While Howard has divided the opinion of the Red Wings faithful since he became Detroit's first choice starter in goal in the 2009-10 season, I for one believe inking the Syracuse, NY native to a contract extension was a great move on the Red Wings' part.
Howard is currently 29 but he's a somewhat ambiguously phrased "young 29" as this current season is only his fourth full NHL season. His new contract will see that he remains in Motown until he turns 35.
Now whilst $5.3 million per year seems a lot to commit to a goaltender who turns the wrong side of 30 in the first year of his extension, goaltenders typically don't find their "peak" form until around Howard's current age.
Considering Howard's career averages are a .917 SV% and a 2.39 GAA, it seems reasonable to think that Howard will continue his strong play for Detroit even after he turns 30 especially as we have seen goaltenders such as Marty Brodeur and Dwayne Roloson play into their 40s. Many goaltenders enjoy longer careers than their teammates due to the skills involved at their position and can still play at a high level even when others of a similar age begin to decline.
Therefore, with Howard being locked up between ages 29-35 when many goaltenders play the best hockey of their career, the length of Howard's contract shouldn't be a concern.
It's also difficult to argue that Howard didn't deserve such a lofty extension. This year, playing for a Detroit team with greats such as Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski no longer present on the team's blue line, Howard sports a .920 SV% and a 2.31 GAA along with three shutouts to help keep his side in the hunt for a playoff place. This is even more impressive when you consider that Detroit's defence has been ravaged by injuries for large parts of the season and that many of the team's usually consistent players have drastically underperformed.
Detroit Red Wings @DetroitRedWings
It's Official: Red Wings sign goaltender Jimmy Howard to six-year deal.4/16/2013, 5:33:26 PM
It's easy to argue that without Howard's strong play in goal, the Red Wings would be nowhere near a playoff place. There have even been some calls for him to be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Finally, ensuring key parts of the current team are in Detroit for the long term is a priority for GM Ken Holland. With former captain Nick Lidstrom retiring at the end of last year and Pavel Datsyuk potentially returning to the KHL when his contract runs out at the end of next season, key players such as Howard need to be retained at all costs if the Red Wings hope to be competitive in the near future. Stability, especially in goal, is something that any successful team.
And even if you disagree that extending Howard was a bad idea, remember he is still being paid less per year than Miikka Kiprusoff.