As the trade deadline approaches, we are taking a closer look at some of our potential trade chips.
Last week, Mike Bremer and I looked at Mike Green, who is the player most likely to be traded before or at the trade deadline. If you read the national hockey writers, Green is still at the top of the list for Detroit players who will be traded, for good reason.
For some time now, fans of the Red Wings have been looking into the potential to trade at least one of our current NHL goalies, Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Earlier in the year, I took a closer look at Howard’s performance and evaluated how much of his good play up to that point was due to him and how much was due to the team in front of him.
For this article I set out to see what was available for potential landing spots for either Detroit goalie. What I found, however, is that, barring major injury to a goaltender for a competitive team, there is very likely going to be little to no appetite for another team trading for one of our goalies at the deadline.
So, what I’m going to do is go over why each of our goalies is going to be a hard sell, then what teams are possible and why they are unlikely.
Why Howard and Mrazek are Each Hard Sells
Here’s a look at how both goalies have been this season.
If I had to describe Jimmy Howard in one sentence, it would be: “He’s a goalie that is capable of stealing games and going on long streaks of elite-level play, but his injury history is something that will reduce his value.”
The article I wrote earlier this year showed that at that point (November 21st), Howard was playing at a very high level relative to the rest of the league’s starters, and he was doing so while not getting a lot of support from the team in front of him.
Looking at the same metrics I did earlier, we can see a huge dropoff.
(HDSV% = High Danger Save Percentage; dSV% = difference between actual save percentage and expected save percentage; GSAA = Goals Saved Above Average. Rankings are for top 31 goalies in 5v5 TOI. I went back and calculated TOI and GSAA60 as of 11/21, but I don’t have the rank)
For that article, I calculated the 5 game rolling average for the team’s high danger chances against / 60 using Natural Stat Trick. I have continued calculating that, which you can see here:
Remember this is the 5 game rolling average, not the value for each game, and that lower is better. The current league average is ~10.7. The period from November 21st (game 22) through now has see the team do better at limiting HD chances. To be sure, Detroit still has a lot of work to do in that regard, but they are a little better than earlier.
So, the issue with selling a team on Howard is that he’s come back to earth compared to the start of the season, although he is still capable of keeping his team in a game. He also is not a rental, since he has one more year left on his contract.
So it doesn’t make a lot of sense for a team to bring him in as a backup. Unless a contending team’s starter goes down, I don’t really see who trades for him. He could be an option for a team looking to replace its starter who has a prospect they feel will be ready to take over the following season when Howard’s contract expires, but there is no reason for a team to make that kind of trade at the deadline.
After being unprotected in last year’s expansion draft, the word on Mrazek was that he was re-dedicating himself to putting in the effort to re-gain the form he had for a stretch earlier in his career.
Unfortunately, for most of this season, that hasn’t happened. It was only recently where he played well enough to give some glimmer of hope that he could become more consistently solid.
The problem with Mrazek as trade bait is that he is a rental, and there’s very little reason to think that teams would consider him someone to move the needle.
A team trading for him could believe that they could buy low on him, with the hope that a change of scenery would lead to him finding his footing. But if that’s the case, there’s really no reason to trade for him at the deadline. It’s unlikely that Detroit qualifies him this off-season, which would make him a UFA. So why not just wait and sign him without giving up an asset?
Another option could be a team bringing him in as insurance if their starter goes down. But at $4M, even with Detroit retaining salary, would a team have reason to believe that he could carry the load in a playoff run enough to give up a good asset for him?
The other problem with that is that there is pretty much only one team that would fit into that scenario, and there are other reasons to believe they wouldn’t make that trade. I’ll get to that next section.
Before I do, here’s Mrazek’s stats for the same metrics I used for Howard above. I used GSAA/60 to account for the difference between different goalies’ TOI. The ranking is out of the top 62 goalies in TOI (roughly top two goalies for each team)
(HDSV% = High Danger Save Percentage; dSV% = difference between actual save percentage and expected save percentage; GSAA = Goals Saved Above Average. Rankings are for top 62 goalies in 5v5 TOI.)
He’s been much better lately, but he hasn’t shown enough consistency this year to be someone a team is going to give up much, if anything for.
Like I said above, barring long-term injury to a playoff team’s starting goalie, it seems unlikely that anyone would be interested in trading for Howard, at least at the deadline.
Chicago could have been a prospect with Crawford being out, but he may be back in the near future, and they are already far enough back that it seems unlikely they would bring in a goalie with another year on his contract. Plus, they, as always, are cap crunched, so salary would have to be coming back, but Detroit is also cap crunched, so you get the idea.
There’s not a playoff team that would view Mrazek as an upgrade to their current starter, so like I said above, they’d be adding him as insurance. But the problem with that is that there aren’t too many teams in that situation who aren’t comfortable with their backup, or at least comfortable enough to avoid spending assets on a goaltender that they could spend to shore up their team elsewhere.
The one team that makes the most sense is the Islanders. Even so, Halak has rebounded from earlier season struggles, and they are losing because they are giving up a ton of shots. So, if they were looking for help stopping goals, they’d be better off trying to improve their defense.
Both Halak and Greiss were pretty bad earlier this season, particularly throughout November. Since then, Halak has played much better, especially considering that the guys in front of him yield between 35 and 50 shots a night. Greiss straight up stole a game in Montreal with 52 saves, but has barely been seen since so I’m not sure what’s going on with him.
It’s important to note though that the Islanders’ defensive struggles aren’t limited to just their goalies. Team-wide, their awareness and structure is atrocious and they’re often totally lost in the defensive zone. That goes for forwards who tend to fly the zone too quickly and defensemen who seem afraid to make a mistake—which of course leads to mistakes. Add to that the fact that maybe three players on the roster are capable of breaking out of the zone consistently, and you’re left with a team that’s playing with a minefield in front of whoever’s in goal.
Contract-wise, Halak is a UFA at the end of the season, and Greiss has two more years at $3.3 mil per. There’s also the matter of needing re-sign John Tavares (and potentially, probably Josh Bailey), so taking on salary is probably a no-go.
So between Jimmy Howard’s $5.2 mil for the next two seasons and Mrazek needing to be qualified at $4 mil or higher, I don’t see a fit there. It feels as if the Islanders aren’t looking for rentals at the deadline either unless they’re reasonable priced. Maybe if Johnny Boychuk or Nikolay Kulemin come back from injuries soon, the goaltending will perform a lot better.
One last thing to keep in mind is that there is an intangible that could overcome some of these reasons why a team wouldn’t be interested in our goalies. If one or both of them had a track record of stealing a playoff series for his team, that could make a team roll the dice. But while Howard has done that in the regular season, he’s never done that in the playoffs. Mrazek hasn’t won a series.
So as of now there doesn’t really seem to be much of a market for a Detroit goalie trade, at least before the off-season. And before people start adding multiple players to each side of the deal, that wouldn’t change the underlying problems. Barring injury, other teams don’t really have a use for either of our goalies at the deadline.