Red Wings will move on from longtime goaltender Jimmy Howard
Detroit — The Wings will not bring back veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard.
General manager Steve Yzerman made the expected announcement official during his Zoom interview with the media Thursday, saying the Red Wings will not re-sign the unrestricted free agent.
"I've spoken with Jimmy Howard (and) we are not going to offer him a contract prior to the free agency period," Yzerman said. "We will look at the free agency market for a goaltender."
The Wings only have Jonathan Bernier, presently, on the NHL roster, with no viable backup options in Grand Rapids.
Howard, 36, enters the free agent market after a 2-23-2 season, with a 4.20 goals-against average and .882 save percentage.
Howard told The Detroit News in a postseason interview he felt it was likely his time with the Wings was over — the 2003 second-round pick spent 14 years with the Wings — but wasn't ready to retire. Howard hopes to play one or two more seasons.
Howard’s 246 career victories rank third among all Wings’ goalies and his 543 games played is the seventh-most among American goalies all-time.
Howard is a 2014 U.S. Olympian and a three-time NHL All-Star. He was also a Calder Trophy runner-up in 2010.
The Wings are likely to have options in the goaltending market.
There will be a deep pool of goaltenders available in free agency, with Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Corey Crawford (Chicago) and Braden Holtby (Washington) just a few of the veteran UFAs available.
Goalies such as Matt Murray (Pittsburgh) and Sergei Varlamov (N.Y. Islanders) could be available on the trade market.
"We have to wait until Oct. 9 to really get a good feel to where there’s a fit,” Yzerman said. “We’ll get a better idea next week.”
Yzerman said talks are ongoing with restricted free agent forwards Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi. Yzerman is hopeful of signing both soon.
Yzerman said decisions will have to be made in the next week whether to bring back restricted free agents such as defenseman Madison Bowey and forwards Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini and Dmytro Timashov.
"We've had discussions," said Yzerman, of negotiations with Bertuzzi and Mantha. "We don't have a contract in place with either player but we've had discussions.
"Next week qualifying offers for our restricted free agents are due, and we have to make decisions as to who we may qualify and don't qualify."
Free agent chatter
Yzerman said the Wings will be active in free agency but will be “conservative,” not likely getting into too many long-term contract commitments.
Unrestricted free agency begins Oct. 9. The Wings could add a defenseman and forward, along with a goaltender, to fortify the roster.
Yzerman said he could be interested in making a long-term contract offer to a free agent if the fit is right in terms of length and annual salary.
Happy for Tampa
Yzerman was pleased to see the former team he managed, the Tampa Bay Lightning, win the Stanley Cup on Monday, though he didn’t view it as self-satisfaction.
“Self-satisfaction is not the right word. I enjoyed watching the playoffs, enjoyed watching Tampa. They’re a good, entertaining team,” Yzerman said. “A lot of the players and staff, the owner, they’re friends and I had a great working relationship with them. I was very happy to see them win.
“They’ve been close a number of years now. I was real pleased for Tampa and the entire organization."
Yzerman spent nine years as the Lightning's general manager — and consultant in the final season — before returning to Detroit in April 2019.
The Red Wings have prospects such as Filip Zadina, Moritz Seider and Michael Rasmussen, among others, in Europe, where the hockey season is underway.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the NHL and American League seasons — not knowing when they'll begin, and if it'll begin in terms of the AHL — Yzerman said some of the young players could be staying in Europe throughout the season to gain experience.
"We're not opposed to our players going there and playing there the entire season," Yzerman said. "Under these circumstances, and depending on where and what league they're in, it might make sense for them to stay the year."
...Yzerman is confident the Wings — and the six other teams who didn't participate in the league's restart — will get to begin training camp a bit earlier than the other 24 teams.
The Wings haven't played or been together as a team since March 12 when the NHL season was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Most analysts feel the NHL regular season will begin after Jan. 1, meaning training camp would likely begin around mid-December.