DETROIT – The Red Wings and goalie Petr Mrazek avoided salary arbitration this week when the two sides struck an 11th hour deal minutes before the scheduled hearing was to begin Wednesday morning in Toronto.
“I don’t want to say I was surprised. It’s a business,” said Mrazek, in an exclusive phone interview from Toronto. “When it goes to arbitration it can be a little bit of personal things, but how I say, it’s all business. It could happen but you know, I respect (general manager Ken Holland), he gave me the chance in the NHL, so I wouldn’t take it personally if that happened. But it makes me happy that we ended up making a deal before.”
Mrazek and the Wings agreed on a two-year contract worth $8 million, which is still less than the nearly $5.3 million that Jimmy Howard is expected to receive in each of the next three seasons.
The Red Wings filed for arbitration in July after Mrazek wouldn’t budge from his $10 million demand for the next two campaigns. It’s reported that the Wings countered with $2.7 million per season followed by an offer of $3.15 million per season.
For Mrazek, 24, the off-season salary negotiations were a learning experience.
“It was the first time we talked about a one-way long-term deal, like two years, but my only one-way deal was one year before so it was a good experience,” he said. “I’m happy that we made a deal before the arbitration.”
Last season Mrazek pushed his way ahead of Howard to become the team’s No. 1 goaltender. Some speed bumps in his performance derailed him along the way causing him to lose that starting gig. But he managed to regain it in the playoffs.
It’s likely that Mrazek would have avoided arbitration altogether if he wouldn’t have seen a dip in his productivity, but the Czech goalie doesn’t see it that way.
“No, why would I look at something in the back?” he said. “If I didn’t play well all season long than maybe we wouldn’t even talk about contract that I have right now. There’s nothing to look back on. I’m just looking forward.”
In 94 career regular-season games, Mrazek has posted a 46-30-8 record with a 2.29 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and nine shutouts. While his numbers are good, he’d feel better if he had a playoff-series win to show for it.
“When I played my first game in the NHL three or four years ago and now I have 100 games with the playoffs it’s great,” he said. “Hopefully it will be more and more games for me in the season and everything is gonna go well.”
In the past two springs, the Wings have been eliminated in first-round losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In 10 of those games, Mrazek is 4-6 with a 1.88 GAA.
“The No. 1 thing now is we have to make the playoffs,” Mrazek said. “That’s the hardest part. You know how the standings get tight and anybody can beat anybody. So just the No. 1 thing is to make the playoffs. The playoffs have been a bit disappointing for us the last two seasons against Tampa. Hope it’s not gonna happen again and we’re gonna have a good chance next year to bring the Cup back to Detroit.”
Mrazek has a flight scheduled tonight to return to his home in the Czech Republic, where he will begin preparation for the upcoming season as well as the World Cup of Hockey this September in Toronto.
“Yeah, (the season) it starts out different,” he said. “We start early with training camp starting on September 3rd or 4th in Prague for the Czech Republic. So it’s a little different but I didn’t change anything in the summer. The same workout with my fitness coach as we’d done for the last couple of years. We’ll head to the ice soon so I’m pretty ready for it and excited.”
Mrazek is among nine Red Wings who will complete for six different teams in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
“Yeah, those games will be high intensity,’ said Mrazek of the international games set to begin Sept. 17. “I think we have three preseason games, three tournament games that everybody is gonna play 100 percent. Then the tournament starts and we have Canada, the U.S. and Europe, so those games are gonna be great games for like our preseason games for the NHL.”
Mrazek will be joined by Justin Abdelkader (USA), Dylan Larkin (North America), Alexey Marchenko (Russia), Tomas Tatar, Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek (Europe), and Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall (Sweden).