An Early Look at the Red Wings’ 2020-21 Roster

The Red Wings have hit the 2020 All-Star Break without a lot to show for their current campaign, so let’s go ahead and look at the next one.

Of the team’s current roster when healthy (in other words, I’m not counting some recent call-ups from Grand Rapids), just 11 players are signed for next season.  Eight players on the current roster are restricted free agents and five more are unrestricted free agents (plus a handful of RFAs currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins).

Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman would be well-served to try to get something for the five UFAs at the NHL’s trade deadline next month, which is both obvious and easier said than done.

Alex Biega and Jonathan Ericsson both cleared waivers at different points this season while Trevor Daley, Mike Green, and Jimmy Howard have been shells of their former selves this season.  That doesn’t mean that none of them will be dealt (Daley, it was reported today, has specifically asked for a trade to a contender), just the return is unlikely to be substantial.

As such, regardless of what happens at the deadline, I think it’s safe to look at 2020-21 as if these five will not return and will not otherwise impact the roster going forward.

The restricted free agents are harder to gauge.  Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, and Anthony Mantha have seemingly played their way into new contracts, so I’ll count them as returning.

Meanwhile Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini, and Madison Bowey (who, like Ericsson and Biega, cleared waivers earlier this year) have not taken the hoped-for step forward this season.  On the first-pass look at this roster, I’ll assume none of them return, either via trade or by not giving them qualifying offers.

Christoffer Ehn hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but with the Wings’ abundance of overpaid veteran fourth-liners, he might be expendable.

Andreas Athanasiou is the big question mark.  After last season, he seemed to have established himself, only to have regressed this year.  Due to his potential, he seems a likely trade piece, but it would be a case of Yzerman selling low, in which case he might prefer not to sell at all.

This leaves the Red Wings’ lineup looking (roughly) like so:

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha
Fabbri – Filppula – Zadina
Helm – Nielsen – _____
_____ – Glendening – Abdelkader

Hronek – DeKeyser
Nemeth – _____
_____ – _____

Bernier
_____

Before looping back to those remaining RFAs, we’ll first look to Grand Rapids for anyone ready to step up.

I would be shocked if Dennis Cholowski doesn’t get yet another shot to start the season in Detroit given the open roster spots on the blue line, especially with him having made it back to Detroit earlier this week with Green injured.  I also think the Red Wings would like for Moritz Seider to make the jump but I think they’re prepared to not rush him.  I’m going to reserve two spots for “the kids” with the expectation that Cholowski and/or Seider could be swapped out for someone else currently in the organization at any point in the season.

Up front, maybe Evgeny Svechnikov gets a shot, assuming he’s not traded between now and then and brought back as an RFA.  There isn’t anyone obvious ready to step in like there is on defense.  Likewise, there are no goalies in waiting.  The draft could change this dramatically, though.

Since we’ve already mentioned Svechnikov, lets circle back to those RFAs.  We could see a battle between Svechnikov, Perlini, and Erne.  That would fill the two forward slots and provide a spare.

On defense there’s room for Bowey.  Do the Wings like him enough to bring him back?  I’m not sure on that one but I think they’re not going to walk away from a cheap RFA in this situation.  Which also applies up front, actually.  Especially one they’ve proven they’re not afraid to waive and send to GR if need be.

That reason is the same one I think Ehn will be back in the organization next year.

So we’re back to Athanasiou.  The trend with him seems to have the Red Wings flipping him (perhaps with something else) for a goalie, such as the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev.  I don’t know how much I go for that specific deal, but there’s an open spot in goal and on defense so I’m going to assume that Athanasiou gets moved for either a goalie or a defenseman, with the other spot being filled by a free agent signing.

That gives us an opening night lineup that looks as follows:

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha
Fabbri – Filppula – Zadina
Helm – Nielsen – Svechnikov
Erne – Glendening – Abdelkader
Perlini – Ehn

Hronek – DeKeyser
Nemeth – Seider
Cholowski – Defenseman TBD
Bowey

Bernier
Goalie TBD

The good news is that, under this plan, the Red Wings mostly replenish their roster from within.  I’d like to see a roster spot for Smith given his play in his call-ups this season but I’m willing to wait for Darren Helm‘s contract to expire (or him to be dealt at the 2021 deadline) for that to happen.

The bad news is that this team still isn’t very good.  We could hope that it wouldn’t be as abysmal of a season as the team is having now, of course, but the biggest thing to look forward to would be the trade deadline, with Filppula, Helm, Glendening, Nemeth, and Bernier all on expiring contracts.

You could supplement the roster with free agent signings, and there is room for a couple of those.  Lets say an Athanasiou trade brings back a goalie and the Wings go all out to sign Torey Krug for the remaining blue line spot…  That’s a full roster that looks a lot like the current lineup, and Krug isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  Any other players added via the draft or free agency take the roster spot of an existing player.

Of course, the Red Wings were willing to let Eric Comrie go after two starts earlier this year, maybe they’ve seen enough of Perlini or Svechnikov or Erne to make the decision to cut them loose, or at least risk losing them via waivers.  We’ll have to wait to see if that’s the case.

Speculation on NHL Seattle’s Final Five Names: Cougars, Emeralds, Rainiers, Sea Lions, Sockeyes?

Two years ago we got a first look at what names might be considered for the NHL’s Seattle expansion franchise when a set of domain registrations were made by lawyers working on behalf of Oak View Group, the team’s owners.

Since then, things have been relatively quiet on the team name front.

In July, Seattle Times NHL beat writer Geoff Baker stated that the team was down to four names in an interview on Sportsnet 590, specifically ruling out fan favorites Seattle Kraken and Seattle Totems.  Oak View Group spent some time in August pursuing names for their American Hockey League team in Palm Springs (later having one of those trademark applications denied).  Then, in October, the organization placed a list of their final five names in a time capsule at Seattle’s Space Needle without making that list public.

Now, I believe it’s possible to look back at the original set of domains and cut the list of probable team names down from 13 to the following five:

Seattle Cougars
Seattle Emeralds
Seattle Rainiers
Seattle Sea Lions
Seattle Sockeyes

To get the above list, I’m admittedly working off of a set of assumptions.  These assumptions may or may not be safe to make.

First off, I’m using only the original list of names from January 2018.  I’ve been monitoring domain registrations since then and nothing jumped out at me as related to the new team but it’s always possible that I missed something.

It’s also possible that they’ve added a name to their list that wasn’t in the original set, regardless of domain ownership.  I’m assuming they haven’t.  This might be the biggest reach, especially as Seattle Steelheads has been showing up in some online polls while seemingly nothing indicates that OVG has made a move to secure that name.  Baker specifically ruled out Steelheads in a mailbag column last week but, nonetheless, that doesn’t mean another name hasn’t entered contention.

I’m taking quality of domain name into account, with the best domain name being one in the form of SeattleTeamname.com, with no extra words or characters.  So seattlefirebirds.com is better than seattle-firebirds.com, for example.  This is subjective so it’s possible that the team is okay with something like SeattleTeamnameHockey.com.

Finally, I’m working off the assumption that the organization would only let one of their domains expire if they had either decided against the team name it represented or if they had found (or determined they could acquire) a better domain name for that team name.  OVG wouldn’t spend over half a billion dollars on an expansion franchise and then accidentally not renew their $13 domain if that domain actually mattered to them going forward.

Taking all of that into consideration…

The 38 domain names from January 2018 were each registered for a two year period.  On Saturday, for a few hours, they all expired.

It should be noted that, relatively quickly after expiration, all of the domains were renewed.  The fact that OVG let them expire in the first place, however, leads me to believe that the domains aren’t the important piece of property that they might have been two years ago.

With those assumptions in place, we can eliminate the six team names that OVG already had domains in the form of SeattleTeamname.com registered for, adding them to the two that Baker previously stated were no longer options.

Domains in the form of SeattleTeamname.com are already registered for all five of the remaining names.  All of the registrations pre-date OVG’s set of registrations two years ago.  None of them are confirmed to have been registered by Oak View Group, though private domain registration makes it impossible to know for certain.

Of the remaining five, seattlesockeyes.com and seattlesealions.com are registered publicly.

Jeff Gibb – owner of seattlesockeyes.com, a lifelong hockey player and fan, and son of former Detroit Red Wings draft pick Ken Gibb – registered the name following a Seattle adult league hockey game in 2012. “[M]y friend Chris and I thought it would be the perfect name for an NHL team.” he noted via email, adding that, while he has received offers to buy the domain, “None of these offers (to my knowledge) have been in a official capacity from the NHL or the Seattle ownership group, and most seem to come in after press picks up the name as a favorite.”

Meanwhile seattlesealions.com was originally purchased for another Seattle sports team, the rugby side that would become the Seattle Seawolves of Major League Rugby.  Seawolves owner Shane Skinner revealed that he simply held onto the domain even after choosing not to use that name for his team.

While this makes it clear that OVG does not own either of those domains, the fact that neither domain owner would rule out the possibility of making a deal for them in the future means both names should be considered available.

“To me, I’ve always considered my ownership of it as a way to ‘save’ the name for the team if they choose it down the line,” Gibb said.

It’s also worth noting that these are the five that my set of assumptions can’t eliminate.  We know there was a list of five in October.  Along with the possibility of new names being added to the list, it’s entirely possible that some of these have been removed from contention since then.


Of course, domain registrations aren’t the only way to see what names a team might be considering.

Social media is much less reliable method, given the ease of setting up a Twitter or Instagram account.  That said, there are some interesting Facebook pages out there that might show a little more of what Oak View Group is planning.

Most NHL teams tend to use Facebook groups with a name in the form of LocationTeamname, NHLTeamname, TeamnameNHL, or TeamnameHockey.  With the five team names from above, that gives us 20 possible combinations to check.

Most of those aren’t assigned to anyone.  Some are legitimate groups unrelated to Seattle’s NHL franchise.  Two, however, are private pages, which would be a good way for an organization to reserve a Facebook page name without opening themselves up to communication from fans before they’re ready.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that’s what’s happening here.

Those two names are the Seattle Sea Lions and Seattle Sockeyes.


As noted above, one of Oak View Group’s trademark applications for their AHL affiliate in Palm Springs was denied in December, with the US Patent and Trademark Office determining that “Palm Springs Firebirds” (which I believed to be their top choice) infringed upon the trademark of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. Interestingly, “Palm Springs Eagles” was accepted and is currently published for opposition, despite a trademark in place for the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.

An(other) Alternate Rebuild

Over the holidays I ended up in several conversations with family members about the state of the Red Wings’ rebuild.

There was a lot of disbelief about how bad the Red Wings are (which shows me which of my family members don’t follow this site on Twitter).  The general assumption was that the team would have rebounded more quickly than they have.  When looking at rebuild timelines, I found myself comparing the Red Wings to the New York Rangers.

The difference between the teams is that the Rangers had assets to give up in trade when they started their rebuild.  They shipped out Ryan McDonaugh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay, Rick Nash to Boston, and Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg, among others.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, had to watch a market not develop for Jimmy Howard, and a market not develop for Thomas Vanek, and Mike Green get hurt in the lead up to the trade deadline.

Former Detroit GM Ken Holland deserves credit for some of his deals, certainly, but he was working from a disadvantage from the start, as the Red Wings haven’t had big pieces to sell for futures.

So start the rebuild earlier, right?  When the Red Wings actually had tradable assets?  I’ve looked at what the Red Wings’ rebuild might have looked like if they’d stopped buying at the deadline sooner, but what if they were actively selling?

Let’s call the lockout-shortened 2013 season the Red Wings’ last chance at a deep run, an overtime loss away from a spot in the conference finals.  As such, this rebuild doesn’t begin until the 2014 trade deadline.  Perhaps they not only choose not to acquire David Legwand but they decide to actively sell and start the rebuild.

Daniel Alfredsson has value at that point but he also had a no-move clause; I’ll assume he stays put.

Jonas Gustavsson could have some value as a pending free agent.  The goalie market is fickle and he has a modified no-trade clause.  It’s unlikely he’s bringing in a difference-making haul but there’s room for something there.

Kyle Quincey is a pending free agent in the summer of 2014, so there’s an interesting rental option.  Similarly, Jonathan Ericsson is on an expiring deal (though with a modified NTC).

I’ll assume Gustavsson, Quincey, and Ericsson all get traded, replaced by the earlier promotions of Petr Mrazek and Ryan Sproul and an Adam Almquist that stays in North America with a roster spot reserved for him.

Come February 2015, the Red Wings are out of contention but don’t have any obvious candidates to deal away.  Brendan Smith could be an option but I’m going to say he’s young enough for the Wings to keep and not good enough for a team to throw a great deal at Holland to pry him away.  It’s possible that Detroit signed a veteran defenseman instead of going with Sproul/Almquist and that this veteran could be flipped here but that’s going to be the case at every deadline.

In 2016 we’re looking at Darren Helm and Justin Abelkader being possible trade deadline departures.  We’re also getting into a series of years where the Red Wings should be looking to deal Howard and go with the younger Mrazek in goal.

So by the time we catch up with when Detroit’s rebuild actually happened, we’ve moved out Gustavsson, Quincey, Ericsson, Helm, Abdelkader, and Howard.  We might have also seen the Red Wings sign some veterans to one-year deals only to flip them at the deadline (which could be how this alternate Red Wings team still ends up with Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott in time for the 2017 deadline).  We also might have seen Sproul and Almquist (or anyone else who stepped up with more ice time available) flipped.

I can’t see them having moved Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, or Niklas Kronwall.

The problem is I also can’t see any of those deals having brought back large pieces for Detroit’s rebuild.

Quincey is two seasons removed from having fetched a first-round pick but hasn’t really proven that he was worth that investment.  Ericsson is comparable.  Neither Helm nor Abdelkader has dropped off quite as much as we’ve seen since then.  Possibilities are there, for certain.  But there’s no McDonaugh in that group.

That said, that doesn’t mean there would have been no benefit to starting the rebuild sooner.  While I lament the Red Wings’ lack of high-value draft picks, high quantity of draft picks is still a good thing.

Dropping out of contention sooner also makes the Red Wings’ draft picks from 2014 on better, perhaps with bouncing lottery balls being kinder as well.  The 2019 version of this team could be benefitting from those draft picks rather than a 2014 draft that has produced only Dylan Larkin and Christoffer Ehn.

Given that we know the Red Wings got nothing for Quincey and Gustavsson and will likely get little to nothing for Ericsson, Helm, and Abdelkader, it’s safe to say that starting the rebuild sooner would have allowed them to cash in on more pieces.  However, that doesn’t mean that the team would be back in contention by now.


A deeper comparison of the Red Wings and Rangers…

Detroit’s streak of making the playoffs ended in 2017, with their rebuild beginning six weeks earlier at the at the trade deadline.  The Rangers, meanwhile, notified their fanbase of their intent to rebuild via letter in February 2018, in advance of that season’s trade deadline.

Starting with the 2017 trade deadline, through the end of the 2018-29 season, Detroit turned nine roster players (Nick Jensen, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Steve Ott, Riley Sheahan, Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, and Thomas Vanek) and a draft pick (a 2018 fifth-rounder that became Justin Almeida) into two players (Madison Bowey and Dylan McIlrath) and 13 draft picks.

None of the players selected with those picks have made the NHL, so it’s far too early to tell how the trades turned out overall.  That said, I want to look at what the Red Wings traded for, not the specific players they used those picks on.  Using PDWhoa’s Consolidated Draft Pick Value, the thirteen picks come to a total value of 481.24 (excluding the two future draft picks that don’t have a value yet, as we don’t know their overall position in their respective drafts).

The pick that became Almeida carries a value of 19.36, giving Detroit an increase of 461.88 in draft pick value.

That number feels underwhelming to me.

The Rangers, on the other hand, acquired 480.29 in draft pick value.  That doesn’t seem like much difference but New York started their rebuild one year later, giving them two drafts worth of picks to work with instead of three.  They also added players such as Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden.

New York was also able to leverage the number of picks they’d acquired into deals for long-rumored Red Wings’ target Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox.

I’m not saying the Rangers’ rebuild is complete by any means.  They’re simply my example for how different a rebuild looks when a team has pieces to work with from the start.