Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard on the Verge of Long-term Extension
Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers makes a move around Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings on March 15 2013 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)
Earlier this week, MLive.com reported that the Detroit Red Wings and all-star goaltender Jimmy Howard are nearing a deal that would keep Howard in the winged wheel for six to seven years. The contract would average approximately $5 million per year. The story has since been picked up by several news outlets, including NHL Network.
Howard was excellent in Edmonton again on Friday. For the first two periods, he was the sole reason Detroit stayed within two goals of the Edmonton Oilers. He made several spectacular saves including one notable stop against each of Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky.
Friday night’s game in Edmonton was not a fluke. Howard has been superb all season. Howard is tied for fourth in the NHL with 11 wins. He is 11-7-4 despite facing the eighth most shots (640) this season. While his .916 save percentage and 2.44 goals against average do not rank Howard in the top 10 in the NHL, he has been the most important piece in the post-Lidstrom Detroit defense.
The Red Wings drafted Howard 64th overall in the second round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The upstate New York native matured in the United States National Team Development Program before a sensational three-year career at the University of Maine.
In 2003-2004, the Black Bears rode Howard to the Championship game of the Frozen Four after he was named the Hockey East Tournament MVP. Despite losing to Denver 1-0, Howard established himself as an elite goaltending prospect. He posted a 14-4-3 record, an impeccable .956 save percentage, and a paltry 1.19 goals against average. Howard also earned six shutouts.
Howard’s 2003-2004 save percentage and goals against average still stand as the single season record in NCAA hockey ahead of fellow American and the Buffalo Sabres’ all-star goaltender Ryan Miller, who made the top-25 three times in both categories during his three years at Michigan State University. Current St. Louis Blue Brian Elliot made both lists one time with the University of Wisconsin.
After his career at Maine, Howard played for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s minor league affiliate, in the American Hockey League for portions of four seasons only getting into nine games with the big club. Howard started his professional career in 2005-2006.
Howard was an astounding 27-6-2 and backstopped the Griffins to a franchise record 12 straight wins. He posted a .910 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average and became the first Griffin to be named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team.
In four games with the big club, Howard went 1-2 with a save percentage of .904 and goals against average of 2.99.
In 2006-2007, Howard played in more games for a weaker Grand Rapids team. He went 21-21-3 but still managed a .911 save percentage and 2.70 goals against average. In 2007-2008, Howard took on even more of the goaltending load for a non-playoff Griffins team. He was 21-28-2 with a .907 save percentage and 2.83 goals against average.
In 2007-2008, Howard again played four games for the big club. He did not record a win, but his save percentage and goals against average were excellent at .926 and 2.13, respectively.
In his last season with Grand Rapids in 2008-2009, Howard’s record was 21-18-4. His .916 save percentage and 2.54 goals against average helped to return the Griffins to the playoffs. Grand Rapids has not made it to the AHL playoffs since. For the third time in four seasons in the AHL, Howard played at least 45 games. Unfortunately, Howard flopped in his only appearance with Detroit.
In his four seasons with Grand Rapids, Howard posted 14 shutouts.
In 2009-2010, Howard took over as Detroit’s starting goalie and has steadily matured into one of the NHL’s best goaltenders. In his first season, he finished second in the Calder Trophy race based on his remarkable .924 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average, which both ranked in the top five in the NHL.
Howard’s career record is a sterling 121-61-23. He has posted 13 shutouts, including two this season. He has a .917 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average in his NHL career.
Howard’s playoff record is a shakier 13-15 with one shutout, though his save percentage (.915) and goals against average (2.63) are not far off his regular season statistics. In fact, his record is more indicative of a Red Wings team that has been bounced from the playoffs in the first two rounds each of the last three seasons.
Howard currently makes $2.25 million. This season has certainly been Howard’s greatest test with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart. Despite the uncertainty on Detroit’s blue line, Howard has once again posted statistics that establish him as one of the better goaltenders in the NHL.
A long-term contract is a risky move for any NHL team. A long-term contract for a goalie is even riskier even when a goalie has been relatively healthy throughout his career. The Chicago Blackhawks know the downside of a long-term goaltender contract all too well as Cristobal Huet finished his contract, which carried a cap hit of $5.625 million, playing overseas.
Pekka Rinne is currently the highest paid goalie at $7 million this season, though fellow American goaltender Jonathan Quick will begin his new 10-year contract next season and will make $7 million.
Miikka Kiprusoff is the tenth highest paid goalie at $5 million in 2012-2013. The rest of the top ten includes Henrik Lundquist, Roberto Luongo, Ilya Bryzgalov, Cam Ward, Ryan Miller, Niklas Backstrom, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Carey Price. Only Backstrom is a free agent next season. All are in the midst of long-term contracts.
Howard is a better option in net than several of the top paid goaltenders. Under the collective bargaining agreement signed this January, Detroit can sign Howard to an extension of up to eight years.
A six to seven year pact of $30 million to $40 million would be an excellent contract for both Howard and Detroit.
On Saturday, Detroit plays the Vancouver Canucks. Howard will be back between the pipes against one of the highest paid goaltenders, Luongo. The Red Wings ventilated Luongo in the last match-up scoring eight goals.
No matter the outcome of the game, Vancouver will undoubtedly be envious when Detroit re-signs Howard. Luongo has rebounded this season, but his 12-year, $64 million contract has not attracted many suitors since he has been rumored to be on the trading block.
Statistics and other information obtained at www.mlive.com, www.nhl.com, and www.nhlnumbers.com.
Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq. He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com. Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys