The Detroit Red Wings did what many were expecting them to do and signed Jimmy Howard to a contract extension on Thursday. Set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, it was believed that the Wings would at least make an attempt to sign him to an extension.
That expectation is about to become reality as the Wings and Howard are close to agreeing on a six-year contract. The contract will carry a $5.3 million cap hit for the 29-year-old goaltender. Given the large contracts that we’ve seen for goaltenders recently, many of which have been mistakes, it’s certainly worth looking at whether or not this is the right move for the Red Wings.
Howard’s 2013 season hasn’t quite been on par with where he was last year. His save percentage is still pretty strong, sitting at .917 on the season, his goals-against average has crept up to 2.41. He was sitting pretty at 2.20 last season. He’s not going to win a Vezina, but there are plenty of worse options out there.
One could certainly consider the cap hit that comes along with this contract to be a bit high. You really don’t want to pay over $5 million for anything other than an elite goaltender. While few would consider Howard “elite”, he’s probably in that next tier of quality goaltenders.
It’s highly unlikely that the Wings were going to find a cheaper option than Howard, whether they looked to trade or free agency. So from a monetary aspect, this deal is pretty understandable. But there are going to be questions about the fact that they signed him to a six-year deal.
Three or four years would have made more sense. Long term investments like that at the position rarely pay off. It’s not a decade-long deal like we’ve seen over the past couple of years, but it’s still probably just a touch too long.
Overall, this isn’t a terrible deal for the Red Wings at all. There are questions about it, especially if Howard doesn’t improve at least slightly. But as the Red Wings improve their blue line, we should see this deal pay major dividends for the Wings in the future.