Detroit – Petr Mrazek is in North America to get some business done before heading back to the Czech Republic to train for the 2016 World Cup, in September in Toronto.
And Mrazek said he is happy the business got done.
On Tuesday, he and the Red Wings avoided arbitration at the last moment, with Mrazek signing a two-year, $8 million deal.
“Yeah, really, really happy that it’s over and that I can be with the Red Wings for two more years,” said the presumed No. 1 goalie heading into next season, after he replaced Jimmy Howard in Game 3 of the five-game, first-round playoff elimination by the Lightning in April.
“You know, it’s Hockeytown. The team is great, so I’m more than happy to be back.”
With the team straddling the salary cap, despite the relief provided by players on long-term injured reserve, with three new acquisitions in free agency and while looking at young members of the roster and prospects in Grand Rapids, things have gotten a little tight.
One example was the Wings filing for arbitration, when Mrazek’s salary request reportedly came in toward the top of what starting goalies make in the NHL.
No fun sitting around a room hearing from your nominal bosses that you should not be paid as much as you think – and here is why, specifically.
GM Ken Holland said the Wings were pleased about avoiding any such contretemps, with Mrazek or any other player.
Mrazek liked the idea, too.
“It’s a business. I would say it has nothing to do with the personal stuff that you can hear in arbitration,” he said.
“I don’t think Ken wanted to go, as well.
“But we made the deal before the arb started.”
Asked if he wished him and his agent, Don Meehan, could have accomplished a longer deal, Mrazek asserted that he will still have an additional year at the end of this contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent with more control over his fate.
“Well, I still have three years to be a free agent, so I think a two-year deal is fair to both sides,” he said.
The average of $4 million per year puts Mrazek in sort of a second tier of pay for NHL starters in goal.
He said he has been working off-ice on conditioning and will hit the ice when he gets home, in advance of the international tournament set for Sept. 17 to Oct. 1.
As one of three netminders on roster for Team Czech Republic, along with Michal Neuvirth of the Flyers and Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets, Mrazek sounded excited.
Players always say they are motivated to play for their country and with their friends, as many of their teammates are players they knew when their young hockey careers developed.
As to who starts in net?
“We’ll see what’s going to happen,” he said. “We are three good goalies who play in the NHL. It’s going to be up to training camp, I would say.
“But if I play or not, it’s a team sport, it’s a team tournament. So, we’re going to try to do the best, whether I’m in the net or Michal or Ondrej. But I would love to be in the net, for sure.”
He certainly would love to play a lot, again, for the Wings this season. Mrazek appeared to have regained the No. 1 designation in the playoffs, after stumbling late in the season, amid some issues with his footwork and movement in the crease.
“I think every goaltender that is going through some bad games or a bad couple of weeks wants to take that off of his season and do the best job,” Mrazek said, about his quest for greater consistency.
“You know, I’m going to try to do the best I can and try so those things don’t happen to me anymore.”
As for whether he has a target for the number of games he wants to play, he said, as he often does, that the hockey during a long season has a way of working that all out.
“Every goalie wants to play as many games as he can, every goalie wants to play as many games as he can,” Mrazek said. “But the season is long and, as I always say, you never know what happens, you can get injuries or you can get some bad starts.
“So, you just have to work hard on the ice and off the ice and you have to put everything that you can into every game.”