The Athletic’s Craig Custance took note of Jimmy Howard’s presence at the Red Wings’ unveiling of a “play space” at Children’s Hospital in Detroit on Wednesday, and Custance chose to mark the occasion by wondering aloud whether the Wings might want to move Howard in the final season of his contract:
Part of the appeal is an expiring contract. Goalies are such a risk that finding a starter without term remaining on his deal is an alluring asset. In 176 games over the course of the last four seasons, Howard has a .912 save percentage that is slightly below the league average but consistently in that range. With Howard, you know what you’re getting and that’s something. Down the stretch this season, he was often the only reason the Red Wings were competitive in games, part of the reason fans were rightly upset he was still getting starts in the final weeks on a team that needed better lottery odds more than it needed points in the standings.
The other part of Howard’s appeal is a weak free-agent market for goalies. The Coyotes removed the most intriguing name from consideration by signing Antti Raanta to a three-year contract worth $12.75 million. Carter Hutton had a good year for St. Louis, finishing with a .931 save percentage in 26 starts, but he’s played 40 games only once in his career. Jonathan Bernier may have saved Colorado’s season with stretches of strong play, but he also really likes it there. It wouldn’t be surprising if he stayed with the Avalanche.
Custance continues (paywall), and my question regarding this thought experiment is pretty simple: if the Red Wings trade Howard, who would the Wings use as their starting goaltender?
As much as I think Jared Coreau is a fine athlete and good fellow, he hasn’t proved himself ready; Tom McCollum’s ceiling may or may not be limited to the AHL, and Matej Machovsky’s decision to go home to the Czech Republic left the Wings in a bit of a bind because none of their other prospects–Filip Larsson, Kaden Fulcher, Keith Petruzzelli and Joren van Pottelberghe–aren’t anywhere near NHL-ready.
It’s arguable that the Wings could string together enough wins to be mediocre with one of the free agent back-ups out there, but I don’t see the team trading Howard unless it’s able to replace him immediately. That would take a 1-for-1 deal of some sort, and if we’re talking about the Islanders, Jarslav Halak and Thomas Greiss aren’t upgrades over Howard.