Red Wings to pursue goalie in free agency, wont offer Howard contract


The Detroit Red Wings will look for a goalie in free agency after informing longtime starter Jimmy Howard they will not offer him a contract before the market opens Oct. 9.

“There are several [goalies] that today look like they’ll be on the market next week, and we’ll look to fill the position with that,” Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said Thursday.

The list of goalies who can become unrestricted free agents includes Craig Anderson, Corey Crawford, Aaron Dell, Brian Elliott, Thomas Greiss, Braden Holtby, Anton Khudobin, Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Ryan Miller, Mike Smith and Cam Talbot.

Henrik Lundqvist was added to that group when the New York Rangers bought out the final season of his contract Wednesday.

“Without [an interview period] to talk to free agents, we have to wait until Oct. 9 to really get a good feel for where there’s a fit for interest of these players and the parameters of contracts,” Yzerman said. “So we’ll get a better idea next week.”

The Red Wings generally are looking for shorter-term contracts in free agency because of their rebuild and the League’s financial outlook.

“I would say we’ll be relatively conservative,” Yzerman said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty as to what the economic landscape in the NHL looks like in the next couple of years.

“I wouldn’t rule out anything. Again, it’s got to make sense. The contract has to make sense … the [average annual value], or what you have to pay the player, and the term depending on their age. We’re not opposed to anything, but it’s got to make sense.”

The Red Wings also are looking to use their space under the NHL salary cap to acquire future assets from teams looking for relief, like they did when they acquired defenseman Marc Staal and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft in a trade with the Rangers for future considerations Saturday.

Video: NHL Now on Red Wings acquiring Marc Staal

The first round of the 2020 NHL Draft is Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are Wednesday (11:30 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN). The Red Wings have 10 selections, including the No. 4 pick in the first round.

The draft will be held virtually. It had been scheduled for June 26-27 at Bell Centre in Montreal but was postponed March 25 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“I can’t tell you how much action there’ll be, but I do know we’re in constant [communication],” Yzerman said. “You’re on your phone basically all day each day leading up to the draft. Some teams have different goals they’re trying to accomplish right now.

“There’s just a lot of uncertainty, I think, around the League. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen on Oct. 9 with free agency, what’s going to happen in the market. Is it going to be business as usual? Are teams going to be more conservative? I really don’t know.

“You talk to some of the clubs that … from our position, teams that need to make some moves based on the salary cap and see if there’s a fit to do any of those things. So how much actually gets accomplished, I don’t know. But I know we’ll all be kind of working the phone.”

Howard has spent his entire 14-season NHL career with the Red Wings, who selected him in the second round (No. 64) of the 2003 NHL Draft.

In 2009-10, he was the runner-up for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL rookie of the year. Among goalies in Detroit history, he ranks third in games played (543) and wins (246), and fourth in shutouts (24).

But the 36-year-old went 2-23-2 with a 4.20 goals-against average and .882 save percentage in 27 games (27 starts) this season, playing on a one-year contract he signed with Detroit on March 20, 2019.

Jonathan Bernier went 15-22-3 with a 2.95 GAA, 907 save percentage and one shutout in 46 games (41 starts). The 32-year-old has one season left on the three-year contract he signed with Detroit on July 1, 2018.

Yzerman said the Red Wings have had ongoing discussions with pending restricted free agents Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha and is confident they can get the forwards under contract.

Their other pending restricted free agents are defenseman Madison Bowey and forwards Christoffer Ehn, Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini and Dmytro Timashov.

“We’ve got decisions to make on some of our [pending restricted free agents], if in fact we’re going to qualify them, or not qualify them and offer them contracts, or not qualify them and let them go,” Yzerman said. “We’ve got some time to make that decision, and truthfully we’re just kind of weighing what, if any, options there are before we make those final decisions.”

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