Howard finally inks extension: “It’s still sort of surreal.”

DETROIT – Quick update from Detroit Red Wings practice Tuesday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.

Jimmy Howard has finally inked a six-year extension with the team, paying him $5.3 million a year, the team announced after practice.

“It’s one of those things where I’ll treat everyone to dinner,” Howard said. “It’s an exciting time for myself and my family and we’re excited to be here for six more years.

“It’s still sort of surreal,” Howard added. “I still can’t believe it’s happening. It’s been a long road, a long journey with a lot of ups and down, especially with being in the American League for four years and learning to become a professional. Everything sort of panned out for me.”

Howard was in the final year of a deal that paid him $2.25 million a season.

“Everyone would want to finish their career with the team that they started with,” Howard said. “To be able to be drafted by the Wings when I was 18 and still be here and part of the organization at 29 is pretty special.”

Howard, 29, was drafted by the Wings in 2003 (second round, 64th overall) and the team spent time grooming him in the minors before bringing him up when he was out of options.

“Howie has worked hard and the organization has confidence in him,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “It’s important for us. We need good goaltending. Just how much parity there is, we need him each and every night and he’s been excellent for us.”

Howard has helped keep the Wings in the playoff race this lockout-shortened year after they lost so much this offseason, going 17-12-6 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. He has three shutouts this season.

Howard is now the 10th highest paid goalie in the league according to CapGeek.com. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne is No. 1 at $7 million a season.

In each of Howard’s first two full seasons in Detroit he recorded 37 wins, becoming the only goalie in Wings history to win at least 35 games in each of his first two seasons. He struggled in his first postseason with the team, but then rebounded the following year in the playoffs, which coincidentally was the same season he worked out a new two-year deal with the team.

“I like that he’s a workhorse,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said recently of Howard. “He’s a guy we can put in net night after night. We drafted him, we developed him and we watched him grow as a goaltender. His prime years are ahead of him.”

Howard finished second to Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers in the Calder Trophy race as the NHL’s top rookie.

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