In her most recent mailbag segment for the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Red Wings insider Helene St. James addressed an interest question from reader Chris Garcia, in which Garcia wonders how the team’s signing of goaltender Jonathan Bernier affects the future of starter Jimmy Howard.
Howard, of course, fended off youngster Petr Mrazek the past two seasons, but with a bonafide NHL starter in Bernier now in the fold, is Howard now expendable? Here’s Garcia’s question:
Does the signing of Bernier pretty much solidify the fact that Howard is going to be shopped at the NHL trade deadline?
And here’s St. James’ take on the matter:
Howard, 34, is entering the last year of a five-year contract with a $5.3 million salary cap hit. If he has a good season, he’s likely to get an extension in the two-year range, for less money. The Wings committed three years at $3 million annual cap hit to Bernier, 30, but they don’t have anybody in the system on the horizon to step in as his backup.
If a decent offer materializes for Howard near the deadline, the Wings could move him and then look at bringing him back. The Wings know what they have in Howard, they like him, and he’s played well for them the past two years.
If the Wings are indeed out of the playoff race by the deadline, and most analysts believe they will be, there’s no doubt that Howard would become an intriguing option for teams. You can never predict injury, but there’s always at least one playoff team on shaky ground due to an injured or underperforming goaltender. If a reliable veteran like Howard is available for a reasonable cost, why not make a move?
As St. James points out, the Red Wings also have the option of bringing Howard back via free agency, assuming he doesn’t ink a deal with another club. The 34 year old Howard has played the entirety of his NHL career with the Red Wings organization.
At this point it’s all speculation and food for thought, but expect the rumors surrounding Howard to continue throughout this season up until the deadline.