Virtually everyone agrees the Detroit Red Wings need to bolster the roster if they are to regain their status a true Stanley Cup contender. The most daunting obstacles are the contracts negotiated by General Manager Ken Holland.
The Pavel Datsyuk contract was recklessly front-loaded, which puts the team in a difficult position of Datsyuk returns to Russia, as expected. If Holland can trade Datsyuk's $7.5M cap hit away, it might cost the Wings assets. The Jonathan Ericsson contract continues to eat a hole in the salary structure. The new Justin Abdelkader seven-year contract begins next season. Veteran Swedes Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Kronwall are all salary cap concerns at this point.
Top it all off with the contract for backup goalie Jimmy Howard. He's got three more years left with a cap hit of $5.3M.
This is a goalie whose career is in a tailspin. Three straight playoffs Howard has finished the season on the bench. This year he turned in the worst regular season numbers of his career.
Detroit Free Press beat writer Helen St. James suggests the Dallas Stars might want to trade for Howard. The Stars have their own experience with expensive, poor-performing goalies. Inexplicably, St. James believes they'd be glad to take on Howard, who put up worse numbers.
This is where the Wings could benefit, because they are looking to move Jimmy Howard now that Petr Mrazek is the No. 1 man in net. Howard makes $5.3 million, entirely too much for a backup (and Mrazek, a restricted free agent, is due a new contract). Dallas general manager Jim Nill formerly was the assistant general manager in Detroit and knows Howard well from having drafted him in 2003 through seeing him work his way up to starting. Maybe a three-team deal can be worked out, in which the Wings move Howard to Dallas in return for Niemi, who then gets traded to a team that needs a veteran goaltender, such as Toronto, Calgary or Carolina.
It's more likely the Stars' goaltending problem makes the situation even tougher for Holland. Now there's another team out there struggling to move an overpriced mediocre goalie. Even before the Stars' goalie meltdown, it was hard to imagine how Holland would find a place to ship Howard. Now we've just thrown two more goalies on to the supply and we've only increased the demand by one team.
Besides, Toronto has Jonathan Bernier. Carolina has Eddie Lack and if they wanted to pay Anti Niemi money for a goalie, they'd have tried to resign Ward. That leaves Calgary. Expect Calgary to go hard for Cam Ward.
Here's a look the potential goalie carousel in the upcoming offseason.
Goalies for Hire by UFA
- Cam Ward
- Karri Ramo
- James Reimer
- Ben Scrivens
- Chad Johnson
- Jhonas Enroth
- Al Montoya
Goalies for Hire by Trade:
- Jimmy Howard
- Kari Lehtonen
- Anti Niemi
- Bishop or Vasilevsky
- Marc Andre Fleury (potentially)
Teams in the Market for Starting Goalie:
- Las Vegas.
The only way Detroit and Dallas swap goalies is if Nill and Holland cry uncle and pull off a trade in hopes that a "change in scenery" helps the goalies out.
One positive possibility for Detroit is the expansion draft. It's impossible to say how that will work out, but at the very least it increases the market.
The bottom line is that the Wings aren't going to be able to move Howard in such a fashion that it frees up the cap space needed to acquire a Steven Stamkos or David Backes or Milan Lucic or Alex Goligoski.