The Jimmy Howard Deal: How Much Is Too Much?

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by John McNeill

Midwest Correspondent, White Cover Magazine

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Dear Jimmy Howard,

if you read this, please know, I think you are a greta goaltender. You’re not Sochi-worthy, yet, but you’re in the top whatever number of tenders in the National Hockey League, and you show up at the mine with your hard hat and helmet light every day. Every game day, that is.

I just think you’re hitting up the Red Wings at an opportune time, much like your compadre Roberto Luongo hit up Vancouver in 2008. Like Bryzgalov hit up Philly in 2011. Like Joe Flacco raped the Ravens.

Of course, Jimmy, I think you’re pretty worth it.

You’re an All Star, but so was Cristobal Huet. Teams — hockey, baseball, football, whatevs — cannot afford to spring unquestioned royalties at guys who have never played under such situations and under such contracts. Contracts can be a burden, it seems, to goalies who have just arrived in Tinseltown. (I don’t mean Los Angeles, I just mean whatever sports-centric universe they reserve for athletes who have just arrived.)

The problem isn’t the money, Jimmy. No, you’re certainly a bargain at $5 million a season. Any starting goaltender who deserves to be a starting goaltender is, really.

But, seven years?

Nobody is worth seven years, and certainly not a goaltender. Certainly not a goaltender in a team that expects nothing less of itself than a Western Conference Final berth every year. Goalies play in swings. It’s their profession. Fans — and management — need to be loyal to their goalies, but they rarely are. They can’t always afford to be.

Roberto Luongo. Ryan Miller. Cam Ward. The best goalies disappear for a little while into these things we call slumps.

(*Think about Luongo for a second. His first playoff game, he made 72 saves. In 2007, he single-handedly put the Canucks in Round 2. In 2010, he won an Olympic Gold Medal. In 2011, he had two shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final, and he played three amazing series-clinching games in the rounds leading up to it. But, he’s known as a playoff bust. Why? Because of three bad games. Three. Ever.)

Hell, Dominik Hasek started off a train wreck. Patrick Roy had his infamous flame-out in Montreal. Martin Brodeur has routinely looked like an AHL goalie, but he’s the best of all-time.

Goalies are home run hitters. They have to show up every day. They have to stop at least 90 per cent of every shot they face, challenging or not.

Albert Pujols hasn’t been worth his new deal with Anaheim.

“I don’t think 10 years was a smart move for the Cardinals,” Tony La Russa told ESPN’s First Take in September. Pujols signed with Anaheim for a decade and $254 million the December prior, and La Russa had coached him ever since his first season in St. Louis. He won two World Series titles with him, but even he wasn’t convinced.

He had no doubt in Pujols, but 10 years? Even Albert’s biggest fan — his mentor, really — thought nobody deserved that.

“He is a great franchise player, so it makes sense for them… I think Albert is perfect — I call him Albert P. Pujols for Albert Perfect Pujols — but I don’t think that I would ever endorse a contract beyond six years, tops.”

It’s not just Albert, or Jimmy Howard.

Mike Wallace has a lot to live up to in Miami. Rick DiPietro may never be heard from again. Joe Flacco? Hell, even I don’t wanna be that guy in a few years (even though, I’d love to have an indoor pool).

Seven years is great news for Jimmy Howard, at least right now. He’s worked the system. He’ll make bank.

But, it’s not worth it.

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