The Detroit Red Wings should cut Jimmy Howard loose this offseason, to create a tandem with Jonathan Bernier, they will need to bring in a replacement goalie.
With the National Hockey League (NHL) laying out its latest plan as they push towards a return to play, the Detroit Red Wings season would be over. That being said, it is time to turn the attention towards the offseason and things like free agency.
It is no secret that General Manager (GM) Steve Yzerman needs to let Jimmy Howard walk after fourteen seasons with the team. If that is the case, a replacement goalie will be needed to create a tandem for this Red Wings organization still stuck in the rebuild.
The market for goaltenders is decently substantial for this upcoming offseason; the Red Wings will not be adding someone to the caliber of Braden Holtby. However, some players would pair well with Jonathan Bernier, who has earned himself a shot at the starting job.
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Looking at the pending free agent class, adding a goaltender like Cam Talbot to play alongside Bernier might be beneficial for the Red Wings future.
Talbot, currently a member of the Calgary Flames, is thirty-two years old and a seven-year veteran of the NHL with four teams.
In 2019-20, Talbot played in 26 games, making 22 starts where he had a 12-10-1 record while posting a .919 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.63 goals-against-average (GAA).
The netminder stands 6-foot-4 and weighs in at 196-pounds, taking home $2.75 million on this year’s contract with the Flames. Here he is also in a tandem with their starter, David Rittich.
If the Red Wings could sign Talbot on a three-year, $8-9 million contract that should be considered a steal to add Talbot into the mix alongside Bernier in the crease. Those two as a tandem should perform much better than Howard did this season.
The amount of veteran goaltenders who could be brought in from the pending free agents is numerous, Anton Khudobin is another option to consider. Khudobin is thirty-four years old and has spent eleven seasons in the NHL, his last two as a member of the Dallas Stars.
This past season in 2019-20, Khudobin would play in 30 games, making 26 starts with a 16-8-4 record for the Stars. He would manage a .930 SV% and a 2.22 GAA on a fantastic season in Texas. He may be due for a raise given his work as a tandem goalie who made $2.5 million this season.
The Red Wings could make an effort to pitch Detroit to Khudobin; he has played for different organizations, so a change of scenery is not new, but coming to a rebuilding team might not be appealing. Offering him $3 million a year on a two-year deal seems viable for a stopgap goalie.
Perhaps the most appealing possibility for the Red Wings is Robin Lehner, but he also would drive the largest bargain. Contrary to the other two, Lehner is the youngest at twenty-eight years old, still a ten year veteran of the NHL, currently a netminder for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 2019-20 season saw Lehner start with the Chicago Blackhawks but get moved at the trade deadline. In total, he played in 36 games, making 34 starts producing a 19-10-5 record. He managed a .920 SV% and a 2.89 GAA on the season.
Pitching a rebuilding team to someone who has carved a role with contenders might be tough, but as a goaltender who would thrive under a tandem setup, it would be exceptional. He would be a bit more expensive, taking home $5 million this year, meaning it would cost more in the long run.
However, it does seem worth it to add Lehner, as it would buy time for the prospect goaltenders to grow and develop in their respective leagues. He would do fantastic if he was signed to be the tandem starter with Bernier, doing a much better job than Howard did this season.
The decision ultimately falls to GM Steve Yzerman, who will have to decide which netminder best fits the Detroit Red Wings future goaltending plans, but these three are all possibilities.