While I’m still unenthused about the idea of the new Vegas Golden Knights actually playing their games, I’ve been giddy as hell about the drama surrounding the expansion draft. Nothing is more entertaining than watching a highly paid GM make a dumb move, and with 30 teams involved in a fairly complex protocol for protecting players, it was safe to say that someone would fuck up.
But I didn’t expect that team to be the Detroit Red Wings. Formerly among the league’s leading innovators, they’ve now fallen on tougher times, and Sunday they provided NHL fans with one of the few true surprises of the protected list reveal. Petr Mrazek, the team’s starting goaltender at the outset of last season, will be available to the Knights if they desire him.
Mrazek isn’t a lock to be taken by Vegas, which seems to have zeroed in on Marc-Andre Fleury as its starting goalie in year one. (They may very well select Mrazek and flip him to another team.) But just last year he was supposed to be Detroit’s goaltender of the future. Now, GM Ken Holland has decided he prefers Jimmy Howard—who boasts a nearly identical career save percentage, but is eight years older, more fragile, and more expensive—to Mrazek, who, while disappointing in 2016-17 with a .901 save percentage, still has plenty of potential.
If we take Holland at his word that he has no side deals with Vegas, the best I can come up with are four reasons why the Red Wings didn’t protect Mrazek. All are semi-logical but none seem sufficient.
The Wings are extremely high on goaltender Jared Coreau, who struggled in 14 NHL games this season but played fairly well for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. It’s possible that the Wings staff sees in Coreau their goalie of the future, but he’s still a few months older than Mrazek and an unquestionable…