Today I'll take a look at possible goalies for the Wings outside of the Top 2 from 06-07. They include the kid(s?) in the Wings farm system, as well as UFA goalies and 'tenders on the trade market.
The System: Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard is the Wings' minor-league goaltending depth. After a logjam in net at the start of the season, the Wings now find themselves alarmingly thin at the position. They shouldn't have any difficulties in the upcoming season: they have a seasoned veteran (Osgood) and a possibly NHL-ready kid (Howard) under contract, and plenty of money to get whoever else they need. But as far as depth goes, the Wings only other goaltender is Daniel Larsson, who is just 20 and still playing in Sweden. The Wings traded Joey MacIntyre to Vancouver to ease the jam. Joey MacDonald was claimed on waivers after spending most of the season riding the pines. Logan Koopmans, who does not look like an NHL talent, has battled injuries, is a UFA, and is considering retirement.
Most surprisingly (to me anyway) was Stefan Liv suddenly signing with HV-71. Liv has a lot of experience in the Elite League in Sweden and I thought he would develop into a very solid backup for Howard. However it seems he has bolted for Sweden and it's unlikely the Wings will really try to woo him back. While Howard is a young goalie who should last the Wings a long time in net, you never know when a goalie's going to burn out or get hurt. The Wings should try to draft or sign an older netminder with experience who can come in a be a backup in GR and provide depth for the Wings in net.
As for Howard himself, all accounts are that he will be in GR next year, likely as a workhorse with no other developing goalies to compete for PT. I would love to see him get 60 games and be ready for the NHL in 08.
The Trade Market: From Browned-Eyed Toskala to Manny
The Wings will almost certainly look for a FA or traded goalie if Dominik Hasek does not return. The options range from stopgaps to a complete change of strategy. The most obvious solution would be for the Wings to get one of the many goalies on the trade-market with small contracts, both in years and dollars. Let's take a look at some.
Vesa Toskala, San Jose: 1 year, 1.375M (HA) Toskala is almost certain to be traded: he has the shorter, cheaper deal and no no-trade clause. GM Doug Wilson has said he will certainly trade one of them, and he really doesn't have a choice. Toskala is certain to walk at the end of the year. He's young, cheap, and highly effective, so he won't be cheap, but the market is flooded and Wilson is in a corner. Toskala is an ideal 1-year stopgap; he can be re-signed if Jimmy Howard goes off the rails, and gives the Wings two playoff-caliber goalies.
Ilya Bryzgalov, Anaheim: 1 year, 1.181M (HA) Unlikely to be dealt unless the Ducks re-sign JS Giguere. If they don't he's certainly their man and they'll likely look to lock him up long-term. If Giguere does come back, Brian Burke, a well-known douchebag, may hold off on dealing him until the deadline when he can likely extract more from teams looking for a playoff goalie (such as, possibly, the Wings). However, a question one must ask of both Anaheim and San Jose is, will either team be willing to deal with the Wings? I think it's likely in the offseason, but far less so at the deadline when these teams will be jockeying for playoff spots.
Chris Mason, Nashville: 1 year, 1.25M (HA) If dealing within-conference is tough, dealing within division is even tougher. This having been said, however, Jim Balsillie may be a lot less concerned about helping the Wings out if he's a) slashing payroll and giving up on 07-08, and b) planning on a move to the East, where he'll no longer care about the Wings. Mason played 40 games with the Preds and looks like as good an option as Toskala or Bryzgalov. With one year left on his deal, the Preds would be smart to trade him, although I haven't heard much about them doing so.
Manny Fernandez: 2 years, 3.75M (HA) Fernandez is by far the least appealing target for the Wings, both because of his salary, and the two years remaining on his contract. The Wings were rumored to be looking at Marty Lapointe at the deadline this past season, with Steve Yzerman as the chief impetus, but the Wings passed because his deal went for more than one-year. With Fernandez's age and injury concerns, the Wings would be very unlikely to get him. His is very experienced, however, and if they acquire him they could platoon him and Jimmy Howard in 08-09, and choose not to re-sign Chris Osgood. I like the younger, 1-year goalies a lot better though.
With any of these trades, the Wings would have to give up something, but with Giguere and Garon on the FA market, and four very respectable tenders with manageable deals on the trade market, I think prices will be relatively low. None of these teams wants to lose any of these guys for nothing, and all of them would likely be very discontented to be playing second fiddle for their respective teams for another year. If Hasek doesn't return, I would love to see Toskala or Mason for a 3rd-rounder and mid-level prospect (Meech, McGrath, Pyett?).
Blow It Up and Go For Broke: Jean Sebastien Giguere
If the Wings don't re-sign Schneider, this is actually possible. If they bring back Markov at 2.5-3 instead, the can fit JSG snuggly under the cap at 6.2M and still leave 2M in cushion room (this scenario also involves bringing back Bert at 1.5M). The Wings could fit him even easier if they elect for a youth movement at D, and re-sign neither Markov nor Schneider, they would definitely be able to match and exceed any offer around the NHL. And, if you've got JSG in net, do you really care if they D is a little green?
I'm not suggesting the Wings do this, but, for those who want it, it is possible. With Howard in the wings, though, and certain to be much cheaper, at least for his first NHL contract, I would rather have a 1-year stopgap than go for broke. JSG has had issues with his hip, and tying him up to a long-term deal (which he is certain to demand) will not only make things hairy for re-signing Hank and Lids, but will almost certainly mean dealing Howard, either immediately or down the road, unless they want to try and sit on him for the entirety of JSG's contract.
Here's the cap breakdown for a JSG (with Markov and Bertuzzi) scenario (click for full size image). Man. That's a pretty frigging tempting roster.
Tomorrow: Forwards: Overview & Big Bert
Monday: Ryan Smyth
Tuesday: Slava Kozlov
(One final note: if anyone gets the "brown-eyed Toskala" reference, you win. Like, millions and millions of dollars.)