While the latest “31 Thoughts” of Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned several major names as speculative trade targets, the insider buried the lede with his knowledge of the price of a more concrete trade block name. Friedman writes that Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is in fact available, as expected. However, he also notes that GM Ken Holland and company have “made it clear (they) want at least a first-round pick” in return.
Howard, 34, has had his fair share of struggles over the year, with one strong season for every one off season over his ten years as a regular in Detroit. However, the impending free agent picked a good season to be on an upswing. Howard has a .923 save percentage thus far, a top ten rate in the NHL, as well as a 2.67 GAA in 22 games. The veteran has thoroughly outplayed free agent pickup Jonathan Bernier, who has struggled greatly in 13 appearances and has settled into a backup role.
Yet, Bernier signed a three-year deal in Detroit this off-season while Howard’s contract is set to expire and is time with the Red Wings is ending. The team has little hope of contending for a playoff spot this season, making Howard an identifiable trade option to teams around the league. Detroit seems ready to oblige the demand of the market, but they won’t give Howard up for nothing. A first-round pick “at least” could be seen as a lofty expectation for a goaltender at the trade deadline, as few teams generally in the playoff race need a starter and are hesitant to overpay for a backup. However, unless Sergei Bobrovsky or another yet unknown big name hits the trade market, Howard is the top available name and by a wide margin. Friedman tabs 37-year-old Craig Anderson as another option, but doesn’t endorse the Ottawa Senators veteran as an ideal pickup and casts doubt on the availability of young Montreal Canadiens keeper Charlie Lindgren. The likes of Michal Neuvirth and Anders Nilsson are also likely to be available, but may wind up on waivers for free as well. Depending on how their respective team’s seasons go from here on out, Cam Talbot and Brian Elliott could potentially hit the market as well, but not until the deadline at the earliest. Howard is and will likely remain the top name on the rumor mill and if the Red Wings want to hold out for a package including a first-rounder, odds are they will eventually receive just that.