– While the Red Wings likely won’t make a move to acquire a player before today’s NHL trade deadline, they did make a move to keep a key piece of their puzzle for the future.
Monday, the team announced that goaltender Jimmy Howard
has received a two-year contract extension. According to general manager Ken Holland, the new deal is worth $2.25 million per season.
Howard, who leads the NHL in wins this season with a 30-12-3 record, would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“He’s a workhorse,” said Holland in a phone interview from Los Angeles where the Wings are set to play the Kings tonight at Staples Center.
Last season, Howard, 27, became only the fourth Red Wings’ rookie to record 30-or-more victories in his freshmen season, joining Terry Sawchuk, Roger Crozier and Glenn Hall. Behind 37 wins and a 2.26 goals-against average, Howard was the runner-up to the Calder Trophy, which was eventually won by Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers.
“He had a tremendous year last year,” Holland said. “He’s really just coming into his prime. We’ve developed him and watched him grow since he was 19-years-old, and we like him, and that he has the ability to grow even more as a goaltender.”
This season, Howard has a slightly higher GAA (2.79), but much of that can be pinned on the team’s bout with injuries in the middle of the season, Holland said.
“I think he had a great season going this year until the middle of December, until the wheels started to fall off with all of the injuries,” he said. “We haven’t played as well defensively, and I think Jimmy’s stats reflect that. But he’s a guy who wins games.”
Signing Howard now, rather then waiting, was a priority, Holland said.
“Last thing we wanted to do with a young goaltender was to negotiate right up until playoff time,” he said. “Yesterday we finalized this and now there are no distractions, and for us it’s good for planning. We have a guy in goal going into the ’11-12 season. We know what we’ve got. We like what we’ve got. And it’s a workable cap number for us, because we want to keep our pieces together.”
Getting Howard under contract is a help considering the number of Wings that potentially can become free agents this summer. However, many are veterans – Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Jonathan Ericsson
, Patrick Eaves
, Drew Miller
and Chris Osgood – who Holland likely won’t begin to negotiate with until after the season.
“In the case of some of the older guys I’m not really going to worry about until the end of the season,” Holland said. “In a lot of case, the first choice – by a country mile – is to stay in Detroit.
As for Monday’s trade deadline, the Wings are quite content with standing pat with their current roster.
“I think it’s highly unlikely that we’ll do something, for a number of reasons,” Holland said. “First off, the team has played at a high level. We have the third-most points in the league and the first or second best road record in the league. We’re starting to get people healthy, but we made a plan last summer that we were going to spend much of our cap space and hope that the team would play at a high level and that we wouldn’t have to be active at the trade deadline.”