The Detroit Red Wings are set between the pipes for the next several years. They locked up one of the top goaltenders in the league, in Jimmy Howard, for the next six years with an in-season extension. Howard promptly validated that contract, with a fantastic performance down the stretch and in the postseason.
But that doesn’t mean that the Red Wings shouldn’t have a bit of concern over their goaltending situation. In fact, they should be very concern about what’s going in net when Howard isn’t there. He’ll get a huge majority of the starts, no doubt, but what happens when he’s not there?
As of right now, Jonas Gustavsson is the man behind Howard in the Detroit net. And in the event of a rough stretch, or an injury, to Howard, Gustavsson isn’t exactly a guy you want stepping up and starting several consecutive games. He’s never really been able to put it together in his career, despite decent potential.
He started only four games for the Wings in 2013, but had a goals against average up near three and a save percentage of just .879. Whenever he’s in the net, it’s an adventure. He has a year left on his contract, but the Red Wings may want to seriously consider looking at an outside solution as their backup.
One potential target could be Johan Hedberg. He only has a year or two left in him, but is serviceable as a backup. Another potential option could be Jose Theodore, who’s capable of starting over a decent stretch if the worst happens and something actually happens to Howard. Either one presents an upgrade as a no. 2 over Gustavsson.
In the end, the Wings likely won’t make the move to replace Gustavsson. He’ll remain the no. 2 guy, and it’ll be interesting to see if he could put it together, or if the Red Wings will struggle as mightily as they could when Howard has a night off.