As we speculated last night, the Detroit Red Wings will indeed roll with a familiar face as Jimmy Howard’s backup during the 2011-12 season. The team confirmed that they signed Ty Conklin to a one-year contract, although they didn’t disclose how much money he will make. Ansar Khan reports that it will be less than $1 million, so it sounds like Conklin will receive a little bit less than what’s been the going rate for experienced backups during this off-season.
Red Wings fans should be familiar with Conklin, who helped save the team’s 2008-09 season. Conklin was supposed to serve as Chris Osgood’s backup, but he played nearly half the campaign by going 25-11-2 with a .909 save percentage, 2.51 GAA and six shutouts in 40 games played.
The Red Wings needed to let Conklin go to make room for Jimmy Howard in 2009. This allowed Conklin to sign a two-year deal with the St. Louis Blues. He was fantastic in 2009-10 (10-10-2 with an outstanding .921 save percentage and 2.48 GAA in 26 games played) but had a dreadful 10-11 (8-8-4 with an abysmal .881 save percentage and 3.22 GAA in 25 GP). Obviously, the Red Wings are hoping they get the “good” Conklin instead of the 10-11 version this season.
Either way, if Howard is healthy, fans probably won’t see a ton of Conklin. Howard played in 63 games for two straight seasons, so it’s possible that Conklin will appear in the least amount of games since he played in just 16 during the 06-07 season.
The good news for Detroit is that they have flexibility because they also Joey MacDonald locked up to a two-way deal. They might need some strong play from whomever gets the nod in net (ideally Howard, of course) because their defense could go through a bit of a transitional period with Nicklas Lidstrom moving toward retirement, Brian Rafalski already there and some new pieces in place.