What’s Next For Jimmy Howard?

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone and Jimmy Howard is still a Red Wing. As one of the Red Wings few pending unrestricted free agents, there was some uncertainty about his future with the club when Ken Holland announced he wouldn’t be working on any contract extensions until after the deadline. However with the lack of a trade market for goaltenders, Howard stayed put and will continue to be the Red Wings goalie for the immediate future. There may be a need for him past that as well, which prompts the question: What’s next for Jimmy Howard?

It’s no secret that Holland is going to start working with Howard’s agent on an extension. The team has a steep drop-off in talent between the pipes once you look past their NHL talent. Harri Sateri is 29-years-old and has a sub-par .901 save percentage through 30 games played for the Grand Rapids Griffins this year. His goaltending partner, Patrik Rybar, is 25-years-old and has a slightly better .914 save percentage.

It’s safe to say that the AHL talent can back-up in a pinch if they need to, but they are not going to be long-term starters. The next wave of goaltenders like Kaden Fulcher, Keith Petruzzelli and Filip Larsson is still a few years away. This leaves Holland with three options for the next two years:

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  1. Rely on Jonathan Bernier to take on the starter’s load
  2. Extend Jimmy Howard
  3. Find someone in free agency

The third option doesn’t seem like a realistic one with the pool of goaltender free agents hitting the market and Bernier’s performance this year, or throughout his career, is not that of a starter. So Holland is now working on option 2 – extending Howard.

During his post-deadline press conference, Holland indicated that he’d start working on the extension with Howard’s agent in the next few weeks. MLive’s Ansar Khan has said it’s likely going to be a two-year deal, but there has been no indication of a dollar amount yet.

It’s going to be a polarizing contract, whenever it’s signed. On the one hand, Howard is one of 31 starting goaltenders in the NHL. He’s going to look around at his peers and want a fair deal. On the other hand, Howard is going to be over 35-years-old and playing on a rebuilding team.

To start to figure this out, we have to consider that he should make more than Bernier, who has two years left at $3-million AAV. Howard’s current cap hit is $5.3-million (though his actual salary is under $5-million), so I’d expect him to land somewhere between that and Bernier’s contract.

A quick look at Howard’s comparables shows us that the market for goaltenders in their mid-30s is right around that sweet spot.

Player Age GP in 2018/19 Wins SV% Cap Hit in 2019/20
Roberto Luongo 39 33 14 .897 $5,333,333
Craig Anderson 37 39 14 .905 $4,750,000
Mike Smith 36 33 19 .897 UFA
Pekka Rinne 35 45 23 .915 $5,000,000
Corey Crawford 33 23 6 .902 $6,000,000
Marc-Andre Fleury 33 54 30 .908 $7,000,000
Player Age GP in 2018/19 Wins SV% Cap Hit in 2019/20
Jimmy Howard 34 43 17 .907 TBD

Statistically speaking, Howard is pretty much right in line with his peers. Rinne is a bit of an outlier, but look at the defense he plays behind. Howard’s .907 save percentage is actually impressive considering the D-corps in front of him. In fact, Howard’s save percentage only really took a dip in the second half of the season. He was rocking a .914 save percentage until early January.

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I think that the best comparable out of the above goalies based on age, performance, and state of their team is Craig Anderson. He’s got another year left at less than $5-million.

Based on this, it’s not unfair to ask Howard to sign for less than $5-million per year. He may not have an issue with it either, considering his actual base salary is only $4.25-million.

If Howard is offered a small raise, with no bonuses, then I believe a 2-year, $9-million contract is fair for both sides. Howard’s actual salary can match that of his cap hit ($4.5-million), which allows the Wings to be flexible with their cap space.

If Holland has to sweeten the deal, he can throw in one of those no trade clauses that he loves so much. The cap hit is low enough that it wouldn’t hurt the team if it can’t be moved and if there was no trade market for a 34-year-old Howard this year, there likely won’t be one for a 36-year-old Howard in two years. Plus, it offers the player some security in knowing he won’t have to uproot his family mid-year.

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Howard is a lifelong Red Wing and he wants to retire one. He’s a stable, veteran presence both on the ice and off of it and he fills a need that the Wings have through their rebuild.

So what’s next for Jimmy Howard? More of the same. And I’m more than okay with it.

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All stats and salary information from CapFriendly.com.