When Jimmy Howard was chosen in the third round of the 2003 National Hockey League draft by the Detroit Red Wings, he said he never envisioned the career he would have with one of the league’s original six teams.
But the former University of Maine All-America goalie’s 14-year career with the Red Wings has come to an end after the team announced it would not offer him a contract for next season.
Howard signed a one-year deal for $5.1 million prior to the 2019-2020 campaign, but he never envisioned how it would pan out.
“It was a horrible season,” Howard said Friday. “It was like being in quicksand. I kept pushing but I kept sinking. I worked hard, I stayed positive and kept trying to get better every day. But I just kept sinking.”
The 36-year-old Howard, who spends time at his home on Green Lake in Dedham with wife Rachel Miller and their four children, is coming off his worst season as a pro. He posted a 2-23-2 record with a 4.20 goals against average and a .882 save percentage.
The Red Wings had the league’s worst record at 17-49-5.
Howard leaves Detroit ranked third among the franchise’s goalies in games played (543) and wins (246) and fourth in shutouts (24).
Among goalies who appeared in at least 200 games for the organization, he has the best save percentage (.912) and is third in GAA (2.62).
“It’s bittersweet,” Howard said. “All good things come to an end. It has been such an honor to play for this organization and this city.”
Howard said he is looking to land an NHL job for next season, saying this one left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“I want to go out and prove I can still play in this league for one or two more years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone would want to go out this way.”
Howard isn’t surprised Detroit didn’t offer him a contract.
“It’s the business side of this profession. We all have an expiration date with an organization,” he said.
Howard said he isn’t going to dwell on the past. He is skating and working out in Michigan while hoping to latch on with another team.
He said he is looking forward to opening a new chapter of his career with another franchise.
“I’m excited about it. It’s the first time I will be going through free agency. I’m curious to see how it will all work out,” he said.
Howard, a three-time NHL All-Star, is UMaine’s career leader in career GAA (1.84), save percentage (.931) and shutouts (15). He also owns the single-season records (1.19 GAA, .956 save pct. during 2003-2004). He twice posted six shutouts in a season.
Off the ice, Howard in 2005 established the Jimmy Howard Foundation to support research, treatment and cures for various diseases in the Detroit area. Last April, he bought $50,000 worth of N95 masks for health care workers at the Detroit Medical Center.