It started with an off-color remark. Met with a chuckle.
When I was lucky enough to travel with the Red Wings this past February, I found myself eating with the boys at their team lunch on Saturday afternoon. I joined a table that had Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl, and Joey MacDonald carbo-loading in preparation for that night’s game against the Predators (that MacDonald would be starting). We exchanged pleasantries and when I mentioned I lived in New York, Abdelkader asked me if I ever get out to see some games.
I told him I catch a game or two every season at Madison Square Garden because it’s so easy to get to — but since it’s expensive, I try to hold off until the Wings are in town. Even the new building in Newark, which is lovely, is pretty easy to find via public transportation. And after admitting that I’d made the trek once, I added “but you wouldn’t catch me dead at that shithole in Long Island.”
There was laughter across the table. I glance over and it’s Joey MacDonald, who had spent 2007-09 as the Islanders goalie. Immediately, I thought I made a faux pas, apologizing to the Wings’ third goaltender. He would go on to tell me that he really loved living in the area and playing for the Islanders — and couldn’t help but think fondly of the Nassau Memorial Coliseum and the less-than-stellar condition it’s in.
Luckily for everyone involved, MacDonald escaped the dual steaming piles that are Long Island and the Islanders and, eventually, returned to the team that gave him his first shot in the professional ranks. Prior to the 2010-11 season, MacDonald signed with the Red Wings after a brief stop in Toronto. He played more than admirably as an injury replacement for Chris Osgood last season, winning over a lot of fans who hoped that he’d return — even if it meant only as a third goaltender that spent most of his time in Grand Rapids mentoring the youngsters in Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce.
On Monday morning, the Wings signed MacDonald to a two-year, two-way extension, even though it seemed that he was hoping to capitalize on a strong season and play for an NHL-only contract or chase big money overseas. It must not have been in the cards, likely due to the strong goaltending class in this free agency, and the Wings snapped him up.
There was always a chance that MacDonald could return to be the #2 goaltender, based solely on how well he played in relief. But Ken Holland tells The Free Press’ Helene St. James that “[h]e’s going to be our third guy.” That leaves the door open for Chris Osgood or Ty Conklin to return, and we were told to expect news about the goaltending situation pretty imminently.
Joey MacDonald’s deal is two-way for 2011-12, meaning he will earn less money if he’s demoted to the Griffins ($105,000 compared to $550,000 in the NHL). There’s no mention of the second year, so it might be fair to assume that he becomes one-way, meaning he’d earn $550,000 no matter which team he plays for (like Doug Janik this season). Hat tip to both @georgemalik and @Lindy72 for the conversation.
Here’s a look at the remaining 2011 Free Agents within the organization:
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Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images