Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard Is Expected to Battle

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 3: Goaltender Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings defends the net against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jimmy Howard
COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 3: Goaltender Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings defends the net against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 3, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jimmy Howard /

Jimmy Howard is expected to have a battle with Jonathan Bernier for the Detroit Red Wings starting net.  Howard is coming off of a shaky season, entering the final year of his contract, will look to fend off Bernier to remain the Wings starting netminder.

The Detroit Red Wings have signed an insurance policy for Jimmy Howard this offseason.  The Wings have signed a veteran back up goaltender Jonathan Bernier as healthy competition for Howard.  “Howie” struggled last season but in his defense, at times he didn’t have much help from his teammates.

It seems when Howard is in the zone playing well he can be a difference maker but when he is fighting the puck, and struggling to remain dialed in it often gets real ugly.  Two years ago Howard played well until the injury bug snuck up and bit him.  That season he was only able to play in 26 games, and his record doesn’t indicate how well he was playing.  His record was 10-11-1.  Although a below.500 record Howard posted an excellent .927 Save% and a respectable 2.10 GAA.  That suggests the team wasn’t very good, but the goaltending was steady.

Last season Jimmy Howard didn’t fare well by recording only a .910 Save%, which was near the worst of all starters league-wide.  Also posting a 2.85 GAA, not quite but nearly allowing one more goal a game than the previous season.

Howard who was once groomed in Grand Rapids, was expected to be the successor to Chris Osgood.  That is exactly what had happened.  Early on in Howard’s career, he was the back up to Chris Osgood before the roles would later be switched. In Howard’s first three seasons he posted win totals of 37,37,35 respectably.  Those wins came between the years of 09/10 to 11/12.   Howard hasn’t won more than 23 games in a season since.

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On the Detroit Red Wings all-time lists, Howard ranks around the top in many Red Wings goaltending categories although his limited success in recent seasons.  Howard ranks second in Red Wings history with 12787 total shots faced.  Chris Osgood has faced the most shots of all-time and Terry Sawchuk ranks third.

Jimmy Howard ranks fourth in Detroit Red Wings history with 24 career shutouts, two behind Harry Lumley and a mile behind Terry Sawchuk’s 85.  Howard ranks third in career save percentage in Red Wing history with .915 career save percentage which is behind Glenn Hall & Manny Legace.

The point is Howard isn’t a slouch, but at 34 years old it’s safe to say his best days are behind him.  Jimmy Howard may benefit from Jonathan Bernier coming into town, similar to when the hype mounted around Petr Mrazek a couple of seasons ago, Howard benefitted from that competition.  Howard is going into the final season of his long-term deal set to make 5.25 million this season.

Detroit has a problem for the immediate future in goal,  although drafting a couple of young goalies mid & late rounds this past draft, either are anywhere but close to the NHL.  Detroit has no one in Grand Rapids groomed like they thought they had with Petr Mrazek.  Jared Coreau had some potential but landed face first last season when his opportunity arose.  Both of those goaltenders have moved on from the Detroit Red Wings organization.

Although we would have considered other options this free agency rather than a 3×3 deal for Bernier, it makes some sense knowing the lack of organizational depth at that position.  It would have been in Detroit’s best interest to sign Carter Hutton to a three-year deal. Instead, Ken Holland clearly thought differently.  Robin Lehner would have been an excellent option on a one-year 1.5 million dollar deal again Holland had a different agenda.

Expect Jimmy Howard (34) and Jonathan Bernier (29) to play close to a 50/50 split in goal this up and coming season.  After Jimmy Howard plays out this season, we expect Ken Holland to reevaluate Howard’s worth, and he will likely be a candidate to re-sign with Detroit on a short-term deal for much, much, much less money.  Expect Howard to sign an extension for around 2.5 million per on a one or two year deal.

A two-year deal some people will shrug their shoulders and shake their heads about, but it makes a little sense.  Howard will want the insurance of a two-year deal at less money rather than a one-year deal.  Detroit as previously mentioned have no real goaltending depth past the NHL level; this buys Detroit three years from now with two veteran goalies during the rebuild.  The hope is; at minimum one or two prospects will be ready for an opportunity to play in three years time.

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The other option is Howard leaves Detroit at the end of this season to a team who is desperate for a goaltender and willing to overpay for a 35-year-old.  We just don’t see that math equation working.  The best case scenario is a playoff team is hampered with injuries around the time of the trade deadline later this season,  and is looking for a bridge goaltender or even an experienced back-up.  If no deadline trade arises, expect to settle in for the next few seasons of Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier between the pipes for Detroit.