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Red Wings turn page on Mrazek with trade to Flyers

Detroit sends away former goalie of future for draft picks

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

DETROIT -- Petr Mrazek was supposed to be the goaltender of the future for the Detroit Red Wings when he signed a two-year contract on July 27, 2016.

"The thought, the plan, the hope," general manager Ken Holland said Tuesday, "was that he was going to take this team over and play 60 games a year and we were going to go in that direction."

So what happened? Why did the Red Wings trade Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 draft while retaining half his salary?

The quick answer is that Mrazek was a restricted free agent, and Holland said the Red Wings would have had to make him a qualifying offer of $4 million to retain his rights.


[RELATED: Mrazek traded to Flyers by Red WingsMrazek happy to join Flyers in trade]


They wanted to get something for him before the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, which is 3 p.m. on Feb. 26.

"My mindset isn't so much about '17-18 and maybe '18-19," Holland said. "It's about '19 and '20, and it's trying to acquire assets that I'm hoping can impact this team down the road. That's what motivated me to do this deal."

But Mrazek is 26 and talented, capable of runs like the one he's on -- 6-3-2 with a .924 save percentage in his past 12 games. Why wasn't he an asset that could impact this team down the road? Why did the Red Wings feel he wasn't worth a $4 million qualifying offer? Why did they trade him while keeping Jimmy Howard, who turns 34 on March 26?

Because of his inconsistency and the Red Wings' meritocracy.

The Red Wings selected Mrazek in the fifth round (No. 141) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He helped Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League win the Calder Cup in 2012-13 under current Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, a reason Blashill called to wish him well after the trade.

Video: What are your thoughts on the Mrazek trade?

He went 16-9-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .918 save percentage for the Red Wings in 2014-15, then 27-16-6 with a 2.33 GAA and .921 save percentage in 2015-16. He was lauded for his swagger, and landed that contract.

But he stumbled down the stretch in 2015-16, going 5-6-1 with an .893 save percentage in his last 15 games. He went 18-21-9 with a 3.04 goals-against and .901 save percentage last season.

Holland hinted there was more than met the eye when asked why Mrazek wasn't more consistent. Amid a long answer, he said: "There's a coaching staff there. Certainly, I've got ideas. Sometimes there's things that I think about certain situations I can't tell you people. I don't think it's fair to all the people involved."

We don't know whole story, including Mrazek's side. But we do know that the coaches wanted him to work on his technique, so he could rely on his structure and not just his athleticism.

"I think Pete had lots of success on his way up to the NHL [with] being a competitor and his moxie, and I think as his years here went along, I think he realized he had to work on his technique and really work at making that better," Blashill said.

We also know that the Red Wings have a long-standing philosophy against handing ice time to younger players.

"I don't believe in entitlement," Holland said.

Video: The crew discuss the Flyers trade for Mrazek and more

The Red Wings exposed Mrazek, instead of Howard, in the NHL Expansion Draft. The Vegas Golden Knights could have selected him for themselves or flip him to another team. They passed.

Mrazek worked on his technique in the offseason, knowing he would have to compete with Howard.

"On the ice, I think I was moving too much; I was all over the place," Mrazek said. "I tried to stay in the blue paint more and stay patient. ... Off the ice, I worked with my fitness coach for nine years now. I think we finally find a way to get ready and to be prepared for everything, like, mentally and physically."

Howard played 34 of the first 40 games this season, going 14-12-6 with a .916 save percentage, while Mrazek played 11, going 3-4-1 with an .892 save percentage.

"I came to camp ready to play," Mrazek said. "I didn't play much first half of the season, and I think it was tough for me to find a game when I played once in two weeks, once in three weeks."

Video: Flyers acquire goalie Petr Mrazek from the Red Wings

Holland had to make a decision, and he told Mrazek a couple of months ago if he had a good opportunity, he would trade him, according to Mrazek. That opportunity came when Mrazek got hot and the Flyers had injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth.

"Obviously there's not a lot of teams looking for goalies," Holland said.

At least the Red Wings got something for Mrazek. They have a No. 1 in Jimmy Howard and a backup in Jared Coreau, 26, who helped Grand Rapids win the Calder Cup last season and is the AHL Player of the Week, coming off back-to-back shutouts of Manitoba, the league's top offensive team. But none of their prospects is close to making the NHL.

Now that Mrazek is a goaltender of the past, who is their goaltender of the future? Staff Writer Adam Kimelman contributed.

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