Kulfan: Howard probably stays put — for now
New York — With the Red Wings off Tuesday, airline traffic snarled around the East Coast, and some interesting headlines making their way around the NHL, it’s a good time to talk about a few issues.
News: Goaltender Jimmy Howard is winless in nine consecutive games.
Views: Who saw this coming?
Through the first month or two, Howard and Petr Mrazek gave the Red Wings some of the best goaltending in the league.
Mrazek has continued his run, but it’s amazing how Howard’s season has since derailed.
So, what to do about Howard?
Some fans want to see the Red Wings trade him. It likely won’t happen before the deadline because of 1) the way he’s playing and 2) his contract (three years left at $5.3 million per season).
Plus, the Red Wings don’t have a sure-fire goaltending prospect to replace Howard and back up Mrazek, and you need two goaltenders to make a solid postseason run.
There might be more of a market for Howard once the season ends and teams take stock and plan for the future.
One possible destination is Buffalo, which has an unsettled goaltending situation and isn’t far from where Howard grew up in upstate New York. And if the Red Wings picked up a portion of Howard’s remaining salary, maybe something could be worked out.
Calgary is looking for a No. 1, so it also may come into play.
News: The Red Wings and Maple Leafs are reportedly the leading contenders to play in the 2017 Winter Classic in Toronto.
Views: It’s not a major surprise given the success of the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor with the same teams.
General manager Ken Holland said he’s heard nothing about any other outdoor games regarding the Red Wings, and Maple Leafs officials have been mum, too.
But Toronto is basically assured a Winter Classic, given it’s the organization’s 100th anniversary next season, and it has been waiting for one of these events.
But aren’t people going to get bored with this event if the only teams involved are the Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, Penguins, Capitals, Bruins, Rangers and Flyers?
News: Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he will not be trading forward Steven Stamkos, who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Views: That single-handedly makes all those trade deadline shows Feb. 29 a little moot.
Don’t be shocked if the Lightning looks different down the stretch with the Stamkos situation resolved.
But really, who thought Yzerman was going to trade Stamkos, arguably his best player, in the first place? The Lightning still is capable of winning the Stanley Cup and wasn’t going to get an equal return.
So, let this season play out and see if you can sign Stamkos before July 1 — which the Lightning might be capable of doing.
News: If the Lightning can’t re-sign Stamkos, the Maple Leafs are prime contenders to nab him.
Views: I would hold off on Stamkos and set my sights on another Toronto native, Islanders forward John Tavares, who becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2018.
Tavares is a better all-around player and might be willing to leave an organization in constant flux for his hometown, if Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and coach Mike Babcock can show progress in the next couple of seasons.
Plus, Stamkos is in a championship situation in Tampa Bay and may not be interested in going to a rebuild in Toronto.