DETROIT – Jimmy Howard could be playing himself right into a trade before this season's deadline, and the Detroit Red Wings will accept nothing less than a first-round pick for their veteran goalie.
That's according to NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, who wrote in his column Wednesday that Detroit has "made it clear it wants at least" a first-round pick for Howard.
The 34-year-old goalie is in the 6th and final year of his contract with the Red Wings, and it's been a good one. He has a 10-4 record with a 2.67 GAA and .923 save percentage. Any team looking to bolster its goaltending before the playoffs will be looking at Howard as an option. But is a first-round pick too much for Howard? We shall see.
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 26.
Friedman wrote the Philadelphia Flyers might be one of the teams interested in Howard. The Red Wings dealt away goalie Petr Mrazek to the Flyers ahead of last winter's trade deadline. Detroit received a conditional third-round and fourth-round pick for Mrazek, who is now playing with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers' goaltending woes have continued. If they were to trade for Howard, they might be looking to sign him long-term as they don't look like a contender right now -- they are 8 points out of a playoff spot.
While the Red Wings are offering their case for a postseason appearance, they're still considered a longshot due largely to the toughness of the Atlantic Division. Detroit is battling for the 2nd Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference but remains 8 points behind the Atlantic's 3rd place team.
What Howard does in the offseason will be another thing -- it's not crazy to think he would re-sign with the Red Wings and return to Detroit. He was selected by the Red Wings at 64th overall in the 2003 draft. He now has 483 career games under his belt.
The Red Wings, meanwhile, did sign goalie Jonathan Bernier to a three-deal over the summer. Bernier certainly will shift over to the starting role and could remain there through next season if the Red Wings don't make any other goalie signings -- they don't have any notable goaltending prospects.