Despite having $9.3 million in salary cap space tied up in NHL goaltenders, the Detroit Red Wings are not sure who will make up their goaltending tandem in 2017-18.
General manager Ken Holland told MLive.com’s Ansar Khan on the weekend he is still exploring all options, including a trade of Petr Mrazek or Jimmy Howard, as he readies his expansion draft protection list for June 17.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Holland told the outlet. “I’ll work the phones.”
The GM was asked directly about the possibility of moving the younger, cheaper Mrazek by Grand Rapids Griffins radio announcer Bob Kaser off-air, and the audio was captured despite both participants believing they were chatting off the record:
“When the radio interview ended, he said to me, ‘I’m hearing a rumour you’re trying to trade Petr Mrazek,’ ” Holland told MLive. “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t respond.”
Kaser confirmed this.
Moving either his 1A or 1B makes sense from Holland’s perspective.
Not unlike Pittsburgh’s situation with upcoming goaltender Tristan Jarry, the Red Wings have an AHL goaltending prospect they believe in. Jared Coreau, 25, made just 14 big-league appearances in 2016-17, but he’s been excellent for three straight seasons with AHL Grand Rapids. As things stand now, he could be exposed in the expansion draft.
Further, the Red Wings have just $5.9 million in projected cap space and need to sign a few bodies, including promising RFA forwards Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou. And Holland wants to see his club return to the playoffs after a disappointing end to the streak.
“Certainly our goal next year is to be at the party,” Holland told Kaser on-air.
“It’s not like there’s blockbuster trades on a regular basis. You have to get incrementally better.”
A year ago, 25-year-old Mrazek was trending to take over No. 1 duties from Howard, who was available last summer, but it was the veteran who battled injury and still had the better performance (.927 save percentage).
“Jimmy Howard had a good season, played good [for Team USA] at the world championships,” Holland said.
Even though his numbers underwhelmed last season (3.04 GAA, .901 save percentage), Mrazek ($4 million cap hit through 2017-18) may be the more attractive trade target because Howard is more expensive and has two years left on his deal.
This summer’s goaltending carousel could see a lot of moving pieces. In addition to clean-slate Vegas, Calgary, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Winnipeg, and Vancouver may have No. 1 jobs available — although the Canucks are willing to re-sign Ryan Miller.
“We need goaltending to be a strength,” Holland said. “Petr Mrazek is still a young guy. He played lots of good games, played his best hockey the last third of the season. But he was inconsistent. Can attribute it a little bit to age.
“If we end up with both guys at training camp, we need both guys to have great years.”