In one of the more surprising exposures of an action-packed Sunday, Petr Mrazek was left un-shielded by the Red Wings in favor of his senior backup Jimmy Howard. The reason why is even more surprising.
Howard ($5.292 MM) earns more than Mrazek (4.0 MM), and has an extra year on his contract. More shocking is the difference in age – Howard is 33 whereas Mrazek is only 25, still young for a goaltender in development. Howard has started far fewer games the last two seasons, only 24 in 2016-17. He did perform statistically well and rebounded with a .927 save percentage, whilst Mrazek posted a .908. Still, when Mrazek was on the list of those exposed, many assumed Detroit GM Ken Holland had negotiated a side-deal with Vegas to protect the tender. Not the case, apparently.
According to Holland, “I’m not spending any future assets to hang onto players”, which is as cut-and-dry a response as we’ve seen. Ansar Khan of Michigan Live states that the Wings passed on Mrazek in their expansion list due to a combination of “performance and attitude”. He even went so far as to claim that Mrazek is believed by some in the organization to be “too cocky for his own good”. The article even mentions Mrazek’s alleged unhappiness with the inability of Holland to trade Howard after the 2015-16 season.
Mrazek certainly had a better season in 2015-16, and contract negotiations did drag on for quite some time before the parties settled on a two-year deal. Mrazek was one of the most surprising goalies in that year, helping sneak the team in for their 25th consecutive playoff berth behind a mediocre defense. At the age of 23, it looked certain that the era of Howard in Hockeytown was nearing a close. After his pitfalls through 50 starts last season, management obviously decided that risking Mrazek would not hurt the team in a sizable way. If any trades were attempted to deal Mrazek, they were apparently quite unsuccessful.
Regardless of how toxic the relationship between the parties is, these sentiments might scare Vegas off of placing a claim. They certainly have a plethora of other options available around the league to tend net or flip for picks. Detroit certainly won’t be hurting for goaltending now that Jared Coreau has led the Grand Rapids Griffins to an AHL championship and is ready for prime-time. But if off-ice issues truly are a concern, and Vegas doesn’t select Mrazek, Detroit could have a very tense situation on their hands next season.