For years, the Detroit Red Wings’ approach to goaltending was affordability and stability. By signing goalie Jimmy Howard for six years and $31.8 million, they’ve attained the latter; for $31.8 million, the jury’s out on the former.
Howard, 29, and the Wings agreed on his new 6-year deal, with an average annual cap hit of $5.3 million, according to TSN. That’s less than what the Los Angeles Kings’ cap hit for 27-year-old Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million) and the Philadelphia Flyers’ hit for 32-year-old Ilya Bryzgalov ($5.667 million).
Howard has a .917 save percentage and a 2.41 GAA in his first post-Nicklas Lidstrom season with Detroit. Those numbers are identical to his current career marks; he also have 126 wins in 225 games played.
From USA Today, Coach Mike Babcock said:
"I think it's a great deal," coach Mike Babcock said of Howard's long-term future with the team. "Obviously, he's always worked hard and the organization has confidence in him.It’s an interesting investment for GM Ken Holland and the Red Wings.
"It's important for us. We need good goaltending. Just (because of) how much parity there is, we need him each and every night and he's been excellent for us."
Clearly they don’t believe the old goaltending model works without elite backliners like Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski back there every night – eventually, Yzerman will get this message down in Tampa Bay, too – so they’ve decided to invest between the pipes instead and hope that Howard continues to blossom as a netminder.
The money might make some bristle, but consider the alternatives under this philosophical shift for the Red Wings: Ryan Miller or Mike Smith would cost as much or more. Someone like Jonas Hiller ($4.5 million cap hit) would cost less, but is a lesser goalie to Howard.
It's not like there's another Ryan Suter out there either if the Wings were looking to add a stud to the blueline rather than pay the goalie. The money they just paid Howard gets you a Keith Yandle.
So that’s the justification for a massive investment in a position that hasn’t gotten it in the past for Detroit. To that end, I like the deal. It’s not a bad investment, considering the alternatives. And above all, it offers stability in a time of transition for the Wings.