Welcome to the conclusion of this expansion summer series on Last Word On Hockey. In preparation for the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21st, LWOH’s Detroit Red Wings Department has be going in depth on every Wing that is eligible to be picked by the newest NHL squad, the Vegas Golden Knights, who will begin play in the fall. The team will likely follow the seven forward, three defensemen, and one goalie format of protecting players. This series has also followed that format. For a brush-up on the expansion draft rules, click this link. Without further adieu, we will end this series with the last spot available overall on Ken Holland‘s expansion draft list, the goalie spot.
For the sake of relevance, Edward Pasquale, an unrestricted free agent, will be left off this evaluation being a full-time AHL player and likely gone with the signing of Matej Machovsky. The evaluation will start with rookie Jared Coreau.
Goaltender, Catches Left
6’6″, 220 lbs
Age: 26 (This November 5th)
Cap hit: $612,500 million, One Year Remaining
Coreau did not have the greatest beginning to an NHL goaltending career with Detroit this season in 14 starts posting a 3.46 goals against average and .887 save percentage, but the team in front of him did no favors in protecting him. Undrafted, Coreau fits the bill for today’s tall goaltender in the NHL and has had a nice three-year string of success in the AHL. Posting a .922 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average in 105 appearances racking up 64 wins, Coreau has skyrocketed to the top spot on the Red Wings goaltending farm. Currently, he’s a win away from leading the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup this season and may earn a back-up spot depending on what the Red Wings do with their two goalies at the next level. Still an unproven NHL goaltender, he should be safe from Vegas as the organization has a bigger situation to deal with at the NHL level between the pipes.
Goaltender, Catches Left
6’1″, 218 lbs
Age: 33 (This Past March 26th)
Cap hit: $5.3 million, Two Years Remaining
The clock is ticking. After a misinterpretation of a radio interview with Griffins play-by-play man Bob Kaser speculated a plan to trade Petr Mrazek, Holland shut it down and told mLive he’s “working the phones.” Howard seemed to be on the decline before this season, posting a .909 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average in 133 starts the past three seasons. It was a far-cry from his previous four years, as in three of those he posted at least a .920 save percentage in each with his highest goals against average being 2.26.
Rekindling some of that magic this season, Howard albeit in limited playing time, dazzled with his best hockey since the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, posting the best goals against average (2.10) and save percentage (.927) of his career to this point minimum 20 starts (24). Could new goalie coach Jeff Salajko have his fingerprints all over it? Possibly, as Howard looked as confident as ever this year. However, like last campaign his durability took a hit as he missed nearly three months between starts with a knee injury and went through a setback in Grand Rapids. In his final nine starts, however, he posted a .916 save percentage and allowed two goals of fewer in six of those, showing little rust.
Still, if the Wings cannot find a partner for Howard before the expansion draft, they should not use their protection on him with the chance of getting his cap hit off the books. Though he enjoyed a renaissance this campaign, the age and durability factor over the past two seasons stick out and it’s highly unlikely Mrazek would be passed on by the Golden Knights at his ripe age.
Plus, even if he’s not taken there’s always the NHL Draft and the rest of the summer to get something done. Spitballing here, but the Calgary Flames have two unrestricted free agent goaltenders, and the Philadelphia Flyers may move on from Steve Mason. Calgary had interest last summer and it will be interesting to see if they move on from Brian Elliott. The team will need to make a financial move regardless if they want to get Tomas Tatar, Andreas Athanasiou and Xavier Ouellet re-signed this offseason.
Goaltender, Catches Left
6’2″, 183 lbs
Age: 25 (This Past February 14th)
Cap hit: $4 million, One Year Remaining
Jekyll and Hyde are two names that come up with Mrazek when comparing his numbers from 2014-15 to the first half of the 2015-16 season with the second half of that campaign to the end of the 2016-17 season. The Jekyll side saw him rise to an elite status posting a .922 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average through January 25th, 2016, in a 62-appearance span. The Hyde portion, excluding an 8-save scoreless relief appearance on April 7th, has seen him dip dramatically to an .894 save percentage and 2.80 goals against average since the beginning of February 2016, a 70-appearance span. He’s lost the starter’s job to Howard and at times this season Coreau. While this is alarming, the trigger should not be pulled on dealing him or leaving him exposed in favor of Howard.
Another Original Six team had a goaltender that they were high on, as he was drafted fifth overall, a risky pick for net minders. From his second to third seasons in the league, he posted a .909 save percentage and 2.80 goals against in 93 appearances. Another goaltender from an expansion team, un-drafted, posted a .907 save percentage and 2.81 goals against average in his first two years (83 appearances). Both have won Vezina trophies and may win another this season. If you haven’t guessed already, the first was Carey Price, and the other was Sergei Bobrovsky.
The latter was traded from Philadelphia to Columbus and they’re currently weak in net now. This isn’t implying Mrazek will win a Vezina in his career, rather stressing that it takes time, even for the best netminders. He’s still quite young with just two full seasons under his belt not even considered the true bonafide starter with Howard around. The best thing to do is keep him and officially commit to him as the goaltender of the future with a protection and figure out what to do with Howard, similarly to how the Tampa Bay Lightning have committed to Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Final Protection List
Justin Abdelkader (May 27th)
Niklas Kronwall (May 29th)
Darren Helm (May 30th)
Danny DeKeyser (May 31st)
Jonathan Ericsson (June 2nd)
Advanced stats courtesy of Puckalytics.