DETROIT – The Red Wings have agreed on a one-year contract with Jonas Gustavsson, who will be expected to back up starting goalie Jimmy Howard for the 2014-15 season.
Coming off his best season in the NHL, Gustavsson posted a 16-5-4 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He also started the last two games of the Red Wings’ five-game series loss to Boston in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Gustavsson could have hit the open market once the NHL’s free agency period starts on July 1.
By bringing Gustavsson back, the Red Wings can afford to leave prospect Petr Mrazek in Grand Rapids where he will be able to continue progressing under the tutelage of Griffins coach Jeff Blashill in the American Hockey League.
“Gus gives us a one-two security punch with Jimmy Howard,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “He played fabulous for us. The only downside is he spent some time on IR with the groin.”
“This gives us the opportunity to have Petr Mrazek play lots of games in the AHL.”
The 29-year-old Gustavsson had voiced his desire to return to Detroit. While he had outstanding numbers, injuries once again plagued Gustavsson’s productivity. Last season, Gustavsson missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries that included a strained groin that cost him 18 games.
“You want to be out there to be able to be part of the team every day, every day of the season,” Gustavsson said on the day the Red Wings cleaned out their lockers in April. “As a team you need as many as you can out there for the long run, so that’s obviously something I’m going to keep working on, to prevent injuries like that. I felt like I found a way that was working for me at the end of the season so hopefully I can build on that.
“The groin felt really good for the second part of the season for the most part so that’s something I’m going to keep working on and that’s something I need for myself too because I want to be playing at a high level for a long time and I want to try to take the next step and that’s part of taking the next step.”
Gustavsson had a hot start to the season, winning his first three starts in October. He received the NHL’s First Star of the Week for wins over Boston, Columbus and Colorado. And only Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen (20), Minnesota’s Josh Harding (18), St. Louis’ Brian Elliott (18), and Boston’s Chad Johnson (17) won more games with 27 or fewer starts during 2013-14.
Though the temptation of exploring opportunities elsewhere existed, Gustavsson felt comfortable in returning to Detroit for a third season.
“I like it here,” he said. “I could absolutely see myself play here for 10-15 more years because I had a lot of fun and as I said a great group and a really good organization.”
PETERS MOVES ON: The Carolina Hurricanes announced last Thursday the hiring of Bill Peters as their new head coach.
Peters, 48, had served three seasons as an assistant coach under Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. Prior to joining the Red Wings in 2011, Peters gained head coaching experience with the University of Lethbridge, Spokane (WHL) and Rockford (AHL).
TOOTOO CLEARS: Veteran foward Jordin Tootoo cleared unconditional waivers last Thursday afternoon setting the stage for the Red Wings to use their second and final compliance buyout on the last year of his contract.
Tootoo, who played two seasons for the Red Wings' organization, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.