By @MichaelCaples –
Petr Mrazek is available to be claimed by the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland was forced to decide between which of the Red Wings’ two goaltenders to expose in the NHL Expansion Draft process – Mrazek or Jimmy Howard – and he opted for the 25-year-old Czech tender.
That’s the biggest talking point for Hockeytown after today’s protected list reveal – click here to see all of the Wings exposed.
With it seeming like a foregone conclusion that Las Vegas will be choosing Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury as their No. 1 goaltender for their entry into the NHL next fall, one could argue that exposing Howard would be a move that would allow Detroit to keep both of their goaltenders.
That thought process comes from the salary amounts tied to both goaltenders – Fleury makes $5.7 million and Howard makes $5.2 million. Mrazek checks in at $4 million on the salary cap hit.
With Mrazek only 25 and Howard 33, it was a surprise move for the Wings to protect the older of the two netminders.
Of course, Mrazek has been streaky, to say the least. Last season, he posted a 3.04 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage – a significant drop from the previous season. Howard has been called upon in multiple situations to steady the Red Wings’ crease situation.
Last year, Howard posted a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 26 games. He was only available for 26 games, however, due to injuries.
Mrazek holds a career 64-51-0-17 record with a .913 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average.
Of course, just because Mrazek is exposed doesn’t mean he’s leaving Hockeytown. Just a quick skim of the available list shows names like Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, Roberto Luongo, Jeff Zatkoff, Antti Raanta, Mike Condon, Andrew Hammond and Ryan Miller. Not saying all of those goaltenders are better than Mrazek, just illustrating the fact that Las Vegas GM George McPhee has a lot of decisions to make.
Heck, Wings fans might need to be worried about Jared Coreau more than Mrazek – he’s on the exposed list, too.
The other players made available by the Red Wings fall into a numbers’ game, really – though so did the goaltending situation.
In terms of franchise significance, Niklas Kronwall jumps off the list. A few years ago, it would seem crazy for No. 55 to be left unprotected. However, Nik Jr. is 36, and 13 NHL seasons would take its toll on anybody. He only appeared in 57 games last year, and it’s no secret that he’s playing through some injuries that will probably stay with him until retirement. Kronwall was -21 in the 2015-16 season, as well.
It seems unlikely that Vegas would use a roster spot on a 36-year-old defenseman.
Jonathan Ericsson was exposed, as well – the Wings would certainly welcome Vegas taking his $4.2 million cap hit, but it’s not going to happen after just nine points from No. 52 last season.
Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul are the two defensemen to worry about – it’d be tough for the Wings to watch one of their blue-line prospects leave with no return.
Up front, the big names exposed are Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Tomas Nosek and Riley Sheahan. Conventional wisdom says Sheahan would be the player claimed – a 6-foot-3, 25-year-old center would be a good get for a beginning franchise. There’s no way Sheahan plays another full season without a goal until the final game.
That conventional wisdom also comes about when you consider Helm’s cap hit of almost $4 million; Sheahan checks in at $2.5 million.
It’s worth noting that only one player will be taken from the Red Wings’ roster. There are a lot of names on the ‘available list’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gone.