DETROIT – Jimmy Howard is in the final year of a two-year deal that’s paying him $2.25 million a season.
The last time Howard was in the final year of a contract he admitted it became a distraction for him on the ice.
Howard, 28, said that won’t repeat itself this time around.
“It was a learning experience last time,” Howard said. “It was the first time I’ve ever been through something like that and it took a toll on me. But, now it seems like it’s the farthest thing I’m thinking about. You don’t have time to think about it.”
According to Howard the two sides have begun preliminary talk.
Howard, who began the season as the 27th-highest-paid goalie in the league, has started all but one of the Wings’ games this season. He’ll make his 13th appearance tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.
Last summer, Jonathan Quick and Kari Lehtonen set the bar on deals.
The Los Angeles Kings inked Jonathan Quick to a 10-year deal worth $58 million, while Dallas locked up Kari Lehtonen for five years at $29.5 million.
Howard is 6-4-2 this season with a 2.88 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
If no deal gets done, Howard will become an unrestricted free agent on July 5.
After a strong start to the 2010-11 season, his second full year in Detroit, Howard was inconsistent for a two-month stretch from December to January.
The Wings ramped up negotiations with Howard and his agent in order to clear the goalie’s mind of that distraction.
“I like that he’s a workhorse,” Holland said at the time. “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 was drafted by the Wings in 2003 and the team spent time grooming him in the minors before bringing him up when he was out of options.
And like before, Howard wants to get a deal done to stay in Detroit.
“This is where I’d love to be,” Howard said. “I got a lot of great friendships within this dressing. We’ve had a lot of great success in here and I enjoy playing here.”
The Wings don’t have much depth in goal in their system.
Jonas Gustavsson, who hasn’t played since relieving Howard in the season opener in St. Louis after suffering a groin injury, has one more year left on a $1.5 million deal.
Rookie Petr Mrazek played well in his one appearance with the Wings, allowing one goal on 27 shots. His contract, which runs through the 2014-15 season pays him $773,333 a season if he’s in Detroit.
Mrazek leapfrogged Tomas McCollum on the Wings’ depth chart.
McCollum has just 15 minutes of NHL experience, allowing three goals on eight shots.
Jordan Pearce is also in Grand Rapids.
Pearce is 16-7-1 with the Griffins this season with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
The Wings also had Joey MacDonald under contract, but they placed him on waivers Sunday and he was claimed by the Calgary Flames.
In each of Howard’s first two full seasons in Detroit he recorded 37 wins. He struggled in his first postseason with the team, but then rebounded the following year in the playoffs, which coincidently was the same season he worked out a new two-year deal with the team.
Howard finished second to Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers in the Calder Trophy race as the NHL’s top rookie.
The Wings will also try and workout deals with Valtteri Filppula and Damien Brunner before season’s end.
Filppula is in the final year of a $3 million a year deal and Brunner is making $1.35 million this season. Both will become unrestricted free agents on July 5 if no deals get done.