Wings Send Tatar to Vegas, Keep Green as Trade Deadline Passes

The only move the Detroit Red Wings made on the NHL’s trade deadline day was to send forward Tomas Tatar to the Vegas Golden Knights for a trio of draft picks.

As much as I didn’t want to lose Tatar, that’s an impressive haul for him and it’ll help kickstart Detroit’s rebuild.  It was always rumored that one of he or Gustav Nyquist would be moved and Tatar probably had a higher value.

Unfortunately, none of the other rumors surrounding Detroit came to fruition.  Luke Glendening and Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser and Xavier Ouellet and – most importantly – Mike Green are all still Red Wings.

Glendening was always going to be a longshot.  Helm and DeKeyser as well.  Nyquist was probably going to stay if Tatar went so that’s not really a surprise, either.

Ouellet… It would have taken a team looking for just a little cheap depth, hoping a change of scenery helped.  I could have seen that happening but it’s not surprising that it didn’t.

Green, though, is difficult to swallow, even though I called it repeatedly.  He was supposed to be the Wings’ big trade piece and there was apparently absolutely no market for him.  Some of that is out of Detroit’s control, as why would Tampa want Green when they could get Ryan McDonagh.  It’s a bad look, though, when the good teams don’t even want your supposedly good players.

But that’s what makes the Tatar deal so much more important.  Tatar would have helped the Wings’ now.  He would have been fun to watch now.  But it’s clear that Detroit doesn’t have the assets to make big trades and doesn’t have the cap space to make big signings.  They need draft picks and they need to hit on those draft picks.

I don’t have a ton of faith in the organization to actually make good use of the picks, but they have to try.

Final Thoughts on Petr Mrazek

Much like my thoughts on Andreas Athanasiou‘s mindset during his holdout last fall, I have a theory on Petr Mrazek‘s tumultuous tenure with the Red Wings.  A lot of it is conjecture, so take it with a grain of salt, but I don’t think I’m far off.

Mrazek was known as a cocky goalie from the start.  His celebrations while playing for the Czech Republic in the 2012 World Junior Championship introduced him to the world.  His “attitude problems” through the 2016-17 season can be attributed to it.  His comments upon being traded reflect it.

“The pressure for both of us was pretty high,” he said. “You have to show up every night if you want to play the next game. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a really good thing when we can battle between goalies and do the best that we can. Sometimes when they say, ‘you’re the guy who’s gonna play for a while,’ I think it’s better.”

Specifically that last line.  I read that as Mrazek being frustrated that he was never made “the guy” in Detroit.  Some might say he never earned it, given his regression last season, but I think the slump was caused by feeling threatened by the presence of Jimmy Howard.

We don’t know what went down in meetings between Mrazek and Ken Holland.  We don’t know the reasons behind decisions made by Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill.  But what if it went something like this…

In 2012, Mrazek is coming off being named the best goaltender at the World Juniors.  He wraps up his OHL career and goes pro in the fall.  The Red Wings assign him to the ECHL to start the season but he quickly replaces future doctor Jordan Pearce in the AHL as the backup for the Grand Rapids Griffins, then supplants Tom McCollum as the starter.  He even gets in a couple games in Detroit, going 1-1 with a respectable .922 save percentage and 2.02 GAA.  By spring, he’s leading the Griffins to their first-ever Calder Cup Championship.

For 2013-14 Mrazek is back with the Griffins, with Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson manning the crease in Detroit.  In 32 games he drops his GAA to 2.10 and his save percentage gets up to .924.  He gets into nine games in Detroit, putting together a 1.74 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Come summer of 2014, Mrazek has put together stellar numbers through the first two years of his pro career and Gustavsson’s contract is up.  There is no reason for him to not think that he’s earned the backup role in Detroit.  Yet the Red Wings re-sign Gustavsson after a season where he had a 2.63 GAA and a .907 save percentage.  With one year left on his existing deal, Mrazek signs a one-year contract extension – a one-way  contract to ensure he’s in Detroit for 2015-16 – but starts 2014-15 in Grand Rapids.

Injuries open the door for Mrazek, who steps in and plays 29 games.  His 2.38 GAA and 9.18 save percentage are better than both Howard and Gustavsson.  He starts all seven games of Detroit’s playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and, though the Red Wings drop the series, Mrazek  improves on his regular season stats, going 2.11 and .925.

Despite his playoff starts, Mrazek is the backup when the Red Wings start the 2015-16 season.  He ends up starting 49 games, though, with a 2.33 GAA and a .921 save percentage, better than Howard’s 2.80 and .906.

Come Game One of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs – with the Red Wings facing the Lightning again – Howard gets the start.  In the first two games of the series, Howard puts up a .891 save percentage and a 3.59 GAA as the Red Wings go down, 2-0.  Mrazek takes over for Game Three but Detroit falls in five games.  Mrazek’s GAA is 1.36 and his save percentage is .945.

Mrazek’s contract extension from 2014 is up and on July 27, 2016, he agrees to something of a bridge deal, two years at $4 million each.  It’s less than Howard’s salary and a shorter deal but he’s being paid like a starter.  The rumor is that Howard will be dealt.  By all appearances, the Red Wings are now Mrazek’s team.

But Howard isn’t dealt.  Mrazek gets the start to open the season in Tampa and at the final home opener at Joe Louis Arena.  He gets 14 starts in the first two months, being pulled once.  Howard started 11 games, also being pulled once.  It’s clear it’s a 1A-1B situation.

It’s at this point that the wheels come off for Mrazek.  Even with Howard hurt for much of the season, Mrazek puts up the worst numbers of his career, with a 3.04 GAA and a .901 save percentage.  Both are better than the 3.46 and .887 of Jared Coreau, who “steals” some of Mrazek’s starts, including the outdoor Centennial Classic in Toronto.  Rumors abound about Mrazek’s attitude and it’s even suggested that Coreau is the true heir-apparent to the Detroit crease.

Six months later, Mrazek is left unprotected in the expansion draft, going unclaimed.

He comes into the 2017-18 season the clear backup.  It’s expected the Red Wings won’t even give him a qualifying offer when his contract is up (which has since been confirmed).  His .910 save percentage and 2.89 GAA nearly match Howard’s numbers but Mrazek ends up dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers.

If I were in Mrazek’s skates, I would have a bad attitude, too, and it would certainly impact my play.  I’m not saying it’s okay for that, just that I can understand it.

You rise up from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL in your first season and carry your team to a Calder Cup Championship.  The next year your stats are even better, but a worse goalie is re-signed to play in front of you.  You take over the starting role anyway and make the most of it, putting up great numbers in a seven-game playoff series.

By next fall, you lose the starting role anyway.  You fight your way back to become the playoff starter again, you get a starter’s contract, and then again you’re the backup on opening night and the guy who they said they’d trade is still there taking up space in your crease.

It’s in your head, you falter, and suddenly the third-string goalie who hasn’t done anything is stealing your starts.  The spiral continues.  You pull yourself together over the summer.  After a rough start, you’re putting up similar numbers to your partner in the crease.  But it’s too late, you’re out.

Again, I’m not saying that Mrazek didn’t slump and didn’t have an attitude.  I’m saying that I can see why he would have one and why it would impact his play.  And, with that perspective in mind, it’s also why I think the Red Wings should have tried harder to deal Jimmy Howard, rather than giving up on Mrazek.

On Draft Pick Quantity vs. Quality

After trading Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said something that triggered a gut reaction of concern in me.  I honestly don’t know if there are numbers to back up my worry, so I’m going to walk through it a bit.

“What’s driving me is I want us to be a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup. We’re competitive, but we’re not quite where we need to be in order to be where we want to be. I have to acquire draft picks and we need to hit on those draft picks.

“The more draft picks I can acquire, or young players through trades, is a better chance we’re going to wake up three or four or five years from now, or two years from now, and start to see young players coming on to the team and have an impact.”

That’s from the Detroit News but Winging it in Motown highlighted it this morning.  It also comes coupled with rumblings that the Red Wings may accept two second round picks for Mike Green rather than a first-rounder.

It’s well-known that the Red Wings haven’t had many high draft picks in the last several decades.  Trying to find a team that has consistently picked near the Wings in the draft even just going back to the big lockout in 2005 is impossible.  They’re in a relatively unique situation that has – to a large extent – led to their current downswing, as they haven’t been able to restock their talent pool with top prospects.

Knowing that – yet hearing Holland declare than the answer is to acquire more second, third, and fourth round draft picks – is triggering my spidey sense, so to speak.  If the team’s downfall is because they never pick at the top, how is the path to a rebuild through the second and third and fourth rounds?

Let me take a second to acknowledge that defining picks by round is somewhat lazy.  The 32nd overall pick and the 62nd overall pick this summer will both be second-rounders but they’re not really comparable.  As such, while I’m attempting to apply some logic to this, it’s entirely unscientific.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking back at Detroit’s recent drafts, trying to determine just how good the organization is at making use of picks outside of the first round.  I went back to the 2005 draft as the salary cap era is really when the Wings were no longer able to replenish their roster via free agency.

Detroit has had 95 draft picks in that time.  Thus far, 33 of them have played at least one NHL game.  Yes, that measure means there’s built-in bias against recent drafts, as those players haven’t had the chance to make their debuts.

Eliminate the first-rounders, since we’re talking about what the Wings can do if they don’t acquire extra picks in the opening round, and we’re down to 26 players.  We might as well drop the sixth- and seventh-rounders, too, since no one has claimed you rebuild with those.  That’s another four gone, so we’re at 22.

Of those, only 14 are still in the NHL, though that leaves out Dominic Turgeon, who got a call-up earlier this year and is now back with the Griffins, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and call it 15.

That means since 2005, the Red Wings have drafted 15 players who “made it” (by a generous definition of the term) in the NHL in the second through fifth rounds.  That list is as follows:

If you’re looking at a rebuild, are those the players you’re looking for?

The Red Wings’ draft record in the rounds where they’re targeting picks seems to show that they won’t be able to do what they’re trying to do.

Obviously not every draft is equal and, as I already mentioned, not every pick in the same round of the same draft is equal.  If the Wings grabbed another Tatar and Nyquist in the second round this summer – combined with a good pick in the first round – it’d be a successful draft.  But if adding all of these picks results in more Xavier Ouellets and Ryan Sprouls, it’ll just be a waste.

Frankly, I’d be a lot more comfortable if the asking price for Mike Green went back to being a first-rounder.

Update, 12:15 PM: Via Twitter, @RedWingRubbish pointed out that @ChartingHockey has statistically determined that, outside of the top 24 picks, quantity does indeed beat quality.

This made me take a second look at the first-rounders I dropped from my original list.

Player Year Overall
Jakub Kindl 2005 19
Dylan Larkin 2014 15
Anthony Mantha 2013 20
Tom McCollum 2008 30
Riley Sheahan 2010 21
Brendan Smith 2007 27
Evgeny Svechnikov 2015 19

If you should be able to reasonably expect a “hit” in the top-24, the Red Wings are still doing something wrong.

Kindl made it into 353 games but never really panned out.  Larkin and Mantha are the players the Red Wings are building around right now.  McCollum is a bust.  Sheahan seems to have maxed out as a third-line center.  Smith – somewhat like Kindl – has washed out of the NHL.  Svechnikov is still a question mark.

Seven first-round picks – five in the top 24 overall – and only two players that can reliably play in the top half of the lineup.  Will Svechnikov or Michael Rasmussen or Filip Hronek or Vili Saarijarvi join that list?  Perhaps.  So for the sake of discussion I’ll switch to the 2005 – 2014 date range.

That gives the Red Wings six first-round picks, four in the top 24, with a 50% “hit” rate.

Who are their hits through the other rounds?  Tatar.  Nyquist.  I think it’s safe to include Athanasiou.  Mrazek, too, despite his epic slump.

There are plenty of other useful players, guys like Abdelkader and Helm.  A team needs those guys.  But you can’t make a team of them, you need high-end talent to lead them.

Over a decade, the Red Wings managed to draft one starting goalie (assuming Mrazek has shaken that slump), no top-three defensemen, and five top-six forwards.  It’s worse if you don’t include Mrazek or Athanasiou.

So maybe it’s not about the Wings needing to get more first-round picks.  Maybe it’s that – contrary to the myth – the Red Wings just don’t draft very well.

I don’t want to dig in to compare them to other teams.  As I said originally, it’s near-impossible to find a team that picked near the Red Wings for that whole period to use as a comparison anyway.  Maybe San Jose?

If it’s that the Wings don’t draft well, and they’re putting everything they have into the draft, things could get ugly fast.

Red Wings Send Mrazek to Flyers for Picks

The Red Wings cleared up their crease logjam on Monday, sending goalie Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers for a pair of conditional draft picks.

The conditions for the picks – a fourth rounder in 2018 and a third-rounder in 2019 –  were not announced.

The Flyers found themselves in need of a goalie over the weekend, when backup Michael Neuvirth was injured during their win over the New York Rangers.  With starter Brian Elliot already shelved for several weeks and Philadelphia battling for playoff position, Mrazek will give them stability while Elliot and Neuvirth recover.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, get something in return for a player they left unprotected in the expansion draft last summer and probably would not have signed to a contract extension this offseason.

Detroit retains 50% of Mrazek’s salary in the deal.

Personally, this is frustrating for me because I think the Wings should have stuck with Mrazek over Jimmy Howard simply because he’s younger and they have virtually nothing in the goaltending pipeline.  Jared Coreau will likely replace Mrazek in the lineup for now and Keith Petruzelli is years off.  Additionally, Howard probably had the higher trade value, though I can’t say that for certain.

The retained salary is nothing, as Detroit doesn’t need it for the rest of this season.  They should retain 50% in Mike Green‘s eventual deal, too, and charge more for it.

If I had to guess, the conditions of at least one of those picks are the Flyers re-signing Mrazek, which probably won’t happen.

If the conditions – whatever they are – are met, though, that’s a decent return given Mrazek’s play over the last couple years.  I still believe in him and think this could look really bad for Ken Holland over time, but there’s potential for this to be a good deal.

Ninja Edit: Bob McKenzie has the previously-mysterious conditions, and we got one of them right…

So I don’t think the 2019 pick happens at all and the 2018 pick could pretty easily become a third. Mrazek for a third seems low but, again, I believe in him, so I would say that. Getting anything for an asset that could have been lost for nothing is good.

Is Mike Green This Year’s Thomas Vanek?

With the NHL’s All-Star Break over, we’re fully into trade deadline season, and the biggest chip the Red Wings have to cash in is defenseman Mike Green.

We knew that would be the case coming into the season.  As much as the team itself said otherwise, they weren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot.  As such, their pending free agents – most notably Green – would be available come February.  And as much as the team continues to say they’re going to try to make a push, they’re in exactly the spot we expected.

Early in the season we heard a lot about possible destinations for Green.  Toronto and Pittsburgh and Edmonton and Tampa.  Vegas jumped onto the list as it became clear that they weren’t fading.

But with every look at the possibility of trading Green, more disclaimers were added.  Suddenly there were concerns about being too expensive.  About being one-dimensional.  About teams not having room for someone who plays his role.

It reminds me of the lead up to trading Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for a third-round draft pick and minor-leaguer Dylan McIlrath last season.

Vanek was expected to fetch the most leading up to Detroit’s sale at the trade deadline.  According to some reports, a first-rounder wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.  Multiple teams were interested.  Then, as the clock ticked down, it came down to just the Los Angeles Kings and the Panthers, with the Kings bowing out and going with Jarome Iginla instead.  Vanek went to Florida, with the Panthers failing to make the playoffs anyway.

Immediately, we heard talk about how Vanek was too one-dimensional.  He was only successful when playing sheltered minutes.  That a third-round pick was actually a great return for him.  None of this was stated in the lead up to the deadline but once the deal was made they were presented as irrefutable facts.

Now come back to Green.  He’s the Red Wings’ top trade piece.  He’s also a power play specialist.  He’s a bottom-pair defenseman on a good team.  He’s unreliable in his own zone.  He’s expensive, even with Detroit retaining salary.

I’m not saying it will happen, but I could see Green’s value in trade being less than many fans would hope.  We saw it with Vanek and it may be the case again.

Possible Seattle NHL Team Names: Evergreens? Kraken?

Seattle doesn’t even have a National Hockey League team yet – they were invited to apply for an expansion franchise on December 7 – but that hasn’t stopped speculation on what the league’s 32nd team might be named.

As I did before the Vegas Golden Knights’ name was announced, I’ve been keeping an eye on domain registrations.  Most of the names that have come up over the last several weeks have been purchased by people who are known domain speculators, meaning they don’t tell us much about the direction any future ownership group might be heading.  Yesterday, however, an interesting batch of domains were registered.

By my count, 38 domains representing 13 different possible names were registered under the name of Christina Song.  Ms. Song, according to her LinkedIn profile, is General Counsel at Oak View Group, who won the bid to redevelop Seattle’s Key Arena on December 4.  The domains were registered via an email address for a lawyer at Gibson Dunn.  That firm assisted Oak View Group in the Key Arena bid process.

Does this mean that one of the 13 names is certain to take the ice for the NHL’s 2020-21 season?  No.  The franchise hasn’t even been applied for yet.  The ownership group hasn’t even been formed (though names that might be involved have been tossed around).  There is the distinct possibility that this is nothing.

That said, someone so close to the process applying for so many related domains is worth noting.  As such, here are the 13 possibilities:

Seattle Cougars
Seattle Eagles
Seattle Emeralds
Seattle Evergreens
Seattle Firebirds
Seattle Kraken
Seattle Rainiers
Seattle Renegades
Seattle Sea Lions
Seattle Seals
Seattle Sockeyes
Seattle Totems
Seattle Whales

It’s an interesting list with a lot of nicknames we’ve seen before.

The Seattle Totems were a WHL and CHL team that expected to jump to the NHL in 1976 but failed due to ownership issues.  The Seattle Rainiers, meanwhile, were a minor league baseball team that ceased operations to make room for the Seattle Mariners.

Seals was previously used for the NHL’s failed Oakland franchise, while Eagles was the name the original Ottawa Senators went by when they relocated to St. Louis for their final season.  Cougars was the original name of the Detroit Red Wings franchise, chosen in honor of the Victoria Cougars, from whom much of their roster was purchased.

Additionally, Firebirds is currently used by the OHL’s Flint team.  Last year we saw the Vegas organization claim that the OHL’s London Knights blocked them from being the “Las Vegas Knights” (a name that they later conceded was never really an option), so the recent history of a potential NHL team using an OHL name is messy.

All of that said, registering this block of domains would cost about $400, so it’s not exactly breaking the bank for a group that’s investing $600 million renovating an arena.  They could do this just to keep their options open.  It is curious, though.

Update, 4:15 PM: There’s been an interesting twist in this story, as sometime after I checked the Whois records – which show domain ownership, among other things – for the 38 domains, they were all switched to proxy registrations, removing the true registrant from the record.

For the record, both of my rounds of Whois checks (this morning around 8:30 AM  and this afternoon) were through the ICANN website.  All of the domains show as having been registered yesterday for two years.

The following is the full list of 38 domains:

Update, 1/20/2018 9:10 AM: Has a new contender emerged?  It’s an extremely tenuous connection so take it with a grain of salt, but on Friday domains related to the name “Seattle Sasquatch” were registered.

The domains were registered privately through GoDaddy, as all of Thursday’s domains now are.  They were registered for two years, like the original batch of domains.  They also fit the naming convention of the original batch, and

This could very easily be a domain speculator following the format we published yesterday, so it’s probably nothing.  It’s just similar enough to the original set, though, that I thought it was worth a mention.

In all likelihood, any future domain registrations from this organization will be private, so we won’t be able to definitively tell anything from them.  We’ll keep looking, though.

Green to Represent Red Wings at All-Star Game

Slightly-surprising news today as it was announced that defenseman Mike Green would be the Red Wings’ representative at the All-Star Game.

While Dylan Larkin has been the Red Wings’ MVP through the first half of the season, there were too many better forwards in the Atlantic Division.  Green’s 24 points are tops among the team’s blueliners, making him a worthy choice.

The All-Star Game is January 28 in Tampa.  The league’s trade deadline is just four weeks later, on February 26th.  As he’s probably Detroit’s most-valued trade asset, it’s possible that the team’s All-Star representative won’t be a Red Wing one month later.

Wings Send Forward Wilson to Buffalo

The Detroit Red Wings announced that forward Scott Wilson was traded to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

The move essentially makes the return from Riley Sheahan‘s trade to Pittsburgh (along with a fifth round pick) a third round pick and a fifth round pick.

Unless another move is made, the Red Wings now have twelve forwards on the roster, with Luke Witkowski eligible to return from his ten-game suspension in two more games.

After a brutal weekend featuring 6-3 and 10-1 losses to the division-rival Montreal Canadiens, could this be a move to clear a roster spot?  I’m not sure calling up someone like Evgeny Svechnikov is the answer.  This is a team with a lot of issues, a lone call-up isn’t going to make that much difference.

That said, getting anything for Wilson, who probably didn’t have a long-term role in Detroit, is decent.

Red Wings/Flames Morning After: Fights, Suspensions, and Other Fun

I can’t see a way that the Red Wings’ Luke Witkowski doesn’t get suspended for ten games after he left the bench to go after Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk last night.  The rule is simply too cut and dry.  Three steps earlier, while he’s still on the ice?  All clear.  Two feet on the bench?  He’s gone.

Of course, Tkachuk wouldn’t have given him that little jab three steps earlier.  The whole point of it was to hit him after he was on the bench, once Tkachuk was theoretically safe from reprisal.

Tkachuk’s move was a bit like a little brother on a road trip, sitting in the back seat declaring “I’m not touching you!” Big brother Witkowski, rather than waiting for dad to threaten to drive the car off the cliff, turned around and walloped him, consequences be damned, because Tkachuk deserved it.

I think the officials know Tkachuk deserved it, hence the heavy penalization for what was otherwise a love tap.  But that doesn’t save Witkowski from the punishment that’s coming.

Over the years I’ve made it clear that I hate that cheap, after-the-whistle, “I don’t want to fight but I want to get a jab in” nonsense that gets players praised for being an “agitator.”  As such, I’d love to see Tkachuk get the book thrown at him.  I don’t see it happening though.  With that in mind, I’m absolutely fine with Witkowski taking care of it himself and serving whatever penalty he gets.

On the Red Wings’ Blueline Depth and Future Callups

Last week I wrote about how the Red Wings’ then-upcoming road trip through Western Canada, specifically Sunday afternoon’s tilt with the Edmonton Oilers and last night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, might give them an opportunity to get a prospect such as Joe Hicketts into the lineup.

My thinking was that with Danny DeKeyser eligible for long-term injured reserve, a roster spot and cap space would be available.  Combined with road games on consecutive nights, the team might have wanted to rest someone (I was thinking Niklas Kronwall), giving a chance for Hicketts to step into the lineup.

We know now that that didn’t happen.  While the Wings won both of those games, it still concerns me a little.

What this trip seems to have shown us is that Luke Witkowski is the team’s eighth defenseman.  He’s also the 13th forward but I’m not worried about getting him in the lineup, I’m looking at how he blocks others.

It appears to me that the Red Wings are not going to call up a defenseman when Witkowski is available.  That means that to get someone like Hicketts into the lineup, three injuries need to happen, either three defensemen or two defensemen and a forward.

Right now Detroit has only one blueliner hurt.  If another was, or needed to be rested, Witkowski would step in.  If a third defenseman got hurt, it would open up a spot.  If a forward got hurt, Witkowski would shift there and his blueline spot would open up.

That final scenario could be further complicated, though, as David Booth could take over for an injured forward while Witkowski continued to skate on defense.  This means it might take the right combination of four injuries for one of Grand Rapids’ defensemen to get called up.

Obviously I could be reading too much into one road trip.  Maybe Hicketts didn’t get a look because the Griffins were playing on Sunday and the team figured he should stay there.  I don’t know.  But it seems to me like it’s going to take a lot for one of the Red Wings’ prospects to get a chance in Detroit this season.