Last season in Detroit, Joey MacDonald carried a burden he didn’t expect to before the season began. When you’ve got Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood set as the goalie tandem, after all, you can’t really expect to get much work in at the NHL level. Osgood’s injury-plagued season and some of Howard’s own minor dings changed MacDonald’s plans and got him a full-time backup gig in Detroit with the occasional run as the starter.
MacDonald apparently did well enough in that role last season to earn a new two-year contract with the Red Wings. With that now in his pocket, is it possible he winds up being Jimmy Howard’s full time backup this season? The Wings and GM Ken Holland have been on the hunt for a new backup after Osgood’s contract expired and with the Wings consistently never breaking the bank on goaltending in the salary cap era, it’s an honest question to ask.
Last season in 15 games, MacDonald went 5-5-3 with a 2.58 goals against average and a surprising .917 save percentage. For a guy that’s been a journeyman in the NHL and spent more time in the AHL than in the big leagues, those are solid stats but his play still left Wings fans a bit edgy when he got the rare start. At 31 years-old MacDonald is about as good as he’s ever going to be in goal, but if he’s the guy Detroit is going to lean on then the pressure on Jimmy Howard to be at his absolute best is sky high.
Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News says that MacDonald’s signing likely makes him #3 on Detroit’s goalie depth chart and he’ll serve as a mentor for young guys like Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce in the AHL. The question then becomes, who does Detroit get to be #2?
Do they bring back Chris Osgood who missed most of last season with injuries or should they dip into the free agent pool and take a shot with veterans like Pascal Leclaire, Ty Conklin, Marty Turco, or Ray Emery? It’s a fascinating set of questions that Holland is going to need to figure out as bringing in a guy that can spell Jimmy Howard to keep him rested and ready in the playoffs is vital to the Wings’ success.
If the Wings do go outside the organization for help (meaning no Osgood and not giving the #2 spot to MacDonald), Leclaire would bring the same injury risks that Osgood would, Turco’s history in Detroit against the Red Wings is terrible, Conklin has been through Detroit once already and is coming off a rough season, and Ray Emery has a checkered injury past of his own but might be the best of the bunch. It’s hard to believe that MacDonald will get the call to be Howard’s backup but if the Wings do go for another free agent, the choices will bring their own fair amount of drama on their own.