Count Yahoo! Sports among those who found the Red Wings’ decision to protect goaltender Jimmy Howard over Petr Mrazek curious.
That the Wings elected to protect Howard over a younger (by eight years) Mrazek — who also happens to be more cap friendly — is one of the 12 biggest surprises to come out of the protected lists for Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, according to Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports.
In fact, Wyshynski called it “one of the biggest surprises of the day.”
“Did Mrazek play himself onto the unprotected list,” Wyshynski writes. “He had a (.901) save percentage in 50 games last season. The Red Wings opted to protect Jimmy Howard, who is eight years older, signed through 2019, has a $5.292 million cap hit and not nearly the potential upside of Mzarek.”
Mrazek, 25, had a 3.04 goals-against average, and was inconsistent with the Wings and with the Czech Republic in last month’s world championships. Howard, 33, meanwhile, had a 2.43 GAA with a .927 save percentage, but was limited to 26 games because of a knee injury.
“Unless the Wings really, really didn’t want to lose Xavier Ouellet because their blue line is so thin — or really, really don’t think Mrazek has the stuff of a starter — this doesn’t pass the logic test,” Wyshynski writes. “One assumes the Knights would flip him in a second if they select him. But maybe that’s the ultimate gamble: That the Knights won’t take him, given Fleury and the other goalies available.”
The Mrazek-Howard decision didn’t make ESPN’s list of biggest surprises, but the Chicago Blackhawks’ decision to hang on to former Red Wings forward Tomas Jurco did.
“Keeping Jurco hardly seemed like an obvious choice,” writes Tal Pinchevsky of ESPN, “especially considering the 24-year-old Slovakian barely played and rarely produced after being acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in February. Chicago clearly hasn’t given up on the great Jurco experiment, exposing reliable depth veterans Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins in the process.”
Jurco played 29 games last season, including 13 with the Blackhawks, registering one goal. He was a minus-12. His best season in Detroit was 2014-15, when he had 18 points (15 assists) in 63 games, and was a plus-6.