Howard had the 12th highest cap hit. Halak, Crawford, Hiller, and Varlemov ate free agents this summer and may pass him.
Literally all of them have tremendous consistency issues. Halak could never hold down a starting job, he is always in some kind of time share. Crawford was so up and down that he was questioned heavily as a starting goaltender after his first great half season. Hiller had two awful seasons and lost his starting job to Fasth last year just to pick it back up again this season.
This is the reality of goaltending. Miller has slumped for a couple months on end. Quick has done the same. Luongo had an terrible season and a half which sparked the controversy in Vancouver a couple years ago. Lundqvist had an brutal start to this season.
No goalie has ever been great at all times, all season, every season. Every goalie listed above has had struggles ranging from weeks, to months, to extending beyond one season. It happens. Roy and Brodeur, the legends of the position, have had off months and a few bad seasons.
This is a fact that must be accepted if you are a fan of hockey. It's not an excuse to protect Howard, but if we had Hiller, Halak, Varlamov, Crawford, any goalie mid to high range there will always be consistency issues and we'd have a thread just like this one about them also. Period. No goalie is 100% elite at all times, all season every season.