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What Will Petr Mrazek's Contract Extension with the Red Wings Look Like?

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Detroit's starting goaltender is due for a new contract. But his play down the stretch, Jimmy Howard's status and the Red Wings' cap situation complicate things a bit. The future of the team hangs in the balance.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Petr Mrazek – The Basics
  • Birthday: 2/14/1992 (24 years ago)
  • Drafted: 2010, 141st overall
  • NHL Games Played: 94
  • NHL Career Stats: 46-30-8, .920 SV%, 2.29 GAA, 9 SO
  • Height: 6’2"
  • Weight: 183 lbs
  • Best Asset: Possesses a good combination of athleticism, confidence and competitiveness to dominate at the NHL level.
  • Biggest Limitation: Yet to show consistency across a full NHL season, this year it was the end of February and March where he struggled. Last season it was January.
  • Short description: Very athletic and talented, thrives with the game on the line. Played out of his mind this season but came down to earth in late February through March, possibly amplified by a groin injury. When he’s on, he’s one of the toughest goalies in the league to beat.
What Happened This Year

Unless you've been living under a rock the past two seasons you'd know there's a competition for the worst position in all Detroit sports, the Red Wings' starting goaltender. Last year Petr Mrazek stole the job from Jimmy Howard and expectations were high for Mrazek heading into this season. I'd say Mrazek exceeded those expectations. His stellar numbers up through the first half of February even thrust him into the Vezina conversation but inconsistent play down the stretch cost him an outside chance at the award and the starting job heading into the playoffs. This change wouldn't be a long one, however. After two postseason starts from Howard, both losses to the Lightning, Mrazek was once again Detroit's starter. He earned a shutout in Game 3 but gave up 3 powerplay goals in a 3-2 Game 4 loss. In Game 5 Mrazek was perfect through 58 minutes but surrendered the series-winning goal with 1:43 left in a 1-0 loss. He ended the year with a .921 SV%, 2.33 GAA and 27 wins in the regular season and a .945 SV%, 1.36 GAA and 1 win in the postseason.

Was Mrazek Really In The Vezina Conversation?

Yes in my opinion he was - I don't know how you could make a case against his candidacy. Mrazek's play was phenomenal through the first two-thirds of the season. Compare his play to Henrik Lundquist and Braden Holtby from 10/1 to 2/12 and you'll see just how good he was. The image below shows those three goaltenders' 10-game rolling average SV% in the aforementioned timeframe. 

Image from Corsica.Hockey

So much for Holtby running away with the award like many predicted he would. Mrazek was right there with him every step of the way and when Holtby's play declined in January, Mrazek's improved.

The comparison above looks at just two goalies, but what about the the other 27 NHL teams and their starters? How does he compare to them? The Tweet below shows the 5v5 Adjusted Goals Saved Above Average Per 60 Minutes, or adjGSAA/60 of NHL goalies who had faced 400+ shots through February 12th of this year. Thankfully this statistic has a nickname, "Mercad". It measures how much better (or worse) a goalie is at preventing goals than the league average per 60 minutes given his workload.

As you can clearly see, Mrazek's 5v5 adjGSAA/60 was far and away better than anyone else in the league. Below is a table expressing similar information; Low Danger SV%, Medium Danger SV% and High Danger SV% are all shown along with SV%, Adjusted SV% and Mercad. No matter how you break things up, Mrazek blew away the rest of the league through the first part of February.

*Among top-30 goalies in TOI as of 2/12
Data from War-On-Ice and @NMercad

Given the fact that a SV% of 94.93% is nearly a whole percent above the NHL single-season record, I (along with many other Wings fans) wasn't worried if Mrazek would come down to earth, but instead when and how hard that fall would be. There was no way he'd continue to dominate for the rest of the regular season like he had up to that point. Not many goalies throw themselves into the Vezina conversation in their first full year of NHL action. Even fewer goalies outperform the rest of the field by such a significant margin.

The Slump

It turns out the fears of Red Wings fans everywhere were realized when Mrazek's play began to drop off. He had some good games along the way but these were outnumbered by subpar performances. He eventually bottomed out in early March and stayed there until the playoffs. The table below looks at Mrazek's 5v5 stats from February 12th to April 10th.

*Among top-30 NHL goalies in TOI from 2/12-4/10
Data from War-On-Ice and @NMercad

I view this slump as a blessing in disguise for two reasons. First, it showed how much the Wings were being kept alive by Mrazek's incredible season. Without Mrazek playing like a world-beater our defense suddenly appeared frighteningly inept and our offense toothless. It became clear the Red Wings weren't a top-10 team in the NHL but rather a middling team that was in the hunt for their division because of superb goaltending. I don't know how much Mrazek's struggles influenced Ken Holland's decision to stand pat at the trade deadline, but doing so was the right call in hindsight. Without Mrazek at his best, no trade acquisition was going to push the Wings over the hump and into the second round.

Second, it lowered the salary Mrazek can expect to be offered. I don't put much stock into who wins what award, the whole Norris debate this year baffles me and the Vezina finalists are a joke, but his contention for the Vezina would most certainly have impacted his asking price in contract negotiations. For a team in desperate need of cap relief even just a few hundred thousand dollars could make all the difference. But instead of chasing a Vezina trophy, Mrazek momentarily lost the starting job. He was shown to be mortal. That should give Ken Holland the upper hand when hashing out a deal.

Speaking of Contracts

So what can we expect Mrazek to make next season? That's tough to say. We know the team is going to trade Jimmy Howard at some point which will officially make Mrazek the undisputed #1 goalie in Detroit. But there's no telling when that trade will eventually take place. Ken Holland's comments make it seem like he's going to try and move Howard's contract this offseason but it's impossible to say when such a move will take place.

I'd be somewhat comfortable handing Mrazek a long-term contract right now if the Wings didn't have as much money tied up over the next 4-5 years and if the salary cap was expected to rise. Neither of those two things are true which makes a bridge deal the most logical choice here. I think a 2 year deal with a cap hit somewhere around $3.5M is a good compromise for both camps. Anything less than $3.5M I'll consider a bonus and anything over I'll chalk up to Mrazek's status as a top-10 NHL goalie.

I think a 2 year deal works the best because after 2 years Mrazek will still be a restricted free agent and Ken Holland will hopefully have moved some dead weight off the roster. That should allow Mrazek to receive a big payday in the form of a 5 or 6 year deal that will only pay him until he's 31 or 32.

If the Red Wings and Mrazek end up in a situation similar to the Canadiens trying to re-sign Subban after his bridge deal, so be it. I'd much rather pay him big money once Howard and Datsyuk aren't under contract with the team. It's not that I don't have confidence in him as a player, I don't have confidence in the immediate cap situation the Red Wings find themselves in.