Tuesday is going to be weird. Red Wings GM Ken Holland will be speaking to the media prior to Detroit’s morning skate at Little Caesars Arena, where it will be unknown whether Mike Green is “good to go” for Tuesday night’s game against Nashville…
Petr Mrazek is en route to Philadelphia for their morning skate ahead of their Tuesday night game against Montreal…
And I still wonder what it is exactly that Petr Mrazek did to piss off the Red Wings’ management. Mrazek has always been an arrogant kid, and Mrazek has never been a “good quote”–he’s come a long way since his 30-second interviews, but he’s still brief and briefer…
But I have no good answer as to why Mrazek was given the starter’s job, struggled, and was suddenly exposed in the expansion draft, and, we were told, wouldn’t be qualified as a restricted free agent, thus leaving the Wings after this season, one way or another.
The Wings’ media corps told us the truth–that the Red Wings were going to trade the first goalie they could trade, and stick with the goalie they could not. It’s easier to move a 26-year-old Petr Mrazek and retain $2 million of his expiring $4 million contract than it is to move a 33-year-old Jimmy Howard and a $5.29 million deal that has a year remaining, so it’s not surprising that Mrazek “went”…
But there’s something more here, there has been for the last two years. I don’t know if we’re ever going to learn what happened to sour the Red Wings on Mrazek to the point that they exposed him in the expansion draft, and to the point that they made a complicated deal with the Flyers to complete the separation process.
It’s just baffling, and it will probably remain baffling for a long time.
I never “picked a side” on the Mrazek-vs-Howard debate–they’re both good people and good goaltenders, and I just wanted “my” Wings to win.
I know that the Wings have oodles of prospects in the goaltending system, too–in Keith Petruzzelli, Kaden Fulcher, Filip Larsson, Joren van Pottelberghe, Chase Perry, Matej Machovsky, in the “older goaltender” category, Jared Coreau and Tom McCollum–but with the exceptions of Coreau and McCollum, they’re not ready by any stretch of the imagination.
What happens to the Wings’ goaltending system now? I think the Wings stick with Howard and Coreau and see how their prospects develop.
After what happened today, the Red Wings made the predicted, predictable and “easier” move…Who knows?
We may find more out when KH speaks with the media later this morning, but I doubt that we’ll ever know the underlying “why.”
The national media weighed in on the Mrazek deal, with NHL.com posting quotes from Flyers GM Ron Hextall…
“We’re excited to obtain Petr Mrazek,” Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall said. “Petr is a proven NHL goaltender, and given the situation we’re in, we needed a proven goaltender.”
Mrazek, 26, is 8-7-3 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 22 games (18 starts) this season.
The Flyers (70 points), who play the Montreal Canadiens at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSP, TSN2, RDS, NHL.TV), are tied with the New Jersey Devils for third place in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for second. Since ending their 10-game losing streak (0-5-5) with a win against the Calgary Flames on Dec. 4, the Flyers are 22-8-3, their 47 points third in the NHL behind the Boston Bruins (52 points) and Vegas Golden Knights (47) in that span.
“Our players have worked hard for a long time and I didn’t think it was fair to not have a proven NHL goaltender for this team,” Hextall said. “That’s the reason we acted.”
Mrazek is 72-58-20 with a 2.60 GAA and .912 save percentage in six NHL seasons, all with Detroit, and 4-6 with a 1.88 GAA and .931 save percentage in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Hextall said last week he was willing to ride the tandem of Neuvirth and Lyon, despite Neuvirth’s injury history and Lyon’s inexperience.
Neuvirth missed nine games from Dec. 6-23 because of a lower-body injury, and in three seasons with the Flyers, he has missed 57 games because of injuries. He was making his fourth start in eight days in place of Elliott when he was injured against the Rangers.
“Alex did a good job [against the Rangers],” Hextall said. “We have a lot of confidence in Alex. But to have Alex be the guy at this point would be an awful lot for a young player. So we felt this was a prudent move for the sake of our team.”
The Red Wings are guaranteed at least a fourth-round pick in the deal. It becomes a third rounder if Mrazek wins five regular-season games and the Flyers make the playoffs; that pick can also jump to a second-round pick if the Flyers reach the conference final and Mrazek wins six playoff games.
The additional pick only conveys to Detroit in 2019 if the Flyers re-sign Mrazek. Detroit also retained half of the pro-rated amount remaining on Mrazek’s $4-million salary.
“I think it’s a fair and reasonable deal for both sides,” Hextall said. “If Petr performs, we pay more, Detroit gets more. If he doesn’t, they still get paid and it costs us a certain amount, but it’s not overpaid.”
For the Red Wings, who weren’t planning to issue Mrazek a qualifying offer at $4 million, it was time to move on. They were able to pry assets away from possibly the last playoff-bound team in the market for a goaltender.
For the Flyers, it is a low-risk, high-reward proposition. Mrazek, 26, is just a little older than Lyon, the inexperienced goalie the Flyers didn’t want to throw into the fire.
For a time, Mrazek was one of the rising stars in net in the NHL. He posted a .920 save percentage in his first 100 appearances, all before the age of 24. The last season and a half has been difficult, but that may also be a symptom of the play in front of him, coinciding with Detroit’s slide in the standings after a 25-year playoff run.
“He was the available guy that really intrigued us,” Hextall said. “We know how capable he is … He’s played extremely well over the last month. I think he’s had some really good times in his career where he’s been a very good goalie and he can be a difference maker.”
As did USA Today’s Mike Brehm…
“We know how capable he is, and his experience in the National Hockey League, playing in a high-pressure market in Detroit there went into our decision,” Hextall said. “We felt like we had to get a guy that has a proven track record.”
The Flyers, who are third in the Metropolitan Division, were in need of a goaltender because No. 1 goalie Brian Elliott is out another four to five weeks after having core muscle surgery.
Backup Michal Neuvirth was injured on Sunday against the New York Rangers, and Alex Lyon came in and won the game. Hextall said Neuvirth would be out weeks, not days.
Hextall described how the conditional picks would work.
“It’s a fourth in 2018 that can move to a third (round) if we make the playoffs and Petr wins five games in the regular season,” he said. “That same pick can move to a second (round) if we win two rounds of the playoffs and he wins six games. The additional third-rounder in 2019 is if we re-sign him.”
Mrazek is scheduled to be a restricted free agent after this season. Hextall said the Red Wings retained half of Mrazek’s $4 million salary. Both Elliott and Neuvirth are signed through next season.
The Red Wings are expected to try to get more draft picks and/or prospects before the Feb. 26 trade deadline, with pending unrestricted free agent defenseman Mike Green their biggest asset.
“I think it’s a fair and reasonable deal for both sides,” Hextall said. “If Petr performs, we pay more, Detroit gets more. If he doesn’t, they still get paid and it costs us a certain amount, but it’s not overpaid. If we do have success and we pay, then that’s good. It’s good for Detroit, good for us.”
And TSN’s Scott Cullen examined the statistical value of the deal:
When the Red Wings were expecting Mrazek to become their goaltender of the future, he was signed to a contract that came with a $4-million cap hit, which expires at the end of this season. The Red Wings are retaining half of that cap hit to make the trade work, but Mrazek could very well find himself as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason if the Flyers aren’t inclined to give him a qualifying offer of $4.15-million.
Considering that the Red Wings are retaining half of Mrazek’s salary, these picks aren’t terribly significant in return. A fourth-round pick offers less than a one-in-five chance of becoming an NHL player. It’s closer to 28% for a third-round pick and a little better than 33% for a second-round selection.
The conditional third-round pick in 2019 seems unlikely to be a part of the deal unless Mrazek is so impressive that the Flyers are prepared to move Elliott or Neuvirth to make room, because those two are still under contract for next season.
Mrazek’s absence will likely mean more action for Jimmy Howard in Detroit, and 26-year-old Jared Coreau figures to get called up from the AHL to fill the back-up role.
Verdict: Considering that Philadelphia was very clearly dealing from a position of weakness, they paid a very reasonable price to fill a suddenly gaping hole in their lineup.
From Detroit’s perspective, maybe the goalie trade market isn’t offering much, but this would sure seem to indicate that the team just wasn’t sold on Mrazek as having any kind of future value. It’s not like they have great options in the organization and 33-year-old Howard has a contract that expires after next season.
For those reasons, the trade does seem like a win for the Flyers, who paid a reasonable price to address a position of need.
Minus comment from Ken Holland, the Red Wings’ media corps also weighed in, with MLive’s Ansar Khan offering a refreshingly honest take…
His combination of talent and swagger had him earmarked to be the organization’s No. 1 goalie for many years. After excelling during the first six weeks of 2016, Mrazek’s performance suddenly declined in mid-February of that season. He lost his starting job to Jimmy Howard but regained it during the first-round playoff series against Tampa Bay.
Mrazek’s troubles continued last season, when he went 18-21-9, with a 3.04 GAA and .901 save percentage.
The Red Wings left him unprotected in the expansion draft, but the Vegas Golden Knights passed on him.
The Ostrava, Czech Republic, native was 8-7-3 in 22 games for Detroit this season, with a 2.89 GAA, .910 save percentage and three shutouts.
The move ensures that Howard, 33, will mostly likely remain with the Red Wings through at least the start of next season, the last on a deal that has a $5.3 million cap hit.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland isn’t done dealing. Defenseman Mike Green is expected to be moved by next Monday’s trade deadline, possibly to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Red Wings also have had talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs regarding forward Luke Glendening.
The Red Wings are trying to stockpile picks. They have 10 selections in this year’s draft, including two each in the second, third, fourth and sixth rounds, as well as their own first- and seventh-round selections. They don’t have a pick in the fifth-round.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James also weighed in…
Mrazek, 26, appeared to be an ascending star two years ago. As he approached his 24th birthday, on Feb. 14, 2016, he had a .933 save percentage and 1.94 goals-against average during the 2015-16 season. But then came a slump that resulted in Mrazek losing the starting job that spring. Even so, the Wings believed in Mrazek enough to declare him the starter for the 2016-17 season.
Mrazek struggled through 2016-17, losing the starting job first to Jimmy Howard, then briefly to Jared Coreau. Mrazek’s reputation suffered as his slump continued, and he finished the season with a 3.04 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 50 games.It got to the point the Wings exposed Mrazek in the 2017 expansion draft, and then they found no team wanted him. The Dallas Stars needed a goalie but passed, and Stars general manager Jim Nill, formerly the assistant GM in Detroit, was the man who drafted Mrazek 141st overall in 2010.The Wings entered 2017-18 with the starting job up for grabs. Howard outplayed Mrazek, earning the majority of starts the first half of the season. Mrazek had better performances over the past month, but as a pending restricted free agent, the Wings were not going to qualify Mrazek at his $4 million salary given his 2.89 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 22 games. Instead of losing him for nothing, the Wings traded him with an eye to their future, as they now hold 10 picks in the 2018 draft.
Mrazek, 26, is a prospective restricted free agent who the Red Wings likely wouldn’t have qualified at his $4 million salary, which would have made him an unrestricted free agent.
A 2010 fifth-round draft pick, Mrazek appeared in 166 games with the Red Wings with a 72-58-20 record.
The Red Wings will likely call up Jared Coreau from Grand Rapids to pair with Jimmy Howard to man the position the rest of the regular season.
The Red Wings are expected to deal defenseman Mike Green before the Feb. 26 trade deadline since Green is a potential unrestrictred free agent on July 1.
Forwards Luke Glendening and Gustav Nyquist also could be on the market, as general manager Ken Holland aims to stockpile draft picks.
The Wings got a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL entry draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 draft for Mrazek, and also agreed to pay half of what remains on his $4.15 million salary for the remainder of the season.
The conditions run the gauntlet of possibilities. If the Flyers make the playoffs and Mrazek posts at least five regular-season victories for them, the fourth-round pick moves up to the third round. If the Flyers advance to the conference finals and Mrazek wins six games in the postseason, the picks jumps to the second round. If Mrazek opts to re-sign with the Flyers, the Red Wings receive Philadelphia’s third-round pick in 2019.
The Wings found themselves in a quandary regarding Mrazek. In the last year of his contract, the Wings would have been forced to make a qualifying offer of at least $4 million to him, otherwise Mrazek would become an unrestricted free agent.
Up until recently, Mrazek’s play certainly didn’t warrant that level of reinvestment. But he’d gone 5-2-2 since mid-January, posting two shutouts and allowing just one goal in four other appearances during that span.
“I think confidence is a huge thing for any player, certainly goalies it’s exacerbated,” Detroit coach Jeff Blashill was saying of Mrazek prior to Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Toronto. “I think when he’s on his game, when you’re confident, you look bigger in the net for whatever reason, you play a little bit bigger. I think his depth management’s real good. He doesn’t get too far out, doesn’t get too far back. He’s not out of control, he’s in control, he doesn’t over-slide. When he’s on his game, pucks stick to him a little bit more. I would say those would be the big factors.”
Mrazek couldn’t stick in Detroit. He’s the first to go, but he won’t be the last. Count on it.
Update: Among the comments in The Athletic’s Craig Custance’s “Trade Grade“:
Mrazek has played better than he was last year. Whispers about attitude issues have gone away. But he hasn’t done anything to suggest he’s more than a backup at this point, despite being capable of running off wins while getting hot.
The Red Wings don’t believe he’s a No. 1 goalie. Detroit had no intention of making a qualifying offer on his contract this summer that would cost them $4-million, so he was gone after this season. Detroit had one week to find a taker or lose him for nothing. The Neuvirth injury opened up an opportunity to strike a deal.
That said, Detroit is assuming a bit too much of the risk in this deal. They’re retaining half of Mrazek’s salary and that should have been worth a guaranteed third-round pick. The Flyers have both Elliott and Neuvirth under contract for next season, so the chances of the Flyers sending that second draft pick to the Red Wings seems like a real long shot.
This deal, right now, is essentially Neuvirth for a fourth-round pick. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but perhaps the Red Wings would have been better off waiting until closer to the deadline to see if another goalie got hurt on a contender. Really, what was the rush to get a fourth-round pick?
Update: Here’s NHL.com’s video about the Mrazek deal: