For the second off-season in a row, we — as well as our good friends at Winging it in Motown — are taking a look at the Red Wings’ upcoming free agents and asking the community for their input. Read all of the important information and then place your vote — should the Wings try to get Ty Conklin under contract for 2012-13, or was his second stint with the Wings a one-and-done?
Ty Conklin, goaltender, #29
36 Years Old (March 30, 1976)
6’0″, 184 lbs
8 NHL Seasons (215 career regular season games played) – two seasons in Detroit (55 total games)
Born in Phoenix, but raised in Alaska. Was not drafted.
Regular Season (NHL) – 15 games played, 5-6-1 record, 3.28 GAA, .884 sv%
Regular Season (AHL) – 12 games played, 8-4 record, 2.40 GAA, .915 sv%
Playoffs – 0 games played.
Conklin had a very successful first pass through Detroit in 2008-09. He leveraged that showing into a two-year deal with the St. Louis Blues, who probably counted on him more than he could deliver. With his two seasons expired, and the Blues pleased with a Halak/Elliott tandem (and they proved this season that they should have been pleased), Conklin was again in search of a place to play in ’11-12. Detroit swooped in and plucked him off of the free agent list to replace the retired Chris Osgood as Jimmy Howard’s primary backup.
He wasn’t able to maintain his place in the NHL lineup, and was badly outplayed by veteran backup Joey MacDonald when the team needed some assistance from their depth. Conklin was waived, unclaimed, and assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins where he played well.
Jimmy Howard is the incumbent #1 netminder and that’s how it will remain. Conklin was — for most of the season — the de-facto #2. He was unseated by Joey MacDonald — who began the season as #3. MacDonald is under contract for another season, but has had recurring back issues. Even though he won’t require surgery to repair a bulging disc, the team is understandably concerned about having him as the full-time back-up. Conklin may or may not be the ideal situation for the Detroit Red Wings, who will very actively be shopping for someone to play second fiddle to Tiberius.
CASE FOR CONKLIN
2) No, seriously — he is a veteran goaltender and an incredible teammate. By all accounts, he’s everybody’s friend and didn’t complain once when he was demoted to Grand Rapids, where he remained and kicked some ass. There’s no doubt he’s a great influence on young goaltenders and may be a valuable piece to several teams in the League.
3) You can never have enough goaltending depth, as the Wings proved this season. For a chunk of games late in the season, the Wings had Conklin recalled from Grand Rapids — as well as Jordan Pearce — because both Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald were unable to play. Yikes.
CASE AGAINST CONKLIN
1) I don’t mean any disrespect, because I’m sure he’s a hell of a guy, but his season was poor — at best. What’s worse than his numbers is that he seemed to lose confidence in his game as the season wore on, despite a really strong showing at the AHL level. His season debut was a shutout, and we all felt good about the tandem, but then the wheels fell off. After that first showing, he averaged 3.54 goals against per sixty minutes — including a seven-goal ass-whooping at the hands of the Capitals in his next outing.
2) With Howard missing time last season, it became instantly apparent that the Wings need a better option than Conklin to rely on for more than a game at a time. The same could be said about Joey MacDonald — though he fared well — who has an injury history that is scary. A legitimate option in the net during games that Howard needs a break would be welcome, and likely wouldn’t take the form of Ty Conklin.
3) Not to compound the issue, but perhaps the St. Louis Blues years were more a symptom of a greater problem than they were of a weak team with a strong goaltender. After a strong season in Detroit in ’08-09, he seemed like his career was just started to take off, a la Tim Thomas. Three weak seasons in a row will make it difficult for Conklin to find an NHL deal, but he may be willing to sign a two-way.
WHAT HE’S SAYING
Continuing the theme of “the good soldier,” Ty Conklin has been clear that he’s enjoyed his time in Detroit as well as Grand Rapids. If he’s hoping to move on, he isn’t saying so publicly. The team, however, has made no bones about the fact that they’d like to acquire a backup netminder, citing MacDonald’s back issues as a concern. There was no mention of Conklin’s future other than an editorial from local writers (perhaps paraphrased from Mr. Holland) that Conklin will not, in fact, be re-signed.
Conklin took a significant haircut to sign in Detroit last season. After making $1.3M in each of the two seasons prior, he returned to the salary he made in Detroit in ’08-09: $750,000 — which is essentially the minimum salary for a netminder (it isn’t, really, but it’s rare that a full-time NHL goaltender will make less than that). If he’s hoping to sign a one-way deal, he may be out of luck… but he could very well sign a two-way with a similar NHL salary or slightly less.
Internal :: Everyone’s clear that Joey Mac has usurped the temporary #2 spot behind Jimmy Howard at the moment. New pro Petr Mrazek is expected in Grand Rapids, but the book on him is a good one: maybe he blows the doors off of training camp.
External :: The most likely outcome has the Wings seeking a backup on the market. Players available that might interest Ken Holland include Michael Leighton, Scott Clemmensen, Alex Auld, Josh Harding, and Brent Johnson who was just made expendable in Pittsburgh thanks to the acquisition of Tomas Vokoun.
WHAT DO YOU THINK
Use the form below to give us your take on whether the Wings should try to get Ty Conklin back at a reasonable rate. Then, sound off in the comments with your thoughts.