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Holland: Trade might be best option for Howard, Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Pavel Datsyuk saga is front and center in the minds of Red Wings fans.

But what about Jimmy Howard?

As the Red Wings prepare for next week’s draft, and what is expected to a trading frenzy around the NHL, Howard’s future in the organization is a key question.

With Petr Mrazek’s emergence last season as the No.1 goaltender, Howard became expendable.

“I’ve considered it, but we’ll see what happens,” Howard said at the end of last season on the possibility he might have played his last game with the Red Wings. “(Being traded is) part of the business. A lot of people go through it. If that were to happen, it happens.

“It would be disappointing. I’ve met a lot of great people in this city. But that’s the nature of this business. Sometimes you have to pack up and move on.”

Mrazek is a restricted free agent and will get a substantial raise, likely in the $3 million-$4 million per season range.

But with Howard on the books for $5.3 million the next three seasons, finding a trade partner isn’t going to be easy for several reasons.

■There aren’t many teams looking for goaltending.

■The money and length of Howard’s contract aren’t easily digestible.

■There could be a flooded market for goaltenders — all with contract issues of their own — such as Ben Bishop (Lightning), Andrei Vasilevsky (Lightning), Marc-Andre Fleury (Penguins) and Frederik Andersen (Ducks).

■Teams with goaltenders worth trading want to get something for them rather than lose them in a possible expansion draft next offseason.

Howard finished 14-14-5 during the regular season, with a 2.80 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. He split time with Mrazek for most of the first half before Mrazek claimed the top spot with solid play in January.

Howard briefly reclaimed the starting job the final weeks of the regular season as Mrazek slumped.

Howard then started the first two games of the playoffs against the Lightning, losing both (3.59 GAA, .891 SVS), and ultimately the starting job to Mrazek — again.

“In the playoffs, you have to find a way to make more saves than the other guy at the other end (of the ice),” Howard said. “I wasn’t able to do that.”

Another season of largely watching likely wouldn’t appeal to Howard.

And, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has said a trade might be the best option for everybody.

“I can see on the one hand that having two goaltenders, it’s a nice luxury,” Holland said. “Certainly Jimmy Howard played an important role down the stretch in our team qualifying for the playoffs.

“It (a trade) might be good for some careers and good for the organization. I’ve thought about it lots.”

As for Datsyuk, he’s expected to meet with Holland today to discuss the center’s decision on whether to return to the Red Wings or leave for Russia.

Datsyuk is in town for his skill development camp at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s today.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan