DETROIT >> It appears the Detroit Red Wings may have found their backup goalie for next season, if the price and duration is right.
The Wings have been talking with Jonas Gustavsson, their backup netminder for the last two seasons, and are trying to sign him to a one-year deal.
“We were real happy with the job that Gustavsson did,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview Tuesday. “We’ve been talking to him.”
The team would like to give Petr Mrazek another year in Grand Rapids to develop before bringing to Detroit fulltime for the 2015-16 season.
Mrazek led the Griffins to the Calder Cup title last season.
“Whether (Petr) Mrazek plays here or Gustavsson plays here, Gus got half our wins this year,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said at the end of the season. “The bottom line is if you’re playing every day you have to earn the right to play every day. If you’re a tandem that’s what happens but the other guy has to earn the right to make that happen so we’ll see what happens.”
Mrazek has played in 11 regular season games in parts of of two years in Detroit going 3-5-0 with a 1.74 GAA and a save percentage of .927. Two of his wins were shutouts.
Gustavsson’s two seasons in Detroit seemed to be spent mainly on the trainer’s table.
Battling injures from groins to shoulders, Gustavsson appeared in just 34 regular-season games with the Wings over two seasons.
“I mean it’s been a lot of injuries, you don’t want to have those for yourself and for your team,” Gustavsson said during the Wings’ locker cleanout. “You want to be out there to be able to be part of the team every day, every day of the season so of course that sets me back. I’m going to keep working on it to prevent injuries like that.”
Gustavsson has missed a total of 23 games on five separate occasions with three different types of injuries last season.
Groin injuries have been his Achilles heel since signing a free agent deal with the Wings.
Along with missing 18 games due to a groin injury this season, he appeared in just seven of the 48 games during the lockout-shortened year last season, making just four starts. He didn’t play over the final 27 games of the season, which included the playoffs.
“I felt like I found a way that was working for me at the end of the season so hopefully I can build on that,” Gustavsson said. “The groin felt really good for the second part of the season for the most part so that’s something I’m going to keep working on and that’s something I need for myself too because I want to be playing at a high level for a long time and I want to try to take the next step and that’s part of taking the next step.”
When Gustavsson played, he played well this season, going 16-5-4 with a 2.63 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. He appeared in the final two games of the playoffs, filling in for starter Jimmy Howard who was sidelined with the flu, and gave Detroit a chance.
Gustavsson had aspirations of perhaps being a No. 1 goalie somewhere, but another year as the backup to Jimmy Howard seems more likely.
“I think every athlete wants to be as good as they can be and reach as high as they can, but that being said it’s not like I can go out on the open market and demand a starting role somewhere because there are a lot of good goalies,” said Gustavsson, who missed the final two regular-season games after suffering a left shoulder injury in a 4-3 shootout loss to Pittsburgh. “You have to compete to get to that job. I would like to play a few more games that so I’m just going to try to go where I can feel like I can take that next step. It could be here and if so that’s great and if nothing happens here then you look at other stuff.”