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Red Wings get a Monster

Free agent Gustavsson to serve as backup to Jimmy Howard

Sunday, 07.1.2012 / 1:26 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com
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Red Wings get a Monster

Gustavsson has a 39-45-15 record with a 2.98 career goals-against average in three seasons with the Maple Leafs. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – While practically every team in the league awaited word on what prized free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will do on the open market, the Red Wings wasted little time in providing a substantial backup to starting goalie Jimmy Howard.

The Wings reached a deal in the first hour of this year’s free agency period when former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson agreed to a two-year contract on Sunday afternoon.

“He played in a very tough Toronto market where their team had trouble and he was kind of leaned on to be the guy and it might have been a bit too much,” said Jim Devellano, the Wings’ senior vice president. “I think with the Red Wings we’ll have a better team, and I think he’ll do just fine.”

At last month’s draft, Gustavsson's negotiating rights were traded to the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2013, but a deal was never reached, allowing the Swedish goalie to enter free agency.

One of the tallest netminders in the business, the 6-foot-3 Gustavsson has good overall skills, is agile for his size, and likes to challenge the shooters, which reminds the senior vice-president of a former Wings goalie.

“There was a lot of pressure in Toronto trying to be the No. 1 goaltender for a new guy coming from a new land,” Devellano said. “I think he will complement Jimmy Howard terrifically well, I really do. I think he’ll blend in well with our Swedes. And his style of play is not unlike Dominik Hasek, so I think between Jimmy Howard and Gustavsson, Detroit will have upgraded their goaltending for the coming year.”

In three seasons with the Leafs, Gustavsson posted a 39-45-15 record with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage. Yet while he arrived in Toronto amid much fanfare as the best goalie outside of the NHL, the Monster, as he’s often called, has seen his NHL career slowed by heart problems. He twice underwent heart ablation procedures, once after leaving a game in December 2009.

Gustavsson, now 27, helped guide Färjestad to the Swedish Elite League championship in 2008-09, posting a league-best 1.92 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage in 42 regular-season games.

He had some success in Toronto, which included a seven-game winning streak following a stint at the 2010 Winter Olympics where he, along with Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen, represented Sweden. And Gustavsson also thrived for a while this past season, filling in when James Reimer suffered a concussion.

But Devellano isn’t scared by Gustavsson’s past health issues.

“He seemed to have a lot of problems the first year that he was with Toronto, but I didn’t think he had any problems last year with his health. There’s always risk in everything you do, obviously. He’ll be very comfortable.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
4 TBL 50 28 18 4 131 115 60
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 49 25 17 7 126 122 57
10 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
11 CAR 52 23 21 8 124 138 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 53 20 28 5 133 167 45

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 50 17 18 23 35
H. Zetterberg 51 9 25 2 34
T. Tatar 50 14 16 -3 30
G. Nyquist 51 14 13 -4 27
J. Abdelkader 51 14 12 -4 26
P. Datsyuk 36 6 18 10 24
M. Green 45 3 17 -8 20
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
D. DeKeyser 47 6 8 10 14
R. Sheahan 50 7 6 -15 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 18 10 4 .931 2.06
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89