Though it may not come as much of a surprise at this point, Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman confirmed today that the team will not be extending a contract to pending free agent goaltender Jimmy Howard. The team instead will be looking for a new goaltender on the free agent market, according to Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com.
Howard, 36, has never known a professional organization other than the Red Wings, a team he debuted for back in 2005. Selected 64th overall in 2003, the young netminder quickly became a top prospect and by the age of 25 was Detroit’s full-time starter. Over the years he has appeared in 543 regular season games for the team, posting a 246-196-70 record.
That record would look a lot better if it weren’t for 2019-20. Incredibly, Howard won just two of his 27 starts this season, posting a 2-23-2 record behind the worst team in the NHL. His .882 save percentage was a legitimate part of that poor performance and will be a tough number to bring up in negotiations should he try to continue playing elsewhere.
At the moment it seems like he does, after telling Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News in June that he wants to keep playing in order to prove that he is better than the numbers he put up. He was clear about his desire to stay in Detroit at that point, but also knew that a new contract with the Red Wings was unlikely.
In a market flooded with capable goaltenders, Howard may have to sell himself pretty hard to a new organization. He’ll become a free agent on October 9.