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.

The New DetroitHockey.Net

DetroitHockey.Net goes through something of a re-launch today. It’s been a work in progress throughout our Twentieth Season, based on things I’ve learned about technology and things I’ve learned (and re-learned) about what I want to do with the site.

I had grown weary of working on [this site] and realized it was because my own opinion didn’t go into it anymore because I was just repeating what others were saying. Now my opinion’ll be here.

I wrote that on January 1, 2001, in the oldest post preserved on this site.  Fifteen years ago I was unhappy with not putting enough of my own opinion into the site and I’m back at that place today.

By the start of the 2001-2002 I was back to having game recaps be the primary content of what was then still drwcentral.net as that was what all the major media sites did and I wanted to be like them.  Every now and then I’d post an opinion piece but for years I couldn’t figure out what the proper balance between opinion and reporting.  I long ago came to the conclusion that DH.N is never going to be a major media outlet but I kept writing the game recaps.  Maybe it was inertia, maybe it was that I had developed the site around the idea of “news posts” and not opinion pieces.  I don’t really know.  I never had a problem spouting off on Twitter, I just always had a different expectation on the site itself.

Over the last year, though, I’ve started paring down the site’s content.  In the age of Wikipedia, we didn’t need a Red Wings site hosting archives of NHL award winners.  No one came here to see what team plays in which arena.  The DH.N Community Forums were empty aside from the fantasy hockey sections.  And, it turns out, no one cares about soulless, quote-less game recaps, either.

So I’ve kept only the content that is either useful or I just like having around (I mean, there doesn’t need to be an NHL logo archive here but I like it so I kept it).  The fantasy hockey leagues have been spun off into their own site.  With the fantasy leagues gone, the forums are no longer necessary so they’re out, too.  And now I’m ripping out my custom publishing system to make it easier for me to write in whatever format I want.

We’ll see if it works.  I like the new version of the site.  It’s lighter and cleaner.  I know the home page could use some work.  I’ll iterate on it.  That’s part of the fun.

Red Wings Extend Miller

Just days before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent, the Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of forward Drew Miller to a one-year contract extension.

Per club policy, financial terms of the deal were not anounced. Reportedly, the contract carries a $1.025 million salary cap hit.

Limited by a pair of major injuries, Miller, 32, played just 28 games for the Red Wings over the 2015-16 season. In a penalty-killing role, he scored one goal and one assist. In 449 games with Detroit over nine seasons, he has 100 points.

Originally drafted by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft (sixth round, 186th overall) out of Michigan State University, Miller was acquired by the Red Wings from the Tampa Bay Lightning via waivers on November 11, 2009.

2016 NHL Entry Draft Recap/Notes

The Red Wings closed out the 2016 NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, making six selections in addition to their pick of defenseman Dennis Cholowski on Friday night.

Of course, this draft can’t just be measured by the picks. The biggest move general manager Ken Holland pulled off – probably his biggest move in years – was unloading Pavel Datsyuk‘s contract on the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night.

On paper, it looks like an incredible deal. The Red Wings lost Datsyuk’s cap hit, had to take on the contract of a player who will probably be LTIRetired, moved down four spots in the first round, and added a second round draft pick. Moving down four picks to add a second rounder is a total Ken Holland move. The financial win is a bonus at that point.

That said, the move wasn’t made just on paper. The pick the Wings gave up could have been used on defensemen Jakub Chychrun or Dante Fabbro, both highly-touted prospects. Instead, they ended up with Cholowski and Czech blueliner Filip Hronek. Quantity does not make up for quality there. All picks are hit or miss but the guys the Wings got are much more of a gamble than the ones they passed up.

So, in the end, you have Datsyuk’s contract unloaded in return for taking a gamble in the draft instead of something much closer to a sure-thing. And unloading Datsyuk’s contract is necessary so they can take a gamble on a big-name free agent signing with the team. It’s gamble upon gamble but I think it’s the right move. The worst-case scenario is that Cholowski and Hronek don’t pan out, Chychrun wins a Norris Trophy, and the Wings don’t sign anyone this summer.

As for the picks themselves, this is what the Wings walked away with…

Dennis Cholowski, Defense, 1st Round (20th Overall)
A smart defenseman who the Red Wings like for his skating ability. Is still relatively raw but will have four years at St. Cloud State to develop before even joining the Detroit organization.

Givani Smith, Forward, 2nd Round (46th Overall)
Gritty forward (Tyler Wright says he “plays nasty”) who also scored 23 goals on an awful Guelph Storm team last season. Models himself after Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds.

Filip Hronek, Defense, 2nd Round (53rd Overall)
Smallish defenseman who can move the puck. Will have to get bigger to make it in the NHL.

Alfons Malmstrom, Defense, 4th Round (107th Overall)
No one but Hakan Andersson seems to know anything about this guy, so I’m taking that as a good thing.

Jordan Sambrook, Defense, 5th Round (137th Overall)
Another smooth-skating defenseman. He describes himself as a two-way player. Played for the Erie Otters of the OHL last season.

Filip Larsson, Goaltender, 6th Round (167th Overall)
A little bit of an odd pick, which makes it interesting to me, as the Wings traditionally select a goalie every-other year and this marks three years in a row having picked one. I think this is a matter of restarting the goalie pipeline, as they’re probably going to lose Tom McCollum this summer, meaning Jared Coreau and Jake Paterson are the tandem in Grand Rapids. Next year Jimmy Howard goes to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, Coreau moves up, and Paterson starts in GR. Chase Perry basically rebooted his career so who knows when he’ll be ready. Joren van Pottelberghe is signed for awhile in Europe so he may or may not make the jump. Why not gamble with a late pick to add to that pool?

Mattias Elfstrom, Forward, 7th Round (197th Overall)
Only the second forward picked by the Red Wings. Seemingly another Hakan Andersson pick. Apparently he’s fast and big. Of note, it looks like no publication has a birthplace for him. Sweden is a big place.

Red Wings Pick Defenseman Cholowski in First Round

After trading away their own first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in order to dump Pavel Datsyuk‘s contract, the Detroit Red Wings selected defenseman Dennis Cholowski with the 20th overall pick, acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in that same deal.

Cholowski, 18, is committed to St. Cloud State for the 2016-17 season. He played with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL last season, scoring 40 points in 50 games, good for fifth in scoring among defensemen in the league.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling, unbelievable franchise and I’m extremely happy right now,” said Cholowski, who also cited former Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom as an influence.

Red Wings Unload Datsyuk’s Contract in Draft Day Deal

The Detroit Red Wings cleared $7.5 million in salary cap space for the 2016-17 season on Friday, trading the contract of retired forward Pavel Datsyuk along with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft to the Arizona Coyotes for the 20th overall pick, the 53rd overall pick, and forward Joe Vitale.

Datsyuk announced last Saturday that he would not return to the Red Wings for the final year of his three-year contract, choosing instead to retire from the NHL and play in his native Russia so he could be closer to his family. As the contract is an “over-35” deal, the Red Wings would have been stuck with his salary cap hit for a season.

Instead, Detroit unloaded the contract by moving down four spots in the first round, also managing to add a second-rounder and Vitale.

Vitale played only one game in the 2015-16 season with the Coyotes, suffering a concussion in a fight with Boston’s Kevan Miller. He spent the rest of the year on long-term injured reserve, with no sign as to when he might return. With one year left on his contract, he may never play for the Red Wings, remaining on LTIR. If he remains on injured reserve, the Red Wings will be able to use his cap space on another player.

With Datsyuk’s contract off the books, the team is now free to make a run at a big-name free agent when NHL free agency opens on July 1.

Final Season Schedule for Joe Louis Arena Announced

The Detroit Red Wings and the National Hockey League announced the schedule for the 2016-17 season on Tuesday, the final campaign to be played at Joe Louis Arena.

After starting on the road against the Tampa Bay Lighting on October 13 and the Florida Panthers on October 15, the Red Wings will have their home opener against the Ottawa Senators on October 19.

The final regular season home game will be on April 9, 2017, with the Red Wings hosting the New Jersey Devils.

In between, Detroit faces sixteen sets of back-to-back matchups. Five of those sets put the Red Wings facing off twice in less than 24 hours, while all but three of them do not require the team to travel between games.

Highlights to the schedule include a home-and-home against the Ottawa Senators on April 3 and 4, hosting the Montreal Canadiens in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee on January 16, and visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs outdoors at BMO Field for the Centennial Classic on January 1.

View the full season schedule

Datsyuk Departs: Forward Returns to Russia with One Year Left on Contract

Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk announced on Saturday what many had expected since late March: He will forego the final year of his NHL contract and return to his native Russia.

“My family and I have decided that it’s time to return home,” he explained at a press conference at St. Mary’s Athletic Conference, where he is hosting a youth hockey clinic.

Datsyuk, 37, played 14 seasons with the Red Wings, scoring 314 goals and adding 604 assists for 918 points.

Drafted in the sixth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, he broke in with the Wings during the 2001-02 season, cracking a lineup laden with Hall of Famers and helping Detroit to its tenth Stanley Cup Championship. He would later help the team to one more Cup in 2008.

Datsyuk produced countless highlight reel goals while also playing a shutdown role defensively. He was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy for three consecutive seasons (2007, 2008, 2009) as the league’s best defensive forward.

By retiring from the NHL with one season left on the three-year deal he signed in 2014, the Red Wings will be saddled with a $7.5 million salary cap hit. As the deal was an “over 35” contract, it doesn’t come off the books with his departure. It is yet to be seen if the team will try to trade the cap hit to a team looking to get up to the salary floor.

Red Wings Re-sign Sheahan

As first reported by TSN’s Aaron Ward, the Detroit Red Wings have re-signed forward Riley Sheahan to a two-year deal, reportedly carrying a salary cap hit of $2.075 million.

Sheahan, 24, is coming off of his second full season with the Red Wings. He scored a career-high 14 goals in 81 games but saw his total production drop to 25 points after putting up 36 over the 2014-15 campaign.

Sheahan was one of twelve players in the Red Wings’ system scheduled to become a restricted free agent this summer. He’s the third of the group to sign, with Brian Lashoff agreeing to terms on a two-way deal with the club earlier this week and Tomas Nosek signing for two more years in late May.

On Gordie Howe

I never met Gordie Howe. I’m too young to have seen him play, outside of his one-shift stint with the Detroit Vipers. I am not the person to eulogize him.

We all know the stories. They’re pouring out onto the internet today. Stories that make us laugh. Stories that remind us of Old Time Hockey. They’ve been told for years, the legends of our sport.

There’s one story that always sticks with me. One video clip from the end of his career. His introduction at the 1980 NHL All-Star Game. The last All-Star Game of his career, returning to the NHL after it absorbed the WHA, his only NHL season not played with the Red Wings, and a game played in Detroit.

Gordie Howe transcended his own name. He defined a number. He defined a sport.

“Representing all of hockey with great distinction for five decades… Number Nine!”