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Why Red Wings traded Saarijarvi for goalie Comrie

Detroit addresses emergency goalie situation with Howard on IR

COLUMBUS, OH - APRIL 6: Eric Comrie #1 of the Winnipeg Jets prepares for the second period while making his NHL debut during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 6, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) (2017 Getty Images)

DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings have acquired goaltender Eric Comrie from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Vili Saarijarvi.

About Eric Comrie

Comrie, 24, has appeared in four games this season with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners. Arizona had claimed him off waivers from the Winnipeg Jets in early October, and hasn’t used him at the NHL level.

READ MORE: A closer look at Eric Comrie, new Red Wings goalie

The Jets drafted Comrie out of the WHL in 2013, 56th overall in the 2nd round. Since then, he’s spent nearly his entire pro career in the AHL, appearing in just five games for the Jets over three seasons.

Last season he posted a 0.917 save percentage and 25 wins in 47 games played for the Manitoba Moose. It was his breakout pro seasons, but with Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit already signed, Comrie had no space in Winnipeg and was placed on waivers at the start of this season.

The Coyotes claimed him but apparently didn’t need him after all, and shipped him off for a defensive prospect in Saarijarvi.

About Vili Saarijarvi

The Red Wings drafted Finnish defenseman Saarijarvi, 22, way back in 2015 (feels like a long time now), 73rd overall in the 3rd round. He had an explosive season after the draft with the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, scoring 43 points in 59 games played.

After juniors, he spent some time down in the ECHL playing for the Toledo Walleye, but he enjoyed a full season in the AHL this past season playing 70 games with the Griffins (20 points).

Saarijarvi has been around the Red Wings organization for a few seasons but hasn’t been able to crack the NHL lineup. He has performed really well on the juniors world stage with Finland and showed progress last season as a 22-year-old in the AHL, but GM Steve Yzerman apparently decided it was time to move on while he faces more pressing needs with his goaltending.

Jimmy Howard on IR

Veteran goalie Jimmy Howard, 35, was placed on IR this week after leaving the game against Toronto on Wednesday with an apparent injury. Jonathan Bernier, who was reportedly ill, hurried up and dressed to replace Howard, otherwise the Red Wings would have needed to call in an emergency goaltender.

This led to Calvin Pickard, who Yzerman signed in the offseason, being called up from the Griffins. He was immediately shelled against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, allowing 6 goals on 35 shots.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 29: Calvin Pickard #31 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against Oskar Lindblom #23 of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period at the Wells Fargo Center on November 29, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

And so the Red Wings have a real, real goaltending emergency, amid a long list of other problems, now that Howard is injured. It’s no surprise they firmly sit at the bottom of the NHL standings while they go through yet another long losing streak (seven straight losses right now).

To be fair to Bernier, he has somehow posted a near .500 win percentage this season (5-6-2). Consider the team’s record is 7-18-2. Still, his 0.893 save percentage is not much better than Howard’s 0.887.

Red Wings goalie depth

The Red Wings have undrafted Pat Nagle and 21-year-old Filip Larsson with the Griffins. The two of them combined have played less than 20 games at the AHL level. This is Larsson’s first year of pro hockey, and although Nagle is 32 years old, he’s spent the overwhelming majority of his career in the ECHL.

Comrie is at least an established AHL netminder. So whether Howard is out long or short, the Red Wings needed to add goaltending depth from an organizational standpoint. They have been needing it for quite some time.

Moving forward, Yzerman is probably looking to either sign another goalie or make another trade. That’s not something to expect until the offseason, however, unless some kind of sweet deal comes along.

Up next for Detroit

The Red Wings are on the back half of a back-to-back on Saturday when they host the Washington Capitals, one of the top teams in the league with just four losses in regulation.

Coach Jeff Blashill is without his top goal scorer Anthony Mantha, who is expected to miss a couple of weeks with a lower body injury.


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