Gather round, Red Wings fans, we need to have a long talk about goaltending and then yell our all your ideas in the comments. Or perhaps something has happened and this entire post is already irrelevant.
HOCKEY NEVER STOPS. IT NEVER SLEEPS. THERE IS NO ESCAPE.
A lot of people are eyeing around 2021 as the year the Wings are reborn with dead weight dumped with our kids as the new veterans and our draft babies filling in the ranks - and filling the net.
Our prospects aren’t ready and James is an old man so until The Year The Rebuild Is Over we need a UFA, a wild trade, or a miracle child.
Who We Have Now
Jimmy Howard - Detroit Red Wings
Height/Weight: 6’1” / 218lbs
Remaining Contract: 1 year / $4.25M
Jimmy’s 57 starts (+3 finishes) last season is as many as he had the previous two seasons combined. We know he can be E L I T E but he is prone to injury, and while his generation of goaltenders is still generally performing very well, there are no guarantees.
Jimmy goes UFA in 2019, shortly after his 35th birthday. Depending on our backup situation and how he’s feeling, he could sign on another year (for less money) or Ken Holland will be like hmmm Wings fans have been TOO happy with 2018 and 2019 draft picks galore so let’s give Jimmy a 3-year contract and a billion dollars.
Jared Coreau - Grand Rapids Griffins
...and the Red Wings but I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.
Height/Weight: 6’4” / 235lbs
Contract Status: UFA
It’s either gonna be him or McCollum starting for the Griffins this year. He is not NHL material as we’ve unfortunately experienced at some length. That’s all I’m going to say about him.
Tom McCollum - Grand Rapids Griffins
Height/Weight: 6’2” / 215lbs
Contract Status: UFA
It’s either gonna be him or Coreau starting for the Griffins this year. He is not NHL material we already know that and do not need to give him a heavily loaded backup role to find out. That’s all I’m going to say about him.
Kaden Fulcher - Hamilton Bulldogs (likely Griffins 2018-2019)
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 187lbs
Remaining Contract: 3 years / $2.2M (total)
Fulcher won most outstanding goaltender in the CHL Memorial Cup Tournament this spring, and with the Hamilton Bulldogs needing to dump some elderly 19 year olds it’s likely Fulcher will make the jump up to the Griffins.
He went undrafted in 2017 but impressed the Red Wings at camp enough for a contract. He needs to continue to develop his mental game and it will be interesting to see if he impresses in the AHL like fellow un-drafted superstar Joe Hicketts.
Patrik Rybár - HK Hradec Kralove (maybe Griffins 2018-2019)
Height/Weight: 6’3” / 176lbs
Remaining Contract: 1 year / $925,000
We signed him to a one-year contract about a month ago, seems like a “just in case” signing to see how he does and if the Griffins need him as backup. It may depend on how much weight Fulcher can carry in his first AHL season.
It’s so surprise we signed this 24 year old goaltender because...
Matej Machovsky - Toledo Walleye (definitely HC Sparta Praha 2018-2019)
Height/Weight: 6’2” / 187lbs
Contract Status: Bye Felicia.
Machovsky has expressed frustration over being stuck in the minors as he feels he is worthy of promotion and the opportunity to develop faster so he is heading back to Europe. Goodbye forever, you know how Ken Holland and Jeff Blashill feel about real and perceived “attitude problems”...
We have a number of prospects in the fetal stage. I will briefly highlight two of our best here and mention a few others - if you want to talk about Chase Perry in the comments you go right ahead.
Keith Petruzzelli - Quinnipiac University
Height/Weight: 6’5” / 181lbs
Drafted: 2017, Round 63, pick #88
First of all, if you have a nickname for him please share.
Petruzzelli will be playing his second season at the NCAA level and has the potential to be a huge asset to the organ-i-zation. He has a few bad habits to fix, including some work on his glove skills, but early reports say there are no glaring red flags that will hinder his development as he faces tougher and tougher competition.
Remember when Jimmy used to basically skate out to center ice to make saves? Petruzzelli plays more conservative so that’s one thing he won’t have to unlearn.
Filip Larsson - University of Denver (previously Tri-City Storm)
Height/Weight: 6’2” / 181lbs
Drafted: 2016, Round 6, pick #167
He will be playing at the University of Denver this season after racking up the awards in the USHL including Goaltender of the Year. His 0.941 SV% is the highest in USHL history, and he missed 30 games due to a groin injury sustained in late February. So even playing a partial season he was still everyone’s favorite.
You’d think he’d be less of a secret.
He plays a chill game, although the Wings would like to see him be a touch more aggressive. He handles rebounds exceptionally well and is one smart cookie, and the Wings will watch him closely for the next year or two as they believe he has the potential to make it to the NHL.
Other goalies in the system: Chase Perry, Joren van Pottelberghe, Victor Brattström, and Jesper Eliasson
Based on some comments here and there from Ken Holland and our current situation, the best bet for us is to find a goaltender in free agency who can be a reliable backup but also ready to take on the starting job if Jimmy gets injured (which he probably will, sorry James).
We did well on our signing of Frk and Bertuzzi, but we still need to sign Larkin, AA, and Mantha, which will be expensive.
There are a lot of goalies entering free agency this year at a wide range of possible salaries, and not a ton of buyers on the market for goaltenders, so there is definite opportunity for us to be a little choosey. Goalies take a loooooong time to develop, so in a perfect world we bring on someone as a short term solution and if they’re good, they’re also young enough to hang on to for a while.
Or hell, maybe we’ll just overpay some crusty old guy, you can never have too many of those contracts!
Who else is on the hunt
Everyone...ok more like a handful of teams.
We are in competition with at least the Hurricanes and the Islanders, both of whom urgently need a starting goalie for the upcoming season. The Flyers are in the mix too, as their star prospect Carter Hart isn’t quite ready and they let Mrazek go (bye bye draft pick, dammit). Blackhawks, Sabres, and Bruins are also asking around.
We should still be able to depend on Jimmy next year but we definitely want someone who could jump into a 40-50 game role if he had to.
Unless you’re on #TeamTank2k19 then fine let’s just put Luke Glendening in net.
A Few UFA Goalies Who Might Be A Fit
Carter Hutton (STL)
He is the top goalie on the free-agency wish-list, and he has heard from a number of teams already. Fairly certain this list includes the Sabres, Hurricanes, Islanders, Blackhawks, and Bruins...so almost everyone I mentioned earlier that is looking for a goalie.
There are unconfirmed rumors of the Red Wings reaching out as well, and the Blues could try to bring him back but it’s unlikely.
He has a tremendous upside in that has NHL experience, is 32 years old which means he is perfect for a stopgap role, and should not command a huge contract. However, with his stock rapidly rising he may price himself out of our range.
If we want to tempt him to Hockeytown we may need to be offering a split of games closer to 50/50 than what we had last year with Mrazek charting faceoffs for 2 weeks between starts. The Sabres, Islanders, and Hurricanes are desperate for a starter which could have them leading the race here.
We can also send him a scrapbook of Zetterberg memes, just tell Ken Holland to call me.
Jonathan Bernier (COL)
With the Avalanche making the trade for Grubauer, that leaves Bernier the odd-man out so he’ll be looking for a new home. He has bounced around during his career, so he’s experienced with adapting to new teams and at 29 years old that would give us a bigger cushion to develop a prospect into an NHL starter.
He’s flown under the radar a bit as he missed time due to injury last year, but this quiet won’t last long. It may be wise for us to skip over Hutton and go all-in on Bernier, get his name on the dotted line before the Hutton Sweepstakes Losers come calling.
And hey, if you’re mad at the Avalanche, donning the Winged Wheel is always an appropriate method of revenge.
Robin Lehner (BUF)
The Sabres did not re-qualify Lehner, so he’s up for grabs. He’s a young gun at 26 and may be interested in the Wings thinking that he can steal Jimmy’s job. This is a short term solution that could turn into a long term solution.
If he were to come on board and look ready to be our starter next season (or this season) that could save us figuring out if we bring Jimmy back for another year and instead have Lehner settling in for a while and ready to mentor prospects when they arrive.
Come on in, take your shoes off, get comfortable - are you interested in some new Swedish best friends? We have those.
Chad Johnson (BUF)
Yep, the Buffalo Sabres are dumping goalies not named Linus Ullmark and looking for someone to be their starter while Ullmark gains NHL experience as backup. Exit Chad Johnson.
Johnson is 32 years old, so definitely a short term solution, however he has also played for many different teams so theoretically wouldn’t have much trouble adjusting to the Red Wings style which is “omg that is the 10th turnover in front of the net and we are only 5 minutes into the game”.
He is coming off a tough season, it was his second stint with the Sabres split by a year in Calgary. Not a lot of rumors swirling around him just yet, and that could work to our advantage. His contract with Buffalo was 1-year / $2.5M so, while not the safest choice, he is affordable. We aren’t exactly looking for a superstar just someone who can jump in and out if Jimmy gets hurt or goes on one of his cold streaks.
To give you an idea about how his second season in Buffalo went, I present two headlines that appeared one after the other in my search, both written by the same person.
one month later
Hello, Chad Johnson, we have a goaltender named Jimmy Howard, how would you like to be our second incredibly generic sounding named goaltender?
Other UFAs the Wings may investigate: Kari Lehntonen, Anton Khudobin, Andrew Hammond, Harri Sateri
...and Petr Mrazek
Just kidding, I think. If he gets signed by the Red Wings I will buy a Mrazek Flyers jersey.
Tradur to the Teem
Ken Holland may pull some sort of wizardry that blasts away some of our elderly players and leaves room for the kids to start playing now - and maybe that somehow happens through a goalie trade. He’s off to a good start cleaning house in Grand Rapids, but the Wings still have all the old men on defense.
With the Robbie Russo trade we could have as many as 11 picks in the 2019 draft (if Russo plays 30 NHL games), and for a team hungry for prospects we may look like good trade partners. It would be better to avoid this but we may use a late round pick for trade bait here.
Darcy Kuemper (ARI)
Kuemper could be the best trade option out there for us. He spent the first few years of his career with the Wild the split last season between the Kings and the Coyotes. He’s 28 years old and he’s 6’5” which are both good things - unlike the Coyotes which are a bad thing.
He was signed to a 2 yr / $2.7M contract back in February so we might be able to get him at a good bargain as did I mention the Coyotes are in fact bad at hockey and could probably use some help with things like putting pucks into the opposing net?
We just gave them Robbie Russo, doesn’t everyone think it’d be nice for him to have a friend out in the desert? How about you put Kuemper and your draft picks on the table and we can talk about some of our Regular-Sized Griffins or, if you’re really serious, Gustav Nyquist.
Steve Mason (STL)
Steve Mason seems to be among the walking wounded about 85% of the time. However if we want to take a gamble that Mason and Howard will be injured at different times, we could likely get another draft pick in exchange for taking him off the Jets payroll so they can hang onto Paul Stastny. Mason has said he is going to work hard this summer and intends to stick around the NHL, it would be a risky move to bring him on board but we do want ALL the draft picks.
Scott Darling or Cam Ward (CAR)
Joke #1: I said I wanted DAHLIN not DARLING.
Joke #2: Hey guys, it’s a-Ward season!
The Wings will ideally only be interested in either of these guys is if we can somehow snag Justin Faulk as part of the deal. How about you give us Faulk and we’ll do you the courtesy of taking Scott Darling off your hands? Throw in ALL THE DRAFT PICKS and you can ask inquire about Mike Green, too.
Cam Ward really should be able to retire as a Hurricane, it just wouldn’t be right to see him on another team. The general consensus of Canes fans is that they HATE Scott Darling. Like, they hate him as much as we hate our defense. They would do anything to get rid of him to leave some room for Ward.
Do we want to go grabbing a backup goalie with a chip on their shoulder and see if he really is terrible or if he would play better somewhere like Detroit that spreads the hate around instead of focusing on one player 24/7? Could be fun.
Maybe a bit of both.
Craig Anderson (OTT)
Getting the Sens to deal us Anderson after they just made a big stink about not wanting to trade within the Division would be priceless. Come on Craig, the enemy of your enemy and all that...
Other potential tradurs: Garrett Sparks (TOR), Calvin Pickard (TOR), David Rittich (CGY), Alexandar Georgiev (NYR)
What if We Trade Jimmy Howard?
It’s not out of the question that one of these teams that is searching for an E L I T E goaltender comes calling about James. Like him or not, he is strongly rooted with the Red Wings but as some of those top UFA goalies start getting snatched up the desperation may kick in.
I have been Grand Marshal of the James Tiberius Howard is Elite parade for many years now, and we are perfectly happy to keep him this year, but if the right offer is put on the table it’s not the worst idea to go for it.
You never know with that Ken Holland, on the one hand - LOYALTY. VERBAL CONTRACTS. MICHIGAN THINGS. On the other hand - REBUILD. DRAFT PICKS. CAP SPACE.
What do you think we should do about our goaltending situation? Share your thoughts and scenarios in the comments!