The best time of year is happening in sports right now, beginning of NHL and NBA playoffs, baseball is back, and Champions League is at an all-time high. But here I am, thinking of ways how the Detroit Red Wings can handle their goaltending situation for next season.
For those who have not listened to the episode (I recommend you do), his idea was to basically sign/try-out as many goalies as you can throughout the season. Sign undrafted European goalies that want to come over to North America and have been performing well overseas, or just keep it local and bring up some AHL-bound goalies to give a 5-10 game tryout for.
I know this idea is not very realistic. To do this, management would have to basically be saying that this season is a complete write-off and the players might not even find out the first names of some goalies that they’re playing in front of.
But if this is done correctly, they have the potential to find someone who can possibly stop some pucks for this team.
Even Holland addressed the goaltending possibilities for next season in his end-of-season press conference.
“We’ve got some young goaltenders in the system, that we think have potential…but we’re going to have to obviously go out and look on the open market, and we’re going to have to sign some goaltenders.”
Holland also named 19-year-old Filip Larsson and 20-year-old Joren van Pottelberghe as specific goalies with potential in Detroit’s system. There is also 19-year-old Keith Petruzzelli in the system that rounds out some young goaltending prospects that the Wings have coming up. As of now, it sounds like none of these prospects will be actually playing within the system come October – there could be a surprise like van Pottelberghe coming over and competing for the Griffins’ starting job, but we shall see.
Out of the current goalies, I can only realistically see them re-signing Matej Machovsky, and letting Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum both walk.
Machovsky will no doubt stay in Grand Rapids and compete for the starter job there, so that means the Wings will be looking for at least two free agent goaltenders.
So what should they do? I have all the answers obviously.
Trade Jimmy Howard
Now this will be no easy task, but why would a 34-year-old goaltender that has one year left on his contract, stay with a rebuilding team, to only lower the price for his next contract. He has played his worst hockey this season and there is no reason to lower his value even more staying here.
Howard is still a capable goaltender that can help a team that needs that final piece in net to really compete. Hello Carolina Hurricanes!
The Hurricanes had the second-fewest Corsi Against/60 in the entire league, just below the Bruins. With an actual goaltender than can still play between the pipes, the Hurricanes can push for a playoff spot and it sounds like Tom Dundon wants that more than anything. With only one year left on Howard’s contract, it seems like the ultimate low-risk move for the new owner.
I’m not going to suggest any possible trade, but it’s best for both parties to just part ways and have Howard play well to actually stay in the NHL when Fall 2019 comes around. That’s why I’m hoping Howard will waive his modified-NTC and say farewell to Detroit.
Sign a NHL Goalie
As obvious that might sound, after trading Howard the Red Wings will only have a 24-year-old Czech goaltender that just finished his first season of North American Professional hockey. That’s rough, but so damn flexible.
Going down the list of upcoming UFA goaltenders that actually played in the NHL this season, a few names stick out.
Khudobin started 29 games for the Boston Bruins this year at age 31, and performed excellently. 16 of those starts were Quality Starts, so he gave the Bruins an opportunity to win most of the games he started in. A .913 sv% is nothing to scoff at, but a .960 sv% at even-strength puts him at 24th overall in the league for that stat.
According to MoneyPuck, Khudobin has a 0.152% Save Percentage Above Expected – meaning that he performed better than what his defense gave in front of him. Jimmy Howard has a 0.286% in the same category, just to give a sense of how garbage the Wings’ blueline is.
Khudobin also is 11th overall in Rebounds Above Expected in -0.263% – Howard is at 0.358%. This means that he did not allow more rebounds than what was expected, so that’s a good thing.
He will be 32 at the start of next season, but he is an extremely low-risk goaltender that will come in very, very cheap. He made only $1.2m this season, and is a reliable netminder that you could start for most of the season if you had to.
A year older than Khuodbin, Hutton had an even more amazing season as the designated backup for the St. Louis Blues. He finished the season with a .931 sv% and at even-strength that turned into a .968 sv%, putting him second overall in that category.
There will be teams needing backups this offseason that will surely call Hutton’s camp, but for a team like the Red Wings that will need a starter, there is no greater opportunity than that for Hutton.
Proclaimed as the next “young backup becoming a starter” a couple years ago in a trade from the Los Angeles Kings to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bernier has not lived up to that potential.
At age 29, he started 34 games for the Colorado Avalanche this season on a 1-year deal earning him $2.75m – the definition of a “prove-it” contract. Which he did prove that he is a capable goaltender in this league.
Subban is 24 years-old and was considered one of the top goaltending prospects in the league at one point. Falling off and not being able to find a secure spot in the Boston Bruins system, he was put on waivers and claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights. Starting 19 games, for a .910 sv% and a .958 sv% at even-strength – barely above his former-colleague, Tuukka Rask.
Niemi has been passed around this league like a bottle of wine at your mother-in-law’s house. Starting for his sixth team, he was picked up of waivers by the Montreal Canadiens after appearing in games for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Florida Panthers this season. A .929 sv% and a .961 sv% at even-strength, is insane for the 34-year-old.
There will no doubt be some under-used goaltenders available on waivers this offseason. As many as four goaltenders could be competing for one backup position, for instance.
Both Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard of the Leafs system, will need waivers at the start of next season. Both of these goaltenders are NHL-caliber and prime candidates to be picked up and fill a role. They are young and very good – this is the most perfect situation. Just look at their stats, please.
Taking advantage of a team that has a surplus of goaltenders is exactly something the Red Wings could do – Holland has to be smart about this.
European Free Agency
As discussed previously, some goaltenders are available that played in the NHL this past season, but what about the goalies that didn’t?
I hate to reference the same player again, but Antti Niemi was a free agent from Europe signed by the Chicago Blackhawks – then he won the Stanley Cup his second season in North America. This is an extreme example, but there is a wealth of good goaltenders over in Europe wanting to try the next step and play in North America.
The Red Wings are in a unique position with their goaltending and can take some risks.
If any European free agents don’t work out, you can send them back over there or keep them in your system, so why not do this?
Here are some key names to look out for:
Coming off of an extremely-good season in the Liiga for Tappara, the Czech goalie is one player to keep an eye on.
At 23-years-old he is still young when it comes to goaltending, and the .924 sv% in 48 appearances for his club is nothing to overlook. At 5’10” he shows the untapped market of smaller goaltenders. A team would rather have a 6’5″ giant in net than a 5’10” European guy.
But this is a perfect example of this whole concept – take a risk on a goaltender that looks good on paper and isn’t the norm for the NHL.
Another young European, Reideborn has just turned 26 and played for Djurgårdens IF in the SHL this season. In 30 appearances this season, he has an outstanding .937 sv% and was the top of the league in that stat.
The youngest of the goaltenders I have listed, the 22-year-old Serebryakov was bounced between the KHL with Admiral Vladivostok, and the VHL playing for Yuzhny Ural Orsk.
Posting a .924 sv% in the KHL, and a .949 sv% in the VHL. This is one goaltender that you have to try to entice and come over to North America – no doubt.
At 5’11” he is another example of the under-utilized type of goalie that this league is missing. The shortest goaltenders in the NHL are Juuse Saros and Anton Khudobin – with .925 sv% and a .913 sv% this season, I would say height isn’t the biggest factor when judging a goaltender.
He has experience over here playing for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL for three seasons, but in his third he only appeared in nine games and went back to Russia to play for HK MVD Balashikha of the MHL.
I’m not completely sure of the reason of the mid-season breakup, but in 2013 he seemed to love it here, speaking to Jason Menard of hockeysfuture.com,
“It’s very important because I learned different things. I learned to speak English here and the hockey here is better,” he said. “I have all the things that I couldn’t do the year before that I’m able to do because I get better every day — I’m playing against the best players in the world, in the best league.”
This does not sound like someone that hated it in North America and will play the rest of his career over in Russia. Serebryakov is destined to be a good goaltender in this league and is young enough for the Red Wings to properly develop him and keep him in the system.
The Detroit Red Wings need to think ahead of the curve, and quickly. They have the flexibility right now to make a move that can shore up one of the most desired positions in the sport.
This is in no way realistic, but I really hope the Wings don’t have their head in the dirt when it comes to the future of the position.