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Goalie understands Wings could make trade

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Jimmy Howard, who posted a 14-14-5 record, started 37 games this season, the fewest since joining the Red Wings full time in 2009-10. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT -- The Red Wings will make changes this offseason and goaltender Jimmy Howard knows he might be one of them.

Howard, 32, has been with the organization since the Wings drafted him in the second round, 64th overall, of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Yet the emergence of young goaltender Petr Mrazek and Howard's own inconsistent play could spell the end of Howard's time in Detroit, a fact he acknowledged when the Wings cleaned out their lockers this past Monday.

Howard was asked if he would be OK if he were traded in the offseason.

"It’s part of the business," Howard said. "A lot of times a lot of people go through it in this business. If that were to happen, it happens."

That doesn't mean that Howard wants to leave or that he wouldn't miss Detroit.

"It would be disappointing," Howard said. "I’ve met a lot of great people in this city, made a lot of great friends. That’s the nature of this business. Sometimes you got to pack up and move on."

Howard and Mrazek started out the season on equal footing, mostly splitting time in the first few months of the regular season.

Howard was 2-2-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in five starts in October and 4-2-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in six starts in November.

But in December, Howard fell to 1-1-3 with a 3.22 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in six starts.

Meanwhile, Mrazek started to heat up and made all but two starts in January, going 7-1-1 with a 1.32 goals-against average and .952 save percentage.

"That was more so on me, having the one bad game there against New Jersey and then Winnipeg and Petr was playing hot and (they) decided to go with the hot hand," Howard said. "For me, it’s just controlling what I can control and that’s myself."

Howard worked tirelessly with goaltending coach Jim Bedard to get back on track and started to come around in late February, making 29 of 30 saves in a 1-0 overtime loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Feb. 21 and then stopping 39 of 41 shots in a 3-2 victory in Dallas Feb. 29.

When March rolled around and the Wings were fighting to make the playoffs, Mrazek suffered a setback, going 3-5-0 with a 3.72 goals-against average and .884 save percentage.

Howard had to come on in relief of Mrazek in several games and ended up going 3-3-0 with a 3.18 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in March, then went 3-2-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in five starts in April.

Howard started the first two games of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, going 0-2 with a 3.59 goals-against average and .891 save percentage.

"In the playoffs you gotta find a way to make more saves than the guy at the other end and I wasn’t able to do that," Howard said.

Mrazek was 1-2 with a 1.36 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in the final three games against the Lightning.

Goaltending wasn't the Wings' only issue. They often had trouble scoring, especially on the power play.

But Howard said he still believes the Wings can be successful.

"I don’t think it’s anything too drastic," Howard said. "I think it can come within this room but it’s something where you want to still be playing at this time of year.  You don’t want to be doing this and having your exit interviews and physicals and all that."

There is a financial reality as well as the Wings try to improve in the salary cap era.

Howard's contract is for three more years at an annual salary of $5,291,667.

Mrazek, 24, is a restricted free agent and the Wings will have to pay him quite a bit more than the $737,500 he made this past season.

"Obviously I’ve got to meet with Petr and his representatives here and get him signed," general manager Ken Holland said. "I’ve got my ideas of what the next deal should be and they’ve got their ideas and we’ve got to find a solution in the middle."

Holland called having two NHL-caliber goaltenders a "nice luxury."

"Certainly Jimmy Howard played an important role down the stretch in us qualifying for the playoffs when Petr hit the wall a little bit," Holland said. "But certainly I could also see if things could work out better by a trade. It might good for some careers and good for the organization. I’ve thought about it lots. That’s what I’m paid for. I’m going to get to the draft and I’m going to talk to a lot of people and see what’s out there."

That might mean that Howard has played his last game as a Red Wing.

"I haven’t given it too much thought as to what’s going to happen or what my future is," Howard said. "I’m just enjoying the last several days with my family. We’ll wait and see what happens."

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