NHL Free Agency: Could the Detroit Red Wings Sign a Backup Goalie?

Adam Rickert@adam_rickertAnalyst IIJune 24, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 06: Goalie Joey MacDonald #31 of the Detroit Red Wings gets a drink during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on March 6, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Detroit Red Wings are expected to be one of the most active teams in free agency this year due to an early playoff exit and the departures of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart.

Because of these departures, most are speculating that Detroit will bring in Ryan Suter or another defenseman like Justin Schultz or Dennis Wideman.

However, one area that the Red Wings had problems with last season was goaltending. When Jimmy Howard didn't play, backup goalie Ty Conklin was inconsistent, and was later sent down to Grand Rapids and replaced by journeyman Joey MacDonald.

Howard then suffered an injury, and MacDonald played great in his place...until suffering an injury himself.

The Wings had to go with Ty Conklin and Jordan Pearce as their goaltending tandem for a small period of time, and Conklin again struggled while Pearce never played.

MacDonald came back, but he did not play as well as before his injury. Jimmy Howard came back and played decently for the remainder of the regular season, but then struggled in the playoffs.

This year, Conklin is a free agent and likely won't be returning, but MacDonald is expected to be the new backup.

The problem is, if Howard is inconsistent or gets hurt during the season, are MacDonald, Pearce or Thomas McCollum reliable backups? Some fans don't think so.

Let's take a look at the possible free-agent goalies.

Martin Brodeur obviously stands out on the list, but you're crazy if you think he will go anywhere but New Jersey.

The names that stand out to me are Antero Niittymaki, Dan Ellis, Michael Leighton, Johan Hedberg, Scott Clemmensen and Brent Johnson.

All have been somewhat journeymen throughout their careers, but would it be a smart idea for Ken Holland to offer a contract to one of them to provide some extra goaltending depth?

After all, the most that one could possibly cost would be about $2 million, which is a small chunk of money compared to the tremendous amount of cap space that the Wings have to spend this year.

It would most likely be a one-year contract; Pearce and McCollum have been highly praised prospect goalies, and Holland and the Wings would probably like to work each of them into the system eventually to give them more experience.

That being said, I say that signing a backup couldn't hurt even though I really like Joey MacDonald. The past two seasons, Detroit has had injury issues with both Howard and backups Joey MacDonald and Chris Osgood before him, while younger call-ups have been very inconsistent.

Don't be surprised if Holland spends a little bit of money this offseason in order to add goaltending depth