This is the last in a three-part series looking at the Red Wings' position-by-position needs entering free agency. Today: Goaltenders
Detroit — Jimmy Howard has had a long, successful career with the Red Wings.
Howard’s 246 victories over 14 seasons ranks third all-time in the organization, as Howard held down the starting spot for many years.
But Howard is coming off a career-worst season.
At the age of 36 and being an unrestricted free agent, Howard doesn’t appear to be in the Wings’ plans going forward.
With Howard’s likely departure and goaltender Jonathan Bernier set to enter the last year of his contract, the Wings are likely to enter the free-agent market for a veteran goaltender.
The goaltender is someone who could form a formidable tandem with Bernier — and possibly take over as the starter if Bernier were to be traded at the deadline or if a contract extension isn’t offered or worked out next season.
While Howard struggled, Bernier had one of his best seasons during a terrible Wings campaign.
Bernier was 15-22-3 with a .907 save percentage and played some of his best hockey near the end of the paused season.
It’s expected the Wings will work to get a new contract worked out with Bernier, who rebounded from a disappointing first season with the Wings.
But another veteran is needed to stabilize the position, as there doesn’t appear to be anyone ready in the minor leagues.
Fortunately for the Wings, the free-agent market for goaltenders — whenever that free-agent market will be later this calendar year, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic — should be deep.
With the season paused, there is no certainty some of these goaltenders will re-sign with their present teams before free agency arrives.
But there are more than a few options.
Here are some potential unrestricted free-agent goaltenders who could interest the Wings:
Braden Holtby, Washington
2019-20 stats: 25-14-6 record, 3.11 goals-against average, .897 save percentage
Cap hit: $6.1 million
Analysis: Holtby, 30, is a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, but his play hasn’t been at that same caliber over the last two seasons (including this one). The Capitals appear comfortable letting Holtby walk, and it’ll be interesting where he lands. It may not be in Detroit, though, because Holtby might want a team closer to championship-caliber.
Anton Khudobin, Dallas
2019-20 stats: 16-8-4, 2.22 GAA, .930 SVS
Cap hit: $2.5 million
Analysis: Khudobin has had an outstanding season in Dallas, but the Stars are committed to Ben Bishop. Does Khudobin want to be a starter or is he content to be part of a tandem? Khudobin, 34, will be sought after and the Wings will be one of the teams interested.
Robin Lehner, Vegas
2019-20 stats: 19-10-5, 2.89 GAA, .920 SVS
Cap hit: $5 million
Analysis: Lehner was acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline and has only played three games for the Golden Knights. Vegas may want to keep him but has salary-cap issues. Lehner would be a good acquisition for the Wings, but the term and price will have to be worked on.
Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders
2019-20 stats: 16-9-4, 2.74 GAA, .913 SVS
Cap hit: $3.3 million
Analysis: Greiss, 34, has been a steady presence for the Islanders. But they’re bringing in a top prospect and still have Semyon Varlamov, so Greiss will be elsewhere. He’d be a good fit for the Wings.
Cam Talbot, Calgary
2019-20 stats: 12-10-1, 2.63 GAA, .919 SVS
Cap hit: $2.75 million
Analysis: Talbot resurrected his career with the Flames this season and, at times, outplayed starter David Rittich. At age 32, Talbot might be looking for a No. 1 gig but there won’t be many available.
Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver
2019-20 stats: 23-16-4, 2.75 GAA, .918 SVS
Cap hit: $3.66 million
Analysis: Markstrom has been one of the more underrated goaltenders in the NHL over the last couple seasons and wants to remain in Vancouver. It would be surprising if Markstrom, 30, hits the market.
Corey Crawford, Chicago
2019-20 stats: 16-20-3, 2.77 GAA, .917 SVS
Cap hit: $6 million
Analysis: Crawford has been a mainstay in Chicago, where he’s won two Stanley Cups, but he’s battled inconsistency and injuries lately. Still, Crawford will likely work out a deal with the Blackhawks.