Mrazek’s stellar play ramps up trade speculation
Detroit — The goaltending trade market around the NHL is beginning to open up, and suddenly a few goalies could be in demand.
Would Petr Mrazek be one of those that could intrigue a team like the Philadelphia Flyers or Calgary Flames or New York Islanders?
If Mrazek continues to play as he did Saturday in Nashville, stopping 31 shots in a 3-1 win over Nashville, you’d have to believe so.
“Pete did a good job, he made big saves at big moments,” said coach Jeff Blashill of Mrazek’s outing. “He fought through traffic real well. You have to have elite goaltending in this league and he gave us that (Saturday).”
Mrazek’s name has frequently come up in trade discussions the last year, or two, but the timing never seemed quite right.
Maybe, just maybe, that could be changing with the Feb. 26 trade deadline rapidly approaching.
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Both the Flyers and Flames, specifically, have been hit hard by injuries in the goaltending department.
Philadelphia lost Michal Neuvirth (lower body) Sunday, after having already lost Brian Elliott (lower body) to surgery earlier in the week.
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall was adamant he wouldn’t be shopping for a goaltender after Elliott was hurt, but likely will have to change his mind now that Neuvirth could be out for an extended period.
Calgary’s Mike Smith (lower body) is another goalie who could be out for a period of time, and with the Flames desperately in need of points.
Mrazek could be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 if he isn’t qualified for his $4 million salary — which the Red Wings probably wouldn’t do at this juncture.
Mrazek has played his best hockey during the last several weeks, which could interest a team looking to secure a playoff spot.
“Confidence is a huge thing for any player and certainly goalies,” Blashill said. “It’s exasperating when he’s on his game. When you’re confident, you get bigger in the net for whatever reason. You play a little bigger.
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“His depth management is good. He doesn’t get too far out or back. He’s not out of control. Pucks just seem to stick to him a little more.
“His feet were set. (On one save), he made a little shuffle over and just leaned into the puck. He didn’t have to reach for it. He had taken that little stutter step with his feet. That’s a change in his game that he’s worked on for over a year, a little goaltending thing that you wouldn’t necessarily notice.
“When I saw that I was excited. It just said he’s continuing to get better.”
If not Mrazek, the Red Wings could also entice a team about Jimmy Howard, who has a year left on his contract ($5.3 million), but has provided the Red Wings with stability in net for a large part of this season.
Luke Witkowski provided a boost for the Red Wings Saturday with a breakaway goal — the first goal in his career — but Blashill was fond of another play.
Witkowski made a big hit on Nashville defenseman Roman Josi that changed the game, in Blashill’s estimation.
“The breakaway was awesome, and watching it back, things worked out well for us,” Blashill said. “Dales (Trevor Daley) got hurt a little bit, there was just a lucky sequence of events a little bit, but he had a good finish on it.
“The hit on Roman Josi, that was a huge hit early in the game on arguably their best player. That’s a big thing that goes unnoticed. If you’ve been hit before, you don’t want to get hit again and it makes you think twice.”
Mike Green (upper body) was not available, said Blashill, and missed a second consecutive game.