Mrazek out to Prove Himself
Czech goaltender enjoys pressure of one-year contractby Michael Smith @MSmithCanes / CarolinaHurricanes.com
Petr Mrazek has something to prove.
The Czech goaltender signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes shortly after free agency opened on Sunday, July 1.
It's a relatively low-risk, high-reward signing for the Hurricanes, who rounded out their goaltending duo of Scott Darling and Mrazek for the 2018-19 season. For Mrazek, the one-year term is a chance to prove his worth in the NHL.
"It's something that puts me a little bit more under pressure," Mrazek said on a conference call. "That's something that I like to play under in the game, when there's more pressure on me."
"At 26 years of age, we felt there's still upside," President and General Manager Don Waddell said. "The age was a big factor for us. He's still a young player with a lot to prove, and he's determined to prove it."
Video: Petr Mrazek Conference Call
Mrazek is looking to rediscover peak form, when he was the primary starter for Detroit in the 2015-16 season. Then, he posted a 27-16-6 record, a 2.33 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage to help lead the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup playoff berth. In 11 career postseason games, Mrazek owns a 1.98 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and three shutouts.
Despite the dip in numbers since the 2015-16 season, particularly in Mrazek's 17-game stint with Philadelphia at the tail end of the 2017-18 season, the Hurricanes still see potential in the Czech netminder, who turned 26 not even five months ago.
MORE: CANES INK MRAZEK ON FIRST DAY OF FREE AGENCY
"Mike Bales spent a lot of time on this goalie, watching a lot of video … and talking to goalie coaches that he had. Mike came away with a great understanding of how he's played and how the last couple of years have gone for him," Waddell said. "Mike felt that he's not a guy who has a style that needs to be changed, but just has to work on it and tweak it some. He felt very comfortable with the skills Petr shows."
To his credit, Mrazek, who has a 2.66 goals-against average, a .911 save percentage and 14 shutouts over six career seasons, has already begun making some tweaks to his game.
"In the last few years I changed my style a little bit," he said. "I was moving in the net a little too much, going outside of the blue paint. I'm working on the stuff to be more patient in net and waiting on the shot. Last season I established that a little bit more, and that's something I'm working on right now in the offseason."
With the opportunity to prove himself comes the opportunity to vie for the crease with the Hurricanes. The Canes are hoping Scott Darling can rebound from an inconsistent first year with the team, and competition is going to drive both netminders in training camp.
"We have to go in with a very open mind. Competition is good," Waddell said. "Competition brings out the best in people. Nobody is going to be appointed the No. 1 job without going out and proving it."
Video: Don Waddell Free Agency Press Conference
"In Detroit when I shared the crease with Jimmy Howard, we were always pushing each other to be better on the ice and off the ice as a person, as well," Mrazek said. "I know Scott a little bit. I believe we can be a great tandem for Carolina."
Mrazek said Darling reached out via text on Sunday but the two didn't have much time to chat, since Mrazek was attending a friend's wedding in the Czech Republic. It had only been about 24 hours since the signing when Mrazek phoned in on a Monday conference call, so he had not yet spoken with fellow countryman Martin Necas, who is expected to play for the Hurricanes this season.
"It's nice to have someone in Carolina, Czech guys," Mrazek said. "I'm looking forward to helping him if he needs help. It's something in Detroit when I came from Europe, guys like … Jiri Hudler helped me a lot, so I'm looking forward to it."
Furthering his decision to sign with the Canes was the team's stout, young defensive corps.
"When you look at their D corps, you see big names and really good defensemen," Mrazek said. "Those defensemen are really, really good. We all know how good and important they are for Carolina. I think it's going to be easy [transition]."
The Hurricanes believe Mrazek can be a viable option in net. Now it's up to him to prove it.
"When I talked to Petr on the phone … he said, 'I want to go someplace on a one-year deal and prove that I'm the guy to be the No. 1 guy,'" Waddell said. "We got real comfortable that he was energized and excited about coming here to prove that he's a No. 1 guy."
"It's a great opportunity. That's something I was looking for this season, if there's going to be some opportunity to get the start in net and play as many games as I can," he said. "I was really, really excited and happy that Carolina gave me the chance."