The Detroit Red Wings are sticking with Jonas Gustavsson as their backup man.
Indications are the Wings will soon re-sign Gustavsson, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1.
"I've been talking to Gustavsson's agent,” general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press today. "He played good for us. We'd like to keep him."
During front-office meetings earlier this month, management and team scouts debated options for the no. 2 goaltending position. One was to retain Gustavsson. Another was to add someone else via the UFA market. A third option was to consider giving the job to Petr Mrazek, the hot young prospect who has been turning heads in Grand Rapids for two years.
Ultimately, the decision favored Gustavsson. He went 16-5-4 last season with a .907 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against average, appearing in 27 games. He was considered the team's savior during the first half, especially so after a November that saw no. 1 man Jimmy Howard stumble and fumble. Gustavsson's dependable service was exactly what the Wings needed to see from him after he turned in so disastrous a debut during the lockout-shortened 2013 season that he never played after March of that year.
This year, Gustavsson ended up playing in the last two games of the Wings' season, subbing in for Howard in Game 4 of the first-round series against Boston after Howard came down with flu. Gustavsson stayed in for Game 5, going 0-2 with a .917 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average in what was his first NHL playoff experience.
"He played well for us this season and we have interest in him coming back," Holland said.
Negotiations center on term - Gustavsson's camp wants two years, while the Wings would prefer a one-year extension. Gustavsson, 29, is coming off a two-year, $3 million contract.
The biggest reservation about keeping Gustavsson was his health - he has been especially vulnerable to groin injuries, shelving him for stretches of both seasons he's been with the Wings. That said, there is no backup goalie headed for the open market who'd be an upgrade. As for Mrazek, he is only 22, and, he's only just finished his second season with the Griffins. From the Wings' point of view, he'd be better off being the go-to guy in Grand Rapids than an every-other-week player in Detroit.
Gustavsson's past year includes being part of the Swedish Olympic men's team that took silver in Sochi.
I started to type that people shouldn't freak out because there's no way Cleary is going to be a Red Wings, then I realized I typed basically the exact same thing before Holland signed him last summer.
Still, I really don't think it'll happen this time.
He's going to GR to be a mentor, only way he returns to the wings is if he beats out a kid for a spot. Don't see how that's so hard to grasp.
It isn't hard to grasp, it is just hard to 100% believe - considering he beat out Nyquist last season when he had absolutely no business being on the team in the first place, it is not out of the realm of possibility to believe they might inexplicably give him a spot over some other youngster to start this season as well (Jurco, Mantha maybe). I think that's what is worrying most folks.
My other issue is, I don't even particularly want him taking up a spot on GR either.
Franzen has 11 playoff points the last 3 years. Scored 1 goal the last 3 months of the year until our eventual elimination. Those 5 goals in 7 games is a streak he should have gone on 4-5 times in a year not once.
Gus has 23 goals in 28 games. Now that's a real streak that got us into the playoffs, not Franzen's 5 goals in February