Little Caesars Arena tour with Free Press sports writer Helene St. James on June 1, 2017. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press
Red Wings protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender from expansion Vegas Golden Knights
A year after the Detroit Red Wings declared Petr Mrazek their No. 1 goalie, he is being exposed in the expansion draft.
The NHL released lists of whom NHL teams protected this morning. The Wings went the seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender option, and protected forwards Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasious, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg; defensemen Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser and Nick Jensen, and goaltender Jimmy Howard.
That leaves Mrazek, Riley Sheahan, Darren Helm, Xavier Ouellet and Luke Glendening among the exposed. First- and second-year pros were exempt, so the Wings did not have to protect Dylan Larkin, Evgeny Svechnikov nor Tyler Bertuzzi.
The list largely was as projected. I did have the Wings protecting Mrazek, but it was the toughest choice to make.
Howard is coming off a career-best year with a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 26 games (he spent three months injured). Then he went to the World Championship and starred for USA with a 1.86 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in six games. He’s a great team guy who put in hard work to recover from a slump.
Mrazek had a career-worst season with a 3.04 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 50 games. Then he went to the World Championship and was so mediocre (2.47 goals-against average, .881 save percentage) the Czechs didn’t even use him when they faced elimination in the quarterfinal. Mrazek makes many great saves but also lets in one stoppable goal regularly, which isn’t a winning formula.
However, Howard is 33, has two years left at a $5.3 million cap hit, and can’t seem to stay healthy (in fairness, the knee injury he suffered in December was because he got run over). Mrazek is 25, and has a year left at $4 million. He’s also lost the starting job two years running.
Vegas’ choices will be announced 8 p.m. Wednesday. There’s a trade freeze intact now through 8 a.m. Thursday, excepting trades made with the Golden Knights. In short, Vegas general manager George McPhee is, for a few days, the most powerful man in hockey.
With Pittsburgh exposing Stanley Cup winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, it’s likely Vegas takes him as their starter. As for the possibility Vegas takes Mrazek and trades him to another teaam – the Wings have explored moving a goalie and found no takers. If Vegas does take Mrazek, it would clear up cap space. There is also the possibility another team is interested in Helm, and uses Vegas as a condui
Contact Helene St. James: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.