The Alex Nedeljkovic reality for the remainder of this season is that he’s playing for the Detroit Red Wings and auditioning for 31 other NHL teams.
Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman hasn’t said what his goaltending plan is for next season. But the fact Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg haven’t been re-signed says Yzerman likely will consider options to be Ville Husso’s backup next season.
Nedeljkovic has been fortunate that a Husso injury has at least provided him an opportunity to show that he is still an NHL-quality goalkeeper. In fact, highlights from Thursday 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes would make a good recruiting video to be sent to teams. Nedeljkovic made 31 saves against the ‘Canes.
“He kept us in the game for sure,” Detroit defenseman Jake Walman said. “That’s the Ned that we know and he played unreal to. . . . I mean (it was) more than a couple of big saves. He for sure won us that game.”
Husso (lower body) may be close to returning, but Nedeljkovic probably will start Sunday’s game in Toronto.
“It’s nice getting to play a couple of games in a row and get into a rhythm, feeling good,” Nedeljkovic said after his last game.
It’s difficult to know what Nedeljkovic’s future will look like. The NHL only has 64 goalie jobs, and the vast majority are already contractually obligated to players. It’s impossible to know how many teams will make a change at the starter or backup position, but you can guess there won’t be a multitude of openings.
Regained Confidence in GR
It helps that Nedeljkovic, 27, is still in his prime and that he played well after he sent to the American Hockey League. He didn’t sulk. He worked at rediscovering his game. When he was recalled, he was 13-9-3 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.
He handles the puck well. Coaches appreciate the help he provides the team’s transition game.
“Just trying to play the same way I was in GR,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s what has made me successful in the past, what I’ve done that’s worked. It’a what’a gonna make me successful down the road. Just trying to recreate that as best as I can.”
Nedeljkovic’s intangibles will work for him when he’s looking for a job this summer. He’s popular with teammates. They play hard for him because they know he competes hard for them.
“I just play for myself, tell myself I can do it,” Nedeljkovic said. “Obviously playing for a new contract. Just playing for the guys in front of me. Trying to have success personally, but also to win games. It’s so much better when you win games and you come in the locker room and the music’s playing and everybody’s having fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re out of the playoff hunt or whatever, winning games is a lot more fun than losing for sure.