The Detroit Red Wings are in better shape than most teams in the contract department heading into the shortened NHL season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. Signing goaltender Jimmy Howard to a long-term deal needs to be a top priority for the team moving forward.
Despite a few injury problems, and an ugly first round loss to the Nashville Predators in last season’s playoffs, Howard still recorded 35 wins and had a 2.12 GAA. The Wings have a chance to reward him for his solid play, and show they truly believe he is the goaltender they want for the future. In three NHL seasons, he has over 100 wins and has made the playoffs each season. A less solid defense corps than he has ever had in front of him could hamper his stats this season, but if he shows the Wings he can help keep them in close games, they should once again return to the playoffs.
Howard will have some help this season as well with the arrival of former Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Jonas Gustavsson. If he can regain the form he showed early in his career, Gustavsson may be the most consistent backup Howard has been paired with yet. Petr Mrazek, the next projected Wings’ goaltender, has performed well so far with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. He could be ready for the NHL in a couple years and so far seems to be following a similar path as Howard.
After signing many of their free agents before the lockout and bringing in a few new faces, the Red Wings have a chance to reward one of their top performers with a contract extension. Here’s hoping they do it fast so they can focus on making a 22nd straight playoff appearance.