Krupa: Wings left to make best out of Mrazek morass
Detroit — So, now what do the Red Wings do with Petr Mrazek?
The expansion Golden Knights surprised a lot of folks Wednesday. They deprived the Wings of a good prospect, but it was not Mrazek.
The young forward Tomas Nosek, who can kill a penalty and score, at least a bit, is gone, instead of the Wings’ former No. 1 goalie.
The Red Wings are now likely to do what they have done with Mrazek and Jimmy Howard for a couple of seasons, play them both, if they do not trade one.
In that way, little has changed for Mrazek in Detroit.
There have been some surprises around the NHL in the past few days. Do not be surprised if there are a few more presently.
The new Las Vegas club’s surprise, eschewing the highly qualified Mrazek, came after the Red Wings shocked some by protecting Howard instead of the younger goaltender.
And the Wings revelation came amid another big surprise, the lack of trades before the expansion draft.
Few perceived the Knights GM George McPhee would handcuff half the league.
Playing his hand well in a city where that sort of thing enriches, McPhee extracted a caveat from any team trading with him: They could make no other trades until after the expansion draft.
Intending to freeze many rosters before the NHL required it, McPhee prevented a number of trades.
On Thursday, the thaw began.
Some observers said two trades would release a flood.
Let’s make a deal
The Oilers traded forward Jordan Eberle, and his four consecutive seasons of 20 goals scored, to the Islanders for Ryan Strome, who scores less. Then, much of the rest of the league waited for the Wild to decide which of their defensemen to trade.
Into the evening, the Wild apparently had yet to decide.
When they eventually do, the hope is the Red Wings can pounce.
Ken Holland has corralled a herd of draft choices in the coming two seasons. He also has had the pleasant circumstance of two successful NHL goalies on the same roster.
If not for the Red Wings ineffective blue line, two goalies of the skill and records of Mrazek and Jimmy Howard surely would be considered surplus.
The wisdom amid the circumstances is getting the best deal for either goalie to improve the team. Bolstered by some picks, the return, it is hoped, could be significant.
The current moment seems promising, but it will not be easy.
Other goalies are available, too, including: Michal Neuvirth, of the Flyers; Jaroslav Halak, of the Islanders; Antti Raanta, of the Rangers; Linus Ullmark of the Sabres; and Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen of the Stars.
If a trade does not work out, now, or if some other team is more interested in Howard and willing to provide better resources than they are offered for Mrazek, do not be surprised if the quiet 25-year-old plays, and plays well, for the Red Wings this season.
Part of Holland’s problem is the state of his roster.
Everyone wants Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin or Anthony Mantha in a trade. Holland has said the only way he parts with any of them is if the return is a better young player.
He also says he will not trade any of the other players he likes to call “futures,” if it makes the Red Wings’ future less promising.
Would he like to rid himself of some of the salaries with which he has saddled the franchise long term? The need is clear.
And now he has a young goalie who might be offended, a year after contract negotiations from which Mrazek emerged with perhaps less than he expected.
Both the NHL Players Association and some in management around the NHL favored keeping the protected lists private. They wanted to avoid the offense that can be caused when a player is left unprotected.
That happened to Mrazek this week.
But Mrazek strikes one as both resilient and utterly capable. He doubtlessly knows that his performance has lagged for 18 months, and that he is the one who will determine his future in the NHL.
Whether that is with the Red Wings or another club, he knows he must he improve.
It clearly is not a question of resurrecting a career. It is a matter of some simple improvement and consistency.
My sense is he ultimately succeeds. Mrazek might be an outstanding goalie.
The most persistent suggestion is the Flyers are interested.
Holland will want the best deal.
I always thought he would get a better deal for Mrazek than Howard. But not protecting Mrazek likely lowers his value.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings still have a wealth of draft choices to dress up a proposition.
Making no trade during the expansion and entry drafts certainly would disappoint, after several offseasons of disappointment. Especially after the Wings became sellers at the trade deadline, when their playoff hopes faded, and they seemed to turn a new corner on what was then a five-seasons-old rebuild on the fly.
Given the state of the roster and the necessary rebuilding this season and likely for at least a few ahead, the Wings can afford to wait rather than accept meager return.
But it is possible the moment is at hand.
Do not be surprised.