As it turns out, the Red Wings’ backup goalie will, indeed, be an aging former St. Louis Blues netminder with prior experience as a goalie for Detroit. It just won’t be Chris Osgood, who announced his retirement Tuesday afternoon.
Instead, Ansar Khan reports that the team is likely to sign Ty Conklin to be Jimmy Howard’s backup. Khan writes that the team will announce the one-year deal “worth less than $1 million” in the near future (possibly Wednesday).
Red Wings fans should be familiar with Conklin from his solid work with the team during the 2008-09 season. While he was technically Osgood’s backup during the season, he helped the team stay afloat while the veteran struggled a bit, going 25-11-2 with a .909 save percentage, 2.51 GAA and six shutouts in 40 games played.
Khan points out that the Red Wings allowed Conklin to depart via free agency during the summer of 2009 because they needed Howard to make the jump to the NHL level. Conklin spent his last two seasons with the Blues. He was strong in his backup role in 2009-10 (10-10-2 with an outstanding .921 save percentage and 2.48 GAA in 26 games played) and awful in 10-11 (8-8-4 with an abysmal .881 save percentage and 3.22 GAA in 25 GP).
Naturally, the Red Wings probably hope that Conklin approaches his 09-10 form (or better yet, his slightly better 07-08 run with the Pittsburgh Penguins), but it’s unlikely that he’ll get all that many starts behind Howard. The Red Wings’ franchise goalie played in 63 games for two straight seasons, so it’s possible that Conklin will see his least amount of work since he played in 16 games during the 06-07 season.
Either way, the Red Wings have some flexibility with Joey MacDonald locked up to a two-way deal and plenty of familiarity with their trio of goalies. They might need some solid work from whomever is in net too considering Nicklas Lidstrom’s age, Brian Rafalski’s retirement and the under-the-radar issues the team dealt with on defense last season.