By: Jeff Riger
There was no secret; in fact Wings GM Ken Holland even alluded to it when he started the Jeff Blashill introductory press conference on Tuesday morning saying "this is the worst kept secret in recent Red Wings history."
Holland is right. Everybody knew Blashill would be the next coach and while it was interesting to hear the new head man talk, I figured Wings fans might be more interested in some other topics relating to Detroit's hockey team. OK, who am I kidding? The only topic I wanted to ask about was the goalie situation. Who will be the net minder next season? It's got to be Petr Mrazek and if that's the case what happens to Jimmy Howard and that massive contract?
So I inquired? Does Holland think about dealing Howard if he could find a taker?
"I don't!" Holland said quickly. "This is a two goalie league, up until the All Star break his (Howard) goals against average was 2.01 and his save percentage was .924. He got injured, wheels went off the track, while he was out Mrazek went 10-1 and 1 or something and because of Mrazek's play and then he came back we weren't prepared to hunker down and let Jimmy play his way out of the injury."
Fans see Howard's massive contract as an opportunity to free up cap space if he were dealt however Holland believes Howard's services are needed in Detroit and that his salary is actually affordable when combined with Mrazek's as a goalie tandem.
"Is it time for change" Holland asked. "When I look at the combined salary cap of the two combined, Jimmy's is $5.3 (million dollars a year) and Mrazek is $737.5 ($737,500) they add up to about 6 million dollars. When you look at what we put into goal in relation to our 29 competitors, we're probably; I'm just guessing we're middle of the pack. There's some below us but there's teams that have $8-9 million in goal."
While Holland is right, the situation doesn't make sense. It would be one thing if the salaries were reversed or even if the Wings expected Howard to regain his form and return as the teams number one net minder but that doesn't seem to be the case. Mrazek is younger with better skills and he also has his first playoff series behind which bodes well for that all important "experience factor" that we hear so much about. He's the future, not Howard.
Sure Mrazek struggled at times and yes he allowed his fair share of "soft goals" but the money Howard is owed is better used in other areas. This blog is not to bash Jimmy and what he's already achieved in a Wings uniform should not go unnoticed but the GM's job is to make the Wings better next season and this is simply a matter of money, cash better spent elsewhere.
Howard makes a lot but he's still relatively young and it seems like Detroit could easily sell last season's injury as the reason he struggled. They could point out his excellent, All Star stats pre injury. Detroit can cite his game 7 wins, his US Olympic stint, and him being good in the room as well. Teams are always looking for a goalie and with Howard's credentials, there no doubt has to be one squad that would take him off the Wings hands.
Howard has had a nice run in a Wings uniform and now it's time for that run to continue elsewhere. Holland says no but I think he should reconsider.
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