Red Wings: Jacob Markstrom is on the short-list of goaltender options

July 13th, 2020 in Red Wings By Bob Heyrman

The Jimmy Howard era in Detroit is all but over.  The Detroit Red Wings are set to move on from Howard entering the 2020-21 season, and it appears Jacob Markstrom could emerge as the front runner to be his replacement.

It’s no secret that the Detroit Red Wings are in the market for a goaltender this offseason, whenever that may be.  The Red Wings have no young up and coming goaltender ready at this time in their system to step up and back up Bernier. My personal preference would be to add Robin Lehner, as I had been pulling for the organization to sign him two summers ago, but Detroit opted to bring in Jonathan Bernier instead.

Bernier struggled mightily during his first year with Detroit, and it was Jimmy Howard who became the calming presence in goal, well, until the trade deadline approached.  If you recall, Howard got off to an incredible start during the first half of the 2018 season before the wheels fell off as the calendar changed to 2019.

During that hot streak through December, general manager (GM) Ken Holland expressed his desire to obtain a first-round draft pick for Howard’s services, who was a pending free agent at seasons’ end.  It’s an expensive price to pay for a backup goaltender.

Yes, Howard was playing exceptionally well, but he’d be nothing more than an insurance policy to a playoff team at the time.  All of the teams jostling for playoff positions had been rock solid in goal.

It sounds foolish to think, but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit we were hoping for a contending team to suffer an injury and be looking for a placeholder in net as the playoff push happened.  That specific scenario didn’t happen, so Howard remained in Detroit with partly due to Holland’s outrageous asking price. As the trade deadline expired, Holland rewarded Howard with a one-year contract extension.

Howard played this past season as the backup to a surging Bernier, only winning two total games in 27 appearances.  Howard’s last win came on October 29, 2019.

You can’t make that stuff up.

The 36-year old finished this past season providing the Red Wings with a 2-23-2 record, posting an awful 4.20 goals-against average (GAA) to go along with an atrocious 0.882 save percentage.  To compare, Bernier went 15-22-3 for Detroit this past season, producing a 2.95 GAA and a 0.907 save percentage on the same team. Howard should opt for retirement rather than trying to stick somewhere else, but it must be hard on one’s ego to finish their career in that type of fashion.

We can confidently predict that the pending free agent’s time with the Detroit Red Wings has concluded.

The Vancouver Canucks are tight up against the NHL salary cap, and pending free agent netminder Markstrom may command more than Vancouver can afford.  It’s a Canucks organization that needs to get a bit crafty next season and package elder statesmen like Alex Edler or Tyler Myers with a draft pick to entice a team to absorb their lucrative contract to free up the proper space to retain Markstrom.

Minimal rumors are stating that Markstrom is set to sign with Detroit.  The timing seems a bit odd, but I will say, the Red Wings should be interested if he does hit the open market.  Markstrom posted a 23-16-2 record this past season with the Canucks.  His 0.918 save percentage to go with the 2.75 goals-against average he posted remain respectable across the league and are a definite upgrade to what Howard can produce at this point in his career.

If the netminder hits the open market, he just might Steve Yzerman‘s first choice to pair up with Bernier, in turn, replacing Howard.