Detroit Red Wings: Evaluating Jimmy Howard’s Extension

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard has been given a contract extension for next season at a cap hit of $5.1 million per season, although at next seasons end, he will likely only cost them $4 million. This is due to a $1.1 million “Playoff Bonus” that will likely not be met.

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When Jimmy Howard was kept at the trade deadline, there was instantly talk of a contract extension. Expected to be short-term, this contract matches that. The longtime Detroit Red Wings net-minder been good this season posting a .908 save percentage and a 3.05 goals against average. While these numbers don’t look great, the story behind the season reveals how good of a season Jimmy Howard is having. Below is the heat map of where Howard has faced shot this season.

visual from Sean Tierney, data/stats from MoneyPuck.com

This shows that Howard has been facing most of his shots from directly in front of him. Among goalies that have played at least 1800 minutes (roughly 34 games), Howard ranks 6th in high danger save percentage at .842. This is top quality goaltending considering the Red Wings have lacked both depth and talent on the blue line for most of this season with Mike Green and Trevor Daley missing time due to injury, Niklas Kronwall aging and not putting up as good results as in years past and young players such as Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek playing large minutes at different points in the season.

screenshot of NaturalStatTrick.com

Extending Howard Bridges the Gap

The Detroit Red Wings have some goalie prospects in the pipeline of various skill levels and in various stages of development, the one area they don’t have a goalie prospect ready for the NHL. While Patrik Rybar is in the AHL and putting up good numbers (2.29 GAA, .916 S%) this is his first season in North America and he still struggles with consistency. He is about at the age of no longer being a prospect, even for a goalie, which means he is likely a depth option rather than the future.

This leaves Howard and Jonathan Bernier as the goalies of the present and Howard remains the starter. Allowing Howard to play on this one year deal next year, which has no trade protection, will help the team stay competitive and in games much like they have been for most of this season. Howard could play on short-term deals for another 3-5 years in Detroit, alleviating the need to rush any young goaltender to take on a big workload.

The Cost of Starting Goaltending

Jimmy Howard’s new contract may begin the season costing the team $5.1 million against the salary cap. By seasons end, it will likely cost the team $4 million. This is due to $1.1 million in a “Playoff Bonus”. This was probably given to Howard with the knowledge that the team isn’t going to be contending for a playoff spot again next season as the rebuild continues.

If the Red Wings were to make the playoffs, it will likely be on the back of Jimmy Howard. As motivating for Howard the $1.1 million “Playoff Bonus” will be, asking him to carry the team that will likely finish 30th this season is unlikely.

The contract comparable according to CapFriendly are as follows.

screenshot of CapFriendly.com

The two real comparable contracts here are Craig Anderson in Ottawa and Pekka Rinne in Nashville. Howard has been arguably better than Anderson this season, although Anderson has played for the 31st ranked Ottawa Senators. Rinne has had an up and down season but has a .915 S% and a 2.46 GAA. The fact that, assuming Detroit misses the playoffs, Howard will make less than both of these contracts while arguably being about in the middle of the two players skill wise is a win for the Red Wings management team.

Overall, Jimmy Howard was signed to an extension to help the team through its rebuild. He isn’t the saviour but he is far from the problem in Detroit. He’s a veteran goalie who is a good leader and loves Detroit. He will most likely finish his career in Detroit as a Red Wing and honestly, it shouldn’t be any other way.

For more on the Detroit Red Wings and the rest of the NHL, follow me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari

Stats from Hockey-Reference.com, NHL.com, NaturalStatTrick.com, hockeyviz.com, Hockeydb.com and CapFriendly.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

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Author: Tony Ferrari

Born in Ottawa, Ontario and raised in Windsor, Tony has loved hockey his entire life. Growing up as the lone Maple Leafs fan in a household of Red Wings fans, he followed both teams since he was a child. Having been through Toronto’s rebuild as a fan, Tony is ecstatic to be along for the ride and watch the Wings get back to their glory days. Having previously written about the Detroit Lions, Tony looks forward to bringing you content from the hockey world in a series of deep dive articles and analytical points of view that can help you better understand the little things we don’t all notice because they don’t show up on the stats sheet.