An early look at who the Detroit Red Wings should target in Free Agency

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12: Assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings Dan Bylsma plans out a strategy on his board against the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 12, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12: Assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings Dan Bylsma plans out a strategy on his board against the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on March 12, 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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A couple of players I was hoping the Detroit Red Wings would target last summer to share the net with Jimmy Howard were Carter Hutton who signed in Buffalo along with Robin Lehner who agreed to a deal with the Islanders.

The Wings decided to sign Jonathan Bernier to a three-year-deal with a 3 AAV.  Hutton is in his mid 30’s and wanted a more extended contract than the Wings would have tried to give him.  Although I wanted Hutton, it sort of makes sense with his age and the Wings being amid a rebuild.

The hope was Bernier would push Howard for the starting job but hasn’t performed even close to the franchise’s expectations.  I can’t see Bernier being here when the rebuild is completed, and the Wings are once again contenders.

Jimmy Howard was having a surprising season up until the trade deadline, that’s about when the wheels fell off.  I would urge the franchise to proceed with caution in regards to rushing to hand out a new contract for Jimmy Howard.  He’s 35-years-old, and it appears he may be on a downward slope and seems like he could struggle to regain his footing.

The Detroit Red Wings should entertain the idea of bringing in a new starting goaltender for next season.  I know Ken Holland and company have this extreme loyalty to individual players and Howard is undoubtedly one of those, but at some point, you need to cut the cord.

Robin Lehner is 27-years-old and plays with a fiery streak.  He can be a bit hot-headed, but that style has worked for others.  The first few that come to mind are Roy, Hasek, and Hextall.  Granted Lehner is nowhere near as talented as any of those players but has that nasty streak in him.

I wanted the Wings to bring in Lehner last year over Bernier.  The Wings thought better of it and made the wrong decision.  Lehner signed a 1-year-deal worth 1.5 million with the New York Islanders.  It was a “bet on myself” type of deal, and he will get paid.

Don’t overlook the system though; he definitely benefits by playing behind a Barry Trotz style of play.  Trotz brought the Islanders from dead last defensively last season to best in the NHL.  That is simply remarkable. Shoring up the defense helps give Lehner and Greiss in New York better-looking numbers.  But better numbers equal a better salary.

On the season Lehner is 20-11-5 with a terrific 2.19 GAA|0.927% save percentage.  Expect Lehner to command around 5 million per season for a minimum of four years.