While fans of the Detroit Red Wings are up in arms over the lack of defensive acumen the team has shown to this point, there is a small-teeny-tiny-thimble-sized-detail that they are forgetting.
That it could be worse.
If not for the play of Jimmy Howard the Wings could easily be staring at the same kind of hole as the Washington Capitals. Yeah, the early season play of Detroit was that bad. They’ve now pulled themselves out of the mild slump that saw them play some of the sloppiest Red Wings hockey in recent memory, thanks in no small part to Howard.
When Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk haven’t been carrying this team, it’s been Howard with the big saves and strong nightly efforts. His ridiculous 45-save effort against the LA Kings on Sunday is a shining example of what kind of play he’s been providing, and how he’s battled to keep Detroit in every game.
His value to fans and pundits is clear, and the Wings are thin in goaltending prospects outside of Petr Mrazek—who could be a home run in his own right.
GM Kenny Holland has felt a lot of pressure from external sources (fans and the media) to make a move to improve a fledgling, kinda’-no-name and highly fragile defense. There’s at least one good reason that he isn’t taking on any extra cash to improve the blueline, and a new contract for Jimmy Howard is it.
The 28 year-old will see his second NHL deal expire at the end of this season, and Holland and Co. should (really, honestly) do everything they can to retain Howard. So what’s the guy worth then? What would he fetch on the open market and what should he be offered.
Howard made $2.25 million on his last deal, and he’s in line for at least a marginal raise. He’s proven his worth to the franchise, and has shown that he can be a healthy and reliable starter at this level. The tricky thing inside the negotiation room may be for the two sides to settle on where Howard’s average level of play is.
Is he the kind of goalie who posts a 2.80 GAA and a .900 save percentage? Those are middle of the pack numbers, and are typically good enough to win on any given night due to Detroit’s solid offense.
Or is he the guy that we saw last season, where he posted a .920 save percentage and a .920 GAA? That’s a pretty big jump, and a goalie of this caliber makes just a bit more cash.
Howard’s corner is obviously going to say that he’s the latter player, and is able to post those kinds of numbers regularly. Detroit’s brass will pitch that those were a deviation from the norm, and look to pay him a little less.
All things considered, I think the two sides could settle on something along the lines of $4 to $4.5 million over four or five years. Give him some sort of NMC if he’ll come down a bit on the cap hit.
That kind of deal would put him near comparable goalies such as Jonas Hiller and Antti Niemi.
The longer the season goes without a deal for Howard, the more of a sideshow-type distraction this could become for Detroit. They have several other key players that will be looking for new contracts as well, and checking Howard’s name off the list ASAP should be top priority for Holland and the Wings.
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