Jimmy Howard was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, 64th overall, of the 2003 NHL draft. Howard played two more seasons for the University of Maine, leading them to a Frozen Four Championship and setting NCAA records, before joining the Grand Rapids Griffins for the 2005-06 season. In Grand Rapids he had at least 21 wins per season and averaged a 2.66 GAA and a .911 SV%.
Wing fan were able to receive a taste of the future in his first professional season, as he played 4 games, posting 1 win and 2 losses for the Detroit Red Wings. Just before Jimmy’s first game in the NHL Steve Yzerman came up to him and said, “You better win this one” and Jimmy did just that. Over his next few seasons, Jimmy played primary in the AHL, but when a goalie was injured the Wings didn’t hesitate to call him up.
Howard received his break in 2009-10 when Ty Conklin was not re-signed and Chris Osgood was in his second to last season with the team. Jimmy immediately took over the starting job and posted 37 wins, a .924 SV%, and 2.26 GAA. Jimmy ended up losing out on the Calder Trophy, but that seems to always happen to the Red Wings.
Jimmy is in the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. When players enter their final year they usually have career years because they are playing for a pay raise, but this season has been an up and down one for Jimmy.
In Howard’s first 10 games, he posted a 5-4-1 record with a .896 SV% and a 2.87 GAA. I do not believe these numbers accurately describe how Jimmy played in these games though.
In the Red Wings first game of the season against the St. Louis Blues, the Wings were completely overpowered and Jimmy was given no support, but if someone said he was not pretty remarkable in net that game, they would be wrong. Jonas Gustavsson ended up replacing Jimmy, but it was a ploy to try and energize the team and rally behind their back-up.
Gustavsson injured his groin when he took over for Howard against St. Louis and the Red Wings were forced to ride Jimmy Howard into the ground, while waiting for Gustavsson to return from injury. The Red Wings ended up having to call up Petr Mrazek to give Howard a rest after letting in 11 goals in three games.
The rest was exactly what Jimmy needed. In his next two games he only let in 3 goals on 71 shots and was the main reason the Red Wings were able to beat the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers.
In his past 10 games, he posted a 6-2-2 record with a .939 SV% and a 1.57 GAA. These numbers reflect his play much better as he has kept the Red Wings in most of the games he has played.
Jimmy is an exceptional goaltender. He steps up his play in high pressure situations and is always there to make the big saves when needed. If you want proof just watch his save against John Mitchell on March 5th below.
With Jimmy Howard becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year the question becomes how much is he worth? Rumors have surfaced saying that he wants a 6-7 year deal worth 35-4o million dollars. This would put Jimmy’s cap hit between 5.7 and 5.8 million dollars, more than Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Wings have been very good at not overpaying for goaltenders and I think at that price Jimmy does not stay in Detroit. The Red Wing organization is probably looking to sign him to a 4 year deal, with a cap hit of 4-4.5 million dollars. If the Wings can bring Jimmy down to that price it gives Mrazek another season in the AHL to season himself and then the year after he would be ready to compete for the starting job against Howard.