As more playoff-hopeful teams struggle because of their goaltending, more and more rumors are swirling around some names that can potentially fix their problem in net. One of those names is Detroit’s own Jimmy Howard.
It’s understandable that his name is the one getting the most attention, Howard has shown that he is a consistent NHL goaltender and his contract situation is favorable for a team looking to bounce back this season. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, meaning that if a team does acquire him, they won’t be committed to him long-term.
If Howard goes to a new team, that team is getting a goalie that has dragged the current Red Wings out from the trash pile of the NHL. He has been a major reason why the Red Wings aren’t a complete laughing stock.
With a .922 sv%, he is on pace to have the best season of his career since he turned 30. If a team just needs someone competent in net for the rest of the season, why wouldn’t they explore the option to acquire Howard?
But what teams would be interested in a few months of a reliable netminder? And what would they be willing to give up for them to be respectable again?
A good historical trade to back up some opinions on is the Ryan Miller trade from Buffalo to St. Louis. At the 2014 deadline, the Blues gave up William Carrier, Chris Stewart, Jaroslav Halak, 2015 1st and a 2016 3rd. Quite a massive package for the 23 games they were able to get from Miller. This is not a realistic trade for Howard, but there has not been a ton of goalies traded with a massive track record recently.
It can be complicated, but the Wings might be able to point at this trade and justify their request for such a package. But what teams are in need for a goaltender? I would say mainly teams that were expected to do well and contend, but have quickly fallen towards the bottom of the league.
So let us hypothesize and get yelled at by fans of these teams.
St. Louis Blues
One of the first teams most fans think of when mentioning a change between the pipes, the St. Louis Blues are in complete shock of how their season has gone so far. Pegged to be a contender for the division title, the Blues are stuck in the basement after an incredibly successful summer. They were able to acquire Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, and retain most of their core – the one problem is finding someone that can reliably make a damn save.
Jake Allen has been their goaltender of the future and present, but now is the time to really explore the option that he’s more suitable in a 1A/B situation. Jimmy Howard would be able to come in and provide some much-needed consistency for the rest of the season, just to make them not a complete shitshow.
It has been reported that GM Ken Holland wants at least a 1st-round pick for Howard, but the Blues gave up that pick for O’Reilly (it is top-10 protected but they won’t be giving it up that easy.)
So what’s a realistic package that the Wings would be able to get from the Blues?
They won’t be willing to give up any of their top prospects for a couple months of goaltending, but they might still be able to part with a young(ish) player in return.
I would bet that if Holland came and wanted Robby Fabbri from the Blues in exchange for Howard, they can probably make it somewhat work. Fabbri has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, surely lowering his value – but he has still shown flashes of potential. In 2016-17, at 20 years old, he was able to have 29 points in 51 games – now at 22, he has only played 18 games of professional hockey since then.
It would be a major risk for the Wings, but if they let him rehab properly, Fabbri could become a mainstay in a top-6 forward group that already includes Larkin, Mantha, Athanasiou, and Zadina in the future.
Another option would be inquiring about their 2020 1st-round pick – setting a longer-term look into the future and rebuild, this would send the message that this is a process and it might just pay off into another top-15 pick. Pretty damn worth it for a few months of goaltending.
After all of this, the Wings would have to get creative with his salary – most likely retaining the max (50%) and taking back a player like Carl Gunnarsson for some cap relief. This can be tricky.
Surely the most desperate team for a goaltender in the NHL, the Flyers have recently called-up their Golden Boy Carter Hart and at only 20 years old and 17 games of professional hockey experience, this seems like the wrong move to make.
The two teams already have experience in the goaltender trading world, with the Wings sending Petr Mrazek their way before the deadline last season. This might cost the Flyers a little bit more, but with a GM and coaching change, they seem like they want to reverse this season quickly.
Of course, it’s easy to assume that a franchise that has been goalie cursed would give up a bounty of assets for some stability, but goaltender trades are weird.
The Flyers would most likely not want to give up any roster players in a trade like this – what would be the point of weakening the current roster to add in a position of need? So it’s all picks and prospects for them.
They do have all their 2019 draft picks, but they also have some intriguing prospects to wonder about. Names like Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee are far out of the question, but other forwards like German Rubtsov and Isaac Ratcliffe might be intriguing.
It’s tough to give up some prospects for a rental, but the Flyers are just crazy enough to do it. Rubtsov is 20 years old and in the AHL right now, expected to make the jump earlier, the 2016 1st-round pick has been disappointing internally and if there’s any team that can let a player “marinate” in the minors, it’s the Red Wings.
The Flyers’ cap situation is miles better than the Blues, so that gives a little more reasoning as to why they would trade for another Wings goaltender.
Whether it be minor prospects or picks, the Flyers seem like a team guaranteed to be in the hunt for a new goaltender. They are about to play their sixth goalie this year – SIXTH! – so why not make it lucky seven?
Speaking of teams that are cursed by goaltending, the Carolina Hurricanes have been grasping at straws to find a goaltender that can be consistent. They relied on Cam Ward for far too long and are really paying their price for never feeling completely stable in that position.
Jimmy Howard can provide Canes fans with some relaxation, knowing that this American netminder will be able to actually win them some damn games. They were expected to make the playoffs this year (and they still might), but with Howard in net, it can become an almost sure-thing.
All it would take is just one little prospect or pick from them. Again, any team that really wants to make the jump into the playoffs, won’t really pry a player away from their current roster for a rental goalie.
The Canes have all their 2019 picks and some incredibly interesting prospects to consider. The Wings will most likely ask for some of their big names – Kuokkanen, Necas, Bean – but they will ultimately have to settle for the next level if they do in fact want a prospect in this deal.
They can always just go for picks in this rental situation, but if I was the Wings, I might aim for those 20-22 year old forwards that can then become part of the rising core of this team. Drafting an 18-year-old with higher ceiling might be better, but if they’re making the team as Larkin is leaving his prime, what’s the point?
This team is feeling the pressure to win and get into the playoffs this year, another top-10 pick would not do them any favors if they have a roster ready to win right now. From the blueline to the forward group, the Hurricanes look incredibly dangerous, if they were just able to get Howard in net – watch out for them to make a postseason splash.
…Maybe Holland will be able to squeeze more out of them.
There is certainly a theme on this list – teams that have never been able to find that goaltender they crave for. The Calgary Flames are one of those few teams that have just been given the shit hand when it comes to between the pipes.
Mike Smith has not been able to perform well enough to stay there and as good as Davey Rittich has been, he’s not going to stay this hot forever. Getting a goaltender that can come in and provide some stability for a desperate team like the Flames, would really get them into the Western Conference contention spot.
The main thing with the Flames that is different from the previous teams, is that they are already well into a playoff spot. Top-5 in the league and they do not look like slowing down. So they might not feel the pressure right now, but if they are able to really fix a problem in the net, then they are going to cemented into everyone’s postseason prediction to at least make the Western Conference Finals.
They do have a couple interesting prospects not currently on the NHL roster – Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane – but I think if any team is really willing to give up their first-round pick, it would be the Flames.
The Flames are most likely going to finish in the top-10 of the overall standings, so the worst scenario for them is to give up a top-20 pick for a few months of Howard. But they can possibly give some conditions just in case – becoming a 2020 pick if it does fall in that range is probably the most likely scenario.
The Wings would have to retain half of Howard’s salary, but it would certainly be worth it if the Flames are coming out of the Pacific Division in the playoffs. The Wings could always just take Michael Stone off their hands too – there is always a way to make it work.
San Jose Sharks
The final team (and the least-likely) are the San Jose Sharks. I would not be able to name a team that has more pressure on them to win a Cup this season. They have a tiny window that is speedily closing in on them, with an aging core and a massive blockbuster one-year rental in Erik Karlsson, they have identified this year as the year to go for it.
Apparently, their goalies have not got that message so far. Martin Jones has started a total of 24 games for the Sharks this season and currently boasts a .897 sv% and only a .375 quality starts percentage. Their backup Aaron Dell has had the better stats – 11GP/.906 sv% /.400 QS% – but he’s not really the one to rest your season on.
If they were to acquire Howard, that would really signify going all-in on this season. Cody Rhodes wouldn’t need to be there, but Jimmy Howard would give them an extremely good option to give Jones some rest and re-center his game.
The best thing for the Sharks is that Howard is only under contract for one more year, so getting a pure rental like that wouldn’t leave them with any baggage if he were to fail behind one of the best bluelines in the league.
As for what the Wings would be able to get from the Sharks, it certainly wouldn’t be any 2019 picks since the Sharks don’t own any picks until the Panthers’ conditional 2nd, so it would most likely be a solid prospect.
A forward like Ivan Checkovich or Alexander Chmelevski might sound like a pretty high price – 19-year-old wingers currently playing in juniors and playing significantly well – but that’s just the price that the Sharks might have to pay for a year like this.
It’s tough to get a sense of what teams are really willing to spend on rental goaltenders. The best case scenario for the Wings would be a package similar to what Ryan Miller was able to get the Sabres, but that is some “pie in the sky” thinking.
A single high pick or a few mid-range picks are probably what teams will be offering Holland for a goalie like Howard. He’s having an incredible year but has not been the most successful goalie in the past couple. He will surely be an upgrade for most of these teams, but he’s not as sure of a bet as some people might think. Goalies are weird.
One thing that we do know for sure is that Holland will be looking for future assets (picks or prospects) for Howard, so that is what I made my assumed trades on. Mid-to-high level prospects for a few months of a solid goalie is not completely out of the question. These teams want to win, either making the jump into the playoffs or cementing their spot to contend in the postseason.
After all of this, Howard might just return to the Red Wings, so we can all laugh about it with our bounty of picks and prospects. Good ol’ American boy.