Red Wings Sign Mrazek to Two-Year Deal

Per Elliotte Friedman, the Red Wings have signed goalie Petr Mrazek to a two-year contract.

That’s a $4 million AAV, which is a solid deal for the Red Wings except for the fact that they have Jimmy Howard carrying a $5,291,666 cap hit as a backup.

With the deal, the Red Wings managed to avoid arbitration, something the team takes pride in.  It would have been their first “real” arbitration hearing (the hearing for Jiri Hudler in 2009 was a formality as he’d already bolted for the KHL) in two decades.

Mrazek will still be a restricted free agent when the deal ends, giving him time to prove himself as a starter and the Red Wings time to dump Howard.

Red Wings Sign DeKeyser to Six-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Danny DeKeyser to a six-year contract on Tuesday.  In agreeing to the deal, the sides avoided a potentially-contentious arbitration meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The contract breakdown is as follows:

With DeKeyser signed, the Red Wings’ top concern becomes goalie Petr Mrazek, who is scheduled for an arbitration meeting on Wednesday.

My concern with the DeKeyser deal is that, once again, Ken Holland is giving a player long-term money based on his potential, not what he’s proven.

$5 million per season is #2 defenseman money.  I think DeKeyser is the best defenseman on this team, which isn’t saying much.  I think he could be a top defenseman eventually.  I do not think he’ll be worth $5 million in the 2016-17 season.

Giving out contracts like this is a gamble.  Maybe by the second year, he’s taken a step forward and become a legitimate #1 defenseman and it’s a bargain for the rest of the deal.  If not, though…  This is how you get healthy scratches making $2 million (the now-departed Jakub Kindl).

Former Red Wing Richards Retires

We knew heading into the offseason – and it became even more apparent with Detroit’s moves on July 1 – that Brad Richards wasn’t going to be returning to the Red Wings for a second season.  It turns out that he won’t be returning to the NHL at all.

His final season can only be described as disappointing but it had its highlights.  He’ll forever be the guy who helped the Red Wings punch the Avalanche in the throat in Colorado’s own outdoor game.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Red Wings Sign Glendening to Four-Year Extension

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday the signing of forward Luke Glendening to a four-year contract extension.

Glendening still has one year left on his current contract, carrying a $628,333 salary cap hit.

Of course, no financial terms were announced, because team policy is to leak that information to only certain people, so they can tell the rest of the world.

This deal annoys me.  Keep locking up bottom-six forwards long-term, Kenny.  The replaceable guys.  As much as I hate the Steve Ott signing, these are the people you can grab every year if your guy walks.  There is no reason to give four years to Luke Glendening.  None.

Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter, says the new deal carries a cap hit of $1.8 million.  I hate it now.


Update, 11:45 AM: Michael Petrella, formerly of The Production Line, had this to add…

The timing of this extension is particularly bad because it means that the Red Wings are virtually required to protect Glendening in the expansion draft.  Were he going to be a free agent next summer, they could have left him unprotected and used his spot on someone else.

Of course, there’s the cynical thought that the Wings could leave him unprotected knowing that they paid him too much and Las Vegas won’t want to pick up that contract.  I don’t think Ken Holland thinks that way, though.

Red Wings Re-up Pulkkinen

The Red Wings announced the signing of restricted free agent forward Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year contract extension today…  Sort of.

They later “corrected” the “typo.”

As per club policy, no useful information was announced.  So we’re waiting on that.

Pulkkinen is expected to miss the start of the season after off-season shoulder surgery.

The Red Wings now have 18 forwards signed for next season.  Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale will likely spend the entire year on LTIR while Pulkkinen will start the season there.  That’s still 15 players for 14 spots, meaning, one of Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha likely starts the season in Grand Rapids.  That’s not including Tyler Bertuzzi or Martin Frk or any of the other young guys that are supposedly going to fight for a roster spot next year.

Of course, there’s always the mythical “forwards for defense” trade that could clear up that logjam.

UPDATE: HSJ tells us that the deal is for $812,500.

On the Red Wings’ Next Alternate Captain

With Pavel Datsyuk having departed, the Red Wings are left with an open spot among their contingent of captains.  I brought this up on Twitter a month ago and WiiM did a post on it a couple weeks ago.  I went back through the team’s recent history to see if anything can be gleaned from it to show us who might be picked.

The 2015-16 season was unique for the Red Wings in that captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternates Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall were the only players to wear letters for the team all year.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opportunity – both Datsyuk and Kronwall missed significant time due to injury – it means that there were 34 games where Detroit didn’t even bother sewing an “A” on anyone else’s sweater.

Captains are the only players who can speak to on-ice officials but the Red Wings’ going with fewer than the allowed number of captains shows how unimportant that rule.  Of note: Teams may have no more than three lettered players on the roster but there is nothing saying that they have to have that number.

We have to go back to the 2015 season to find replacement captains used by the Red Wings.  Despite ten games with only two captains dressed, seven players still managed to wear a letter throughout the year.  The injured Johan Franzen wore it for ten games, Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary each wore it for three, and Darren Helm wore it for one.

If he were healthy, I think Franzen would get the A, but he’ll never play again.  Cleary may very well return to the organization and get a letter in Grand Rapids, but I think he can be ruled out in Detroit.  That leaves Ericsson and the recently-re-signed Helm.

Going back one more season to 2014 adds no new names to the list, as the now-retired Daniel Alfredsson was the most-frequent extra alternate, wearing an A for 36 games to Franzen’s 31 and Cleary’s 8.  Five games were spent with only two captains.

The lockout-shortened 2013 – Zetterberg’s first as captain – featured three games with only two captains but no replacement alternates.  It was also the first season since the 2007-08 campaign, when Datsyuk was given an A along with Zetterberg and Kris Draper, that the team had only three captains.

Even with four captains on the books in 2012, Tomas Holmstrom wore the A for eight games.  The team dressed three captains for every game.

Going back further, we see the names of long-departed defensemen Brian Rafalski and Chris Chelios…  Clearly players who won’t be options now.

In the last seven years there have been ten players to wear the C or A with the Red Wings.  Two of them – Zetterberg and Kronwall – still do.  Only two of the remaining eight are still with the team: Ericsson and Helm.

At three games to one, Ericsson has more experience wearing the letter than Helm.  Maybe that gives him an edge.

So can anything be pulled from these numbers?  I think the only thing they show is that it’s time for someone new.  The old standbys are gone.

While newcomers Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott have all worn letters elsewhere in their career – Nielsen had an A with the Islanders last season while Vanek and Ott co-captained the Sabres back in the 2013-14 season – the Red Wings haven’t given the alternate captaincy directly to a newcomer since trading for Brendan Shanahan in 1996.

By my count, the Wings haven’t had two defenseman with letters since before the Steve Yzerman era, which would seemingly rule out Ericsson or any of the other blueliners, so long as Kronwall wears the A.

Jeff Blashill is not Jacques Demers.  I don’t think Dylan Larkin gets the available letter by virtue of being the team’s best player.

I think – almost from lack of better options – that we’ll see Justin Abdelkader get the A.

Of course, that could change if the mythical “trade for a top defenseman” ever emerges.  We’ll see.

How Will the NHL Honor Gordie Howe?

Earlier today, Twitter user @KevinParker12 posted (and Winging it in Motown later ran with) that shop.nhl.com was offering up Detroit Red Wings jerseys for new signee Steve Ott carrying the number nine.

I joked that this is the NHL’s promised tribute to Gordie Howe, letting Ott take his retired number.

It’d be easy for the NHL’s online store to ignore retired numbers.  I know because I’ve already written code for that.

It’s a mistake that has already been fixed.  Ott is no longer listed with a number.  It can be assumed he’ll go with #29 as he’s worn it for much of his career and it’s available in Detroit.

But I want to go back to that promised tribute.  On June 16, in the aftermath of Howe’s passing, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league would “come up with something that’s an enduring testament to Gordie.”  He later called it “special and enduring and permanent.”

Specifically, that was in response to the idea of retiring Howe’s #9 league-wide, an idea that had been circulating and gained the support of none other than Wayne Gretzky, the only NHL player who currently has that honor.

The statement seems to shoot down the idea of a league-wide number retirement.  As someone who doesn’t think #99 should be retired, either, I agree with this.  It does, however, raise the question of exactly what honor the league will bestow.

The words from that statement that stick out to me are “enduring” and “permanent.”  I think it leads to two options.

One is renaming a conference or division after him.  The divisions were just renamed three years ago and the inclusion of the awkwardly-named “Metropolitan” Division (which includes Columbus and Carolina) and an Atlantic Division that extends inland to Detroit was met with derision.  Renaming the conferences and divisions after legends of the game would get around the issues that arise from geographically naming a division that stretches from Montreal to Miami.

That said, the NHL had the opportunity to eschew the geographical division names when they realigned in 2013 and opted not to.  They were the last major league in North America to go to geography-based names in 1993 and seem to have no desire to give them up.

<troll> Besides, the awkward names of the Eastern Conference can be resolved by relocating the Carolina Hurricanes to Quebec City, moving them and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the current Atlantic Division, moving the Florida teams to the current Metropolitan Division, then renaming the Atlantic to the Northeast and giving the Metropolitan the Atlantic name.  </troll>

I think the more-likely honor is renaming one of the league’s current awards after Howe.

There’s been a push on and off over the last several years for renaming the awards after more relevant personalities.  In most cases it has faced strong backlash as yet another example of the league choosing to ignore its own history.  I know that I’ve said the league should focus on educating its fans on who James Norris was rather than removing his name from its award for best defenseman in favor of Raymond Bourque or Bobby Orr.

However, if the league wanted to put Gordie Howe’s name on the MVP award, I think even those of us who prefer to preserve the historical names would have a hard time arguing against it.  Similar to the NHLPA’s renaming of the Lester B. Pearson Award after Ted Lindsay, I think the most-negative reaction you’d see is begrudging acceptance.

Of course, thinking cynically, by picking players like Lindsay and Howe to start, you get people used to the idea of renaming awards.  Then when it comes time to change the Frank J. Selke Trophy after Guy Carbonneau, then do it again for Patrice Bergeron ten years later, there’s less room for complaint.

If the league is going to honor Gordie Howe in a truly meaningful way, I’d be willing to bet they rename an award after him.  I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.

Just Don’t Screw It Up

Ever since Steven Stamkos decided to stay in Tampa Bay without even giving Detroit general manager Ken Holland the chance to make a pitch to him, I can only think one thing.

“Just don’t screw it up.”

The lone superstar is off the board and I can’t shake the feeling that the Red Wings are going to do something stupid when free agency opens on Friday at noon.

Unable to get a first line center, they’ll throw money at a fourth-line winger.  Having lost the ability to sign a player in his mid-twenties to a long-term deal, they’ll give six years to someone on the wrong side of thirty.

At this point, the longest contract Ken Holland should be offering is three years.  Much like he did when signing Mike Green last summer, he’ll probably have to overpay, but a short term mitigates that.

I think we’ll see some long-term deals for guys like Kyle Okposo and Franz Nielsen, though.  There’s too shallow of a pool of talent available and too many teams wading through it.

If that’s the case, the Wings should just stay out.  No one available is going to put them over the top.  This team needs too much work to tie up future resources on any of the players they could get tomorrow.

That includes signing their own guys.  Don’t overpay to bring back Darren Helm just because you couldn’t find anyone else.  Don’t throw money at Kyle Quincey because – once again – there was no other move to make on defense.

I don’t expect this, though.  I expect Holland to sign bottom-six guys who he’ll say can play up into the top six, except on this team they’ll be required to.  I hope I’m wrong.