Wings Defenseman Sproul Done for Season

Detroit defenseman Ryan Sproul‘s “sprained knee” turned out to be an ACL injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season.

The injury was suffered during the Red Wings’ 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night. Robbie Russo has been called up to take Sproul’s place and will make his NHL debut tonight in Toronto.

I was really looking forward to seeing what Sproul would do with a spot in the lineup assured.  I’ve written before about liking that Sproul got a chance to make mistakes, only for him to immediately be benched for long periods of time in response to those mistakes.  With the Wings’ carrying only six defensemen for the rest of the season, it would have been an opportunity for Sproul to play without fear of losing his spot.

I’m excited to see what Russo can do, but disappointed that it comes at Sproul’s expense.

Red Wings to Recall Robbie Russo

With defenseman Ryan Sproul shelved by a sprained knee suffered in a 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Red Wings will recall Robbie Russo to take his place.

I’m okay with this call-up and was hoping for either Russo or Joe Hicketts. Basically anyone except for Brian Lashoff, who inexplicably got called up in December over the then-buried Nick Jensen.

Russo was signed by the Red Wings in 2015 as an unsigned draft pick of the New York Islanders.  In his professional debut with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season, he was named to the AHL All-Rookie team and was a second-team all-star.  This year he represented Grand Rapids at the AHL All-Star Challenge.  He has seven goals and 24 assists for 31 points in 56 games this season for the Griffins, good for first among the team’s defensemen.

Looking at the 2017-18 Red Wings

With the trade deadline having passed, we can start to get a look at the contracts the Red Wings will likely carry into next season, and from that see what the team might look like.

The bad news: It’s a lot like this one.

The only unrestricted free agents in the Wings’ lineup right now are Drew Miller and Mitch Callahan.  Assuming they don’t return (or end up in GR, where Callahan was recalled from yesterday), Detroit’s roster is as follows:

Forwards
Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen
Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul

Goaltenders
Jared Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek

That’s 11 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies.  It’s a $67.7 million cap hit, not counting new contracts for restricted free agents Tomas Tatar and Xavier Ouellet.  It’s a pretty full roster.

So where does that leave the Red Wings as far as options for getting better?

With all of the picks they grabbed at the trade deadline, there’s the draft, but unless they manage to win the draft lottery I don’t think you can expect anyone Detroit selects this summer to be NHL-ready next fall.

The Wings could call up players from the Grand Rapids Griffins to rebuild from within.  Maybe they give Matt Lorito a chance or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That’s what a truly rebuilding team would probably do.

There are trades, which Ken Holland has spoken a little bit about over the last couple days.  That said, Holland’s plan late last summer was to trade the team’s forward depth for defensive talent and those deals weren’t there.  The market will be different this summer and the expansion draft may impact things as well but if the Wings’ history is any indicator, this path can’t be relied on.

Finally, there’s Detroit’s tried-and-true method: Free agency.  Go back to that list of players, though, and pick the one(s) you see being exiled from the lineup in favor of a newcomer.  Unless the Wings are willing to bench a player like Luke Glendening or Riley Sheahan, there’s only one spot on the roster for adding players.

As I said, there is the expansion draft to make things interesting.  If I’m Ken Holland, I hope for Vegas to claim Jimmy Howard, freeing up cap space and solving the goalie logjam.  That doesn’t open a spot anywhere that they’d want to sign a free agent, though.

Holland is going to have to get creative.  Maybe that means trading a player like Sheahan to the Golden Knights in return for them agreeing to claim Howard, which would given them cap space and an extra roster spot to add forward help.

Without that creativity, though, we’re already looking at next year’s lineup, and we know that’s not good enough.

Thoughts on the Red Wings’ Trade Deadline

I was feeling pretty good about the Red Wings’ efforts in the lead up to the NHL’s trade deadline this morning.  Then the Thomas Vanek trade happened.  Those who follow DH.N on Twitter know I am less than happy about that but I’ll look at each of the Wings’ moves piece-by-piece here.

Tomas Jurco
The Red Wings traded Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday.  An upcoming restricted free agent, Jurco never really latched on with the Red Wings.  Detroit got a third-round pick in the deal, which is more than I would have expected.

I don’t think Jurco was ever used properly in Detroit so it hurts to see him go to Chicago, but if the Wings weren’t going to use him, at least they got some value for him.  This is a pretty solid deal.

Brendan Smith
The first of Detroit’s pending unrestricted free agents, the team tried to sign him to a contract extension but the trade offer from the New York Rangers was too much to turn down.  Smith netted the Red Wings a third-round pick in the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in 2018.

This was Detroit’s best move of the week.  I probably would have been happy with a second or a third, to get both feels like larceny.  That said, like Jurco, perhaps Smith just needs a change of scenery.  It’s not that he was particularly bad this year in Detroit, but he’s weighed down by the expectations and the memory of bad performances.

Steve Ott
I never liked Ott’s signing, that’s no secret.  I don’t know why the Canadiens thought they needed him, either.  He wasn’t horrible in Detroit by any means, I just think his role could have been filled by one of the kids in Grand Rapids, namely Tyler Bertuzzi or Tomas Nosek.  Getting a sixth-round pick for Ott seems like a near-miracle.

Thomas Vanek
I’m going to need more space for this one.

Nick Jensen
Not a trade, the Red Wings locked up Jensen for two more years at around $800,000 each.  Jensen has stepped onto the Wings’ blue line and seemingly leapfrogged both Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet (and definitely Alexey Marchenko, now in Toronto).

I like this signing for multiple reasons.  One, it’s only two years, unlike the ridiculous four-year deal that Brian Lashoff got after serving in a similar capacity back during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.  Two, it can entirely be buried in the minors if Jensen ends up being a bust or if the Wings acquire a legitimate top defenseman at some point.

Mitch Callahan
With Ott off to Montreal, the Red Wings called up forward Mitch Callahan to take his place.  I’m okay with this but I’d rather have seen Bertuzzi get the nod, as I mentioned above (Nosek is currently injured and wouldn’t be called up).

Drew Miller
The trade that didn’t happen.  I don’t know if anyone was interested in Miller but he’s the one upcoming unrestricted free agent that Holland was unable to unload.  Part of me thinks that if you can unload Ott, you can unload Miller.  But maybe the Habs were the only team interested in a guy like that.

Thomas Vanek
Okay, let’s try this one again…

Vanek had to be dealt.  He’s been one of the Wings’ best players this season and is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so it was assumed that he had significant value.  At the end of the day, it sounds like there weren’t that many teams interested, though, and he only fetched a third-round draft pick (plus AHLer Dylan McIlrath, minus retaining some salary).  That the Wings got the best deal they could get is good.

It’s kind of hard to see that for multiple reasons, though.  There was a lot of buzz about Vanek in the lead up to the deadline and Minnesota made a massive deal for Martin Hanzal, a player deemed to be somewhat comparable to Vanek.  You don’t trade buzz, though.  The best player the Red Wings had to offer simply wasn’t enough to generate that much interest.

Winging it in Motown’s JJ from Kansas has been talking about getting caught up in the hype about Vanek.  Take a look at Detroit’s history as buyers, though, and it’s hard not to.

In 2015 the Wings gave up a solid prospect in Mattias Janmark, a questionable prospect in Mattias Backman, and a second round pick for Erik Cole and a third rounder.  In 2014 Detroit traded Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves, and a third round pick for David Legwand.

In my mind, 2017 Thomas Vanek is better than 2015 Erik Cole or 2014 David Legwand, so I would expect 2017 Thomas Vanek to bring in more than 2015 Erik Cole or 2014 David Legwand.  But that’s not what this year’s market supported.

So it’s disappointing that costs are high when the Wings are buyers but they’re low when they’re sellers.  It’s hard to swallow.  It feels like if the Wings should have to sell, they should get to sell for the same prices that all the teams that profited from them got to sell at.

Overall
All of that said, the Wings did the best that they could with what they had.  In sheer volume of picks, the last week has been a pretty impressive haul.

I’m not as excited about the upcoming draft as Ken Holland is, though.  Holland has spoken about having so many picks to work with, more than they’ve had since 2002.  This draft is shallow and none of those picks are particularly high.  As such, I don’t see this sell off as sparking a rebuild.  Barring some big changes this summer, I don’t think the assets gained in the last week are going to turn things around next year.

Red Wings Send Vanek to Panthers

The Detroit Red Wings made their big move of the NHL tradeline, moving forward Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Dylan McIlrath and a third-round pick.

Vanek’s trade was entirely expect as part of the Red Wings’ sell-off.  With the team near the bottom of the league’s standings, general manager Ken Holland has been trying to get whatever assets he can in return for players who are expected to become free agents this summer.  Tomas Jurco was sent to the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday while Brendan Smith went to the New York Rangers on Tuesday afternoon and Steve Ott was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

 

That said, Vanek was supposed to be the biggest piece of the Wings sale.  Instead, he was traded for a third-round pick (the same round pick that Tomas Jurco brought) and a player who has been on waivers this season, while the Wings retained salary (not that salary means much at this point).  This is a very bad look for Ken Holland after pulling off a trio of solid deals.

McIlrath is a former first-round pick of the New York Rangers, who was traded by New York to Florida earlier this season.  After five games there, he was waived and sent to AHL Springfield.  In 43 career games he has five points.

The third-round pick is conditional.  If the Panthers make the playoffs, it will be Arizona’s pick.  If not, it will be Florida’s.

Wings Call Up Callahan from Griffins

As we wait to find out what moves the Red Wings have remaining before the NHL’s trade deadline, the team announced that forward Mitch Callahan has been called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

As many people have noted, the Wings are basically replacing Steve Ott (traded last night to Montreal) with the most Steve Ott-like player available in Grand Rapids.

Personally, I’d rather have seen Tyler Bertuzzi get another shot in the role, as I think he has more of a future in the Red Wings’ organization.  In fact, I’d forgotten that Callahan was even signed with Detroit right now (for some reason I thought he was on an AHL-only deal).

The call-up could be for just one game, though, as Gustav Nyquist will return from his suspension on Saturday in Edmonton.

Wings Deal Forward Ott to Canadiens

Late Tuesday night, the Detroit Red Wings traded forward Steve Ott to the Montreal Canadiens for a sixth-round draft pick in 2018.

I’ve been very vocal about not liking the Ott signing when it happened in July and thinking that there were younger players who should have been playing instead of him over the season.  That the Wings were able to get anything at all for him as the trade deadline nears is fantastic to me.

Ott joins Tomas Jurco and Brendan Smith as upcoming free agents Detroit has traded away with the NHL’s trade deadline approaching.  Thomas Vanek remains their biggest name in play, though there have also been rumors about Riley Sheahan and – to a much lesser extent – Drew Miller.