With the NHL schedule for 2013 slated to be a compact one, teams with two solid goaltenders will be in better shape than those that choose to use their starter in the majority of games. The Detroit Red Wings signed Jonas Gustavsson in the off-season, and he could have a huge impact for the team backing up Jimmy Howard this season.
Howard’s backups last season were Ty Conklin and Joey MacDonald, and while Conklin’s contract ran out at the end of the year, MacDonald was still on an NHL deal for the coming season. He performed well in limited action last season, and it was thought he might have a shot at a full-time spot in Detroit. Gustavsson’s signing came as a bit of a surprise on that front, but overall could be the better move for the team moving forward.
Gustavsson posted a 17-17-3 record with four shutouts for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, his highest total in wins to date. The Wings will hope that having a more talented team in front of him allows him to play up to his potential and have more success than he did with the Leafs. As a highly sought player coming out of Sweden, he chose the Leafs and joined them for the 2009-10 season. His 16-15-9 record was not quite what the team had hope for, but showed he could compete at the NHL level.
His sophomore season was a sharp departure, as he managed just six wins in 23 appearances and was sent down to the AHL for five games. Injury concerns and the emergence of James Reimer, Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas made him expendable in Toronto, and the Wings will hope a change of scenery is what he needs to succeed. Gustavsson signed a two-year deal with Detroit, worth $1.5 million per season.