On Monday night, the Red Wings shipped out twenty-six year-old goaltender Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers to help lead them to the playoffs, as they look to take on the underdog story that Philly is known for. If Nick Foles can score a touchdown in the Super Bowl, then Petr Mrazek can score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals!
Now back over in Red Wings land, a plan for Detroit’s future goaltending needs to be in the works. Jimmy Howard is currently thirty-three years-old, so they need to handle this situation accordingly. Howard’s current contract lasts for one more season with a cap-hit of $5.2 million, with a modified no-trade-clause (unlikely they move him next season). Jared Coreau is an RFA this off-season and it would make sense to bring him back for cheap next season, rather than spend more on a UFA back-up. So Howard and Coreau should be next years tandem, but the following 3-5 seasons is a big question-mark. Howard’s longevity is uncertain, and Coreau isn’t starter material.
Looking into Detroit’s prospect pool, four goaltenders have shown NHL potential. Filip Larsson, Matej Machovsky, Keith Petruzzelli, and Joren Van Pottelberghe are the four bright spots currently in the system. Machovsky is much more developed, and signs point to him becoming just a back-up, but the other three are wildcards.
While we can just hope one develops into a starter, it wouldn’t be smart to put all our eggs in one basket. The best way to handle this is to be patient and wait it out for a year. Detroit currently has seven picks in the first four rounds of the 2018 NHL draft (there could be more after some more trades), but this year’s goaltender crop is a bit weak, being headlined by Jakub Skarek and Olivier Rodrigue. Instead of reaching for one this year, it makes the most sense to see how one of Larsson, Petruzzelli, or Van Pottelberghe develops over next season. If it goes well, great, but if it doesn’t, then they should look to draft a goaltender fairly high in the 2019 NHL draft. They don’t force a pick, trust their younger players development, but still have a plan-B. It’s the best route to take.
However, no matter how things work out with the prospects, it’s unlikely any will be ready to step in and be the number one net-minder for the start of the 2019-20 season. With the Renaissance that Howard has been having the past two seasons, he should be, at worst, a capable starter. With that being said, they should look to give him a one or two year extension when his contract expires at the end of next season. Doing this can bridge the gap for one of the goalie prospects, and not leave Detroit completely screwed in net for a few years. He will be a UFA, but with all the respect management has given him (protecting him in the expansion draft unexpectedly, and trading Mrazek instead), I’m sure he will be more than willing to return on a short-term deal.
It may be Howard’s net now, but at some point, father time will catch up to him, and he’ll have to hand over the keys to the bus. Better buckle up, its going to be a bumpy ride.