The Grind Line: Red Wings’ Replacement for Jimmy Howard

What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. This week, Devin Little, Raymond Harrison, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who make up THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.

Apart from Jonathan Bernier, goaltending was not Detroit’s strong suit last season. And with Jimmy Howard likely out the door, they’re one goalie short of a tandem.

In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team weighs in with their preferences for Bernier’s partner-in-crime, whether that goalie is acquired through a trade or free agency.

Related: Red Wings 7-Round Mock Draft

Tony Wolak: Robin Lehner

In my offseason blueprint for the Red Wings, I suggested they acquire Thatcher Demko from the Vancouver Canucks. While that’s still my preferred approach, there are some good alternatives hitting free agency this summer fall winter, with Robin Lehner being one of the best options.

The Detroit Red Wings could consider Robin Lehner to pair with Jonathan Bernier.
Robin Lehner after he joined the Vegas Golden Knights. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

While playing for the Chicago Blackhawks and Vegas Golden Knights, Lehner put up respectable numbers, with a .920 save percentage (SV%) and 2.89 goals-against average (GAA). In addition, Lehner’s 6.81 goals-saved above average (GSAA) ranks 13th in the NHL at five-on-five, ahead of Jacob Markstrom and Jordan Binnington. 

Lehner turns 29 next month, so there’s still gas in the tank and reason to offer him a multiyear contract. Signing the goaltender to a three-year deal with a $5 million AAV wouldn’t break the bank and would give the Red Wings some stability in net. Bernier’s contract is up after next season – Lehner could start until a prospect succeeds him.

Raymond Harrison: Anton Khudobin

I originally would have been all over Jaroslav Halak in free agency, but the veteran netminder signed a one-year extension with the Boston Bruins at the start of May. Thankfully, upcoming unrestricted free agent Anton Khudobin provides the team similar value, at a likely lower cost.

Anton Khudobin would be a good for the Detroit Red Wings.
Anton Khudobin may be unconventional, but could be a reliable goalie for the Red Wings. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Khudobin posted a 16-8-4 record for the Dallas Stars this season to go along with a stellar .930 SV% and 2.22 GAA. Granted, the Stars are a far better defensive team than the lowly Red Wings, but Khudobin’s .919 career SV% across 218 appearances suggests that this past year was not an apparition.

The Kazakhstani goaltender just turned 34, meaning the Red Wings do not have to invest in a long-term deal. Considering that the team will have plentiful cap space, a one-year deal with a $3 million AAV provides the organization with a reliable goaltending tandem at an inexpensive price for the 2020-21 season.

Devin Little: Matt Murray

I covered this idea in a previous article, but I think the Red Wings should be against acquiring a placeholder to fill Howard’s position, and should instead invest in a potential long-term option. Murray fits into the team’s age profile. He’s a two-time Stanley Cup winner. Oh yeah, and the Penguins would probably like to move on from him. 

Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Matt Murray already has two Stanley Cups under his belt. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What could he cost though? The Penguins won’t want to acquire too much salary as that’s the main reason for severing ties with Murray. They could be interested in Dennis Cholowski, whose offensive game could mesh well with the Penguins. There could also be a fit with forward prospects Taro Hirose and Evgeny Svechnikov. 

While I know this would be a bold move, I think this is a great fit for all parties. The Penguins get some cheap youth to supplement their aging roster, Murray gets a fresh start after setting the bar insanely high in Pittsburgh, and the Red Wings get a goalie they could ride for a decade. I think having Bernier in-place would cement a good, if not strong tandem in net, and the Red Wings could use some peace of mind in that department. 

Stats courtesy of and Natural Stat Trick.

Who should the Detroit Red Wings pursue to pair with Jonathan Bernier? Share your thoughts below.