in front of him could be the right fit.

MacDonald at this point seems to be the odd man out. He is under a one-way Wings contract for the 2012-12 season at a cost of $550,000 but with the signing of Gustavsson it is unclear where he fits in now. It seemed as though he had played his way into the backup job with his solid injury relief of Howard last season, posting an 8-5-1 record and getting a few big home wins to help along the Wings’ NHL-record 23-game home winning streak. He could play in Grand Rapids but would have to clear waivers to do so.

Petr Mrazek’s play so far in the AHL has not only endeared him to fans, it has likely shown management that they will have options in the future. A fifth round pick in 2010, Mrazek is 7-2 with a 2.42 GAA in nine games with the Griffins. He is in the first year of a three-year entry level contract.

Tom McCollum is still in Grand Rapids, for now. The 2008 first round pick is in the last year of an entry-level deal, and the Wings will have a big decision to make with him at the end of the year. In his three previous seasons with the Griffins and the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, he has struggled with consistency. In his one NHL appearance, he allowed three goals on eight shots, and might not get the chance to get there again with the Wings.

Jordan Pearce, like McCollum is in the last year of an entry level deal. He has put together several win streaks at the AHL and ECHL levels in his three seasons, but has struggled since a 20-win 2010-11 season. After an 0-3 start in Grand Rapids, he is 6-2 with the Walleye this season. Mrazek’s strong play isn’t doing him or McCollum any favors, and with 2012 draft pick Jake Paterson coming up the pipeline in the next season or two, someone won’t be coming back.

Paterson, a third year goalie for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, was recently invited to Team Canada’s selection camp for the 2013 World Juniors. He posted an 18-18-3 record last season, and has started almost every game for the Spirit this season, with a 10-11-3 record. The lockout prevented him from attending Red Wings training camp, but he might get a chance to join the Griffins near the end of the season after OHL play concludes.

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