Red Wings Sign Mantha to Bridge Deal

The Red Wings announced on Wednesday the signing of forward Anthony Mantha to a two-year contract.

As per annoying policy, financial terms were not announced, however MLive’s Ansar Khan immediately reported that it carries a $3.3 million salary cap hit.  From the term and salary, this qualifies as a “bridge deal” under which Mantha will be expected to further prove himself before cashing in on a bigger contract.

With Mantha signed, Dylan Larkin is now the Red Wings’ lone remaining unsigned restricted free agent.

Red Wings Re-Up Athanasiou

The Detroit Red Wings announced a two-year contract extension for restricted free agent forward Andreas Athanasiou on Thursday.

The deal reportedly carries a salary cap hit of $3 million.

I think that cap hit might be a little high but otherwise this is a pretty solid deal.  Term and salary are low enough that, if Athanasiou doesn’t work out, the Wings should be able to deal him away.

With Athanasiou wrapped up, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha are the Red Wings’ only remaining restricted free agents.

Thoughts on Day One of Free Agency: 2018 Edition

I actually said most of what I wanted to say about the Red Wings’ efforts on the first day of the 2018 free agency period earlier in the day, but I want to highlight a bit of an unintentional rant on Twitter.

I feel like that rant could have come from any offseason since about 2013.

Every spring when the Wings go their separate ways, we hear from Ken Holland about how they’re going to give “the kids” a shot in the fall.  Every summer the team goes out and fills their open roster spots with veterans.  Then we hear that all the kids have to do is beat out the veterans.

Michael Rasmussen was the Wings’ best player in the preseason last year and didn’t even get his nine-game look during the regular season.  He was sent straight back to juniors.  I’m not saying he was definitely ready for the NHL, I’m just saying he earned a look that he didn’t get because there wasn’t a spot for him.

So lets look at the Wings’ roster.  These were their lines heading into the final game of last season, per Winging it in Motown:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Darren Helm
David Booth – Frans Nielsen – Justin Abdelkader
Luke Witkowski – Andreas Athansiou – Martin Frk

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – Xavier Ouellet
Niklas Kronwall – Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard
Jared Coreau

Okay, now lets look at it with the players who have departed the Wings removed:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik Zetterberg – Gustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Darren Helm
<open> – Frans Nielsen – Justin Abdelkader
Luke Witkowski – Andreas Athansiou – Martin Frk

Jonathan Ericsson – Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – <open>
Niklas Kronwall – Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard
<open>

So that’s one open spot up front, one on the blueline, and the backup goalie job.  And who did the Red Wings sign (or re-sign) today?  A forward, a defenseman, and a goalie.

That leaves the lines looking like this:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik Zetterberg – Gustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Darren Helm
Thomas Vanek – Frans Nielsen – Justin Abdelkader
Luke Witkowski – Andreas Athansiou – Martin Frk

Jonathan Ericsson – Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – Mike Green
Niklas Kronwall – Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Bernier

That’s a full lineup.  I don’t think it’s their best possible lineup, though.  Let’s assume that Frk and Jensen are either gone or in the press box.  We’ll do the same for Witkowski, even though I highly doubt he’s going anywhere.

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik Zetterberg – Gustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Filip Zadina
Thomas Vanek – Frans Nielsen – Michael Rasmussen
Darren Helm – Andreas Athansiou – Justin Abdelkader

Jonathan Ericsson – Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – Mike Green
Niklas Kronwall – Filip Hronek

Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Bernier

That’s getting a little better.  But where is Joe Hicketts?  Dennis Cholowski?  Evgeny Svechnikov?

Also, that only removes the players who I deemed most expendable from the Wings’ roster.  What if Svechnikov outplays Nyquist or Vanek this fall?  What if Cholowski is better than Ericsson or DeKeyser?  Do we really see any of those vets sitting in favor of the kids?  Of course not.

So Detroit’s lineup is relatively set.  At best, one of the kids is going to make the Wings’ blueline, because it makes no sense for them to be up as the seventh defenseman.  I’ll say it’s Hronek.  What does that mean for the Griffins?

Here are the defensemen who were dressed for the Griffins’ season-ending loss to the Manitoba Moose in Game Five of their first-round series:

Joe Hicketts
Robbie Russo
Filip Hronek
Brian Lashoff
Dan Renouf
Dylan McIlrath

Since then, the Wings have sent Russo to the Arizona Coyotes and let Renouf walk.  We’re also assuming Hronek makes the Detroit lineup, so that’s three open spots.

Well, it was three open spots.  Detroit signed Jake Chelios, today, so we’re back down to two spots for Vili Saarijarvi, Libor Sulak, and Dennis Cholowski.  Or the Griffins could just roll seven defensemen, as they reluctantly did for part of last season, all the while admitting it was less than ideal.

The bottom line is if the Red Wings actually want to have spots available for Svechnikov or David Pope or Dominic Turgeon or Saarijarvi or Cholowski, they’re going to have to move players out of the way.

Ken Holland has never proven able or willing to do this.  He’s proven content to wait for injuries, which haven’t always happened.  He wouldn’t have to hope for that without some of today’s signings.

Wings Continue Depth Signings as Free Agency Opens

After announcing the signings of backup goalie Jonathan Bernier and forward Thomas Vanek as soon as free agency opened on Sunday and confirming a one year deal with third-string goalie Harri Sateri shortly after, the Red Wings announced a slate of deals aimed at providing further depth to the franchise.

A little reaction from Tony Androckitis of Inside AHL Hockey

Undoubtedly they’re good moves for the Griffins.  Terry and Megan make up for the likely departures of two of Matt Lorito, Ben Street, and Eric Tangradi.  Chelios is an upgrade over the departing Dan Renouf, who wasn’t given a qualifying offer by the Red Wings.

That said, I praised letting Renouf go because it helped clear out the organization’s logjam on the blue line.  Unless Chelios is bound for Toledo, his signing seems like a bad sign for Vili Saarijarvi and Dennis Cholowski and Libor Sulak, all of whom would be battling for playing time with the Griffins (unless Cholowski manages to leapfrog Filip Hronek and go straight to Detroit, but that still doesn’t open up a roster spot anywhere).

So, yeah, these might be good deals for the Griffins, but they feel like bad ones for the Red Wings.

Red Wings Sign Goalie Sateri, Likely Bound for Griffins

It looks like the Red Wings have found their replacement for Jared Coreau, signing Finnish goalie Harri Sateri.

Originally drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2008, Sateri spent last season split between the Florida Panthers and the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

The move restores some of the organizations depth in goal, with the departures of Jared Coreau, Tom McCollum, and the move of Petr Mrazek at last season’s trade deadline.

Sateri is likely to be the Grand Rapids Griffins’ starter next season, behind Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier on the organizational depth chart.  He could be backed up by Patrik Rybar or Kaden Fulcher, with the other bound for the Toledo Walleye.

The deal is for one year.

Wings Bring Back Forward Vanek

After it was reported this morning that the two sides had reached a deal, the Red Wings officially announced that they’re bringing back forward Thomas Vanek.

Reportedly it’s a one-year, $3 million deal.

As I said in the pre-free agency post, I like Vanek.  I don’t like this signing.

Unless the Red Wings move a forward, I don’t think they’re leaving enough roster spots open for Michael Rasmussen or Filip Zadina or anyone else to make a push in training camp.  And, as I don’t think this team is competing for the Cup any time soon, I’d rather see the kids out there than retreads.

That said, at least it’s a one-year deal, so he can be flipped (again) at the deadline if the Wings are, in fact, out of it by then.

I guess the next question about Vanek is if he wears the #62 he had during his first run with the Wings or takes his usual #26.


Update, 12:25 PM: So much for easily flipping Vanek at the deadline:

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked.  Holland just can’t help himself from giving out random NTCs to veterans.  I suppose we can always hope that, if necessary, Vanek will, in face, waive it.

Red Wings Sign Goalie Bernier

The Red Wings made official their signing of goalie Jonathan Bernier, who most recently played with the Colorado Avalanche.

Club policy dictates that financial terms not be announced but even before the deal was formalized, pretty much everyone reported that it was three years at $3 million per year.

I summed up my thoughts on this in this morning’s pre-free agency post:

I think I would have preferred 26-year-old Lehner over 29-year-old Bernier, as Lehner still has time to turn his career around and possibly become what Petr Mrazek was supposed to be for the Red Wings.  That said, Bernier has stats that are similar to Jimmy Howard‘s over the last several seasons and, with Howard a free agent next summer, it gives the Red Wings the option of trading him at next spring’s trade deadline if they’re out of playoff position.

The Red Wings have absolutely no one in their goaltending pipeline ready to backup Howard, so there’s no issue of Bernier taking away someone’s job.  Actually, they probably need to sign one more goalie to be the starter in Grand Rapids, though that could just be Tom McCollum, with Jared Coreau moving on.

If anything, my big complaint is that Bernier wears #45 and I don’t like “non-traditional” goalie numbers.  If that’s the gripe, it’s a pretty good deal.

Pre-Free Agency Thoughts

NHL Free Agency opens in about 6 hours and the Red Wings are already expected to be active.

The league’s free agent interview period reduces some of the drama of July 1.  We already know that Detroit has a verbal deal with Jonathan Bernier after calling on Carter Hutton and having Robin Lehner visit Detroit.  We know they’ve talked to former Red Wings Thomas Vanek and Valtteri Filppula.  We know they have interest in Carolina center Derek Ryan.

Filppula and Ryan come with a somewhat unexpected connection: According to Craig Custance of The Athletic, the Red Wings are interested in centers in case Henrik Zetterberg is unable to play this season.

That’s a bit to unpack so I want to break it down bit by bit.

Goaltending

This is the easy one.

I think I would have preferred 26-year-old Lehner over 29-year-old Bernier, as Lehner still has time to turn his career around and possibly become what Petr Mrazek was supposed to be for the Red Wings.  That said, Bernier has stats that are similar to Jimmy Howard‘s over the last several seasons and, with Howard a free agent next summer, it gives the Red Wings the option of trading him at next spring’s trade deadline if they’re out of playoff position.

Zetterberg

This is a complicated one.

When his contract was signed, I don’t think anyone expected him to play it out.  Then the CBA was rewritten to punish teams who had signed back-diving contracts.  Since then, LTIR has been abused to circumvent that punishment.

If Zetterberg’s back is hurt again, it would be very easy for him to go on LTIR for the rest of his career.  That said, when the Red Wings packed up for the summer, he said he expected to play in the fall.  What could have happened between then and now that would change that?

Filppula or Ryan could just be an insurance policy, but it seems expensive and premature unless there’s something the team isn’t telling us at this point.

Bottom line is I wouldn’t want to see the Red Wings sign a Zetterberg replacement without knowing for sure that Zetterberg would be out.

Vanek

Sigh.

I like Thomas Vanek.  I don’t want the Red Wings to sign him.

Custance made the point that Vanek seems to make Andreas Athanasiou better.  I agree.  But I also think Athanasiou isn’t long for the Red Wings, so signing someone to make him better doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Maybe you sign Vanek for a year and Athanasiou for a year and try to flip them both at the deadline?  I don’t know.

The larger point is that Vanek takes up a roster spot.  I already wrote about Mike Green‘s re-signing leaving little room for “the kids” on the Wings’ blueline.  If Vanek is signed, that gives the Red Wings 13 forwards on the roster (including Tyler Bertuzzi, who was in Detroit to end last season).

Yeah, they could send Luke Witkowski to Grand Rapids.  Or Martin Frk.  But all that does is open a spot on the fourth line or in the press box.  Where’s the spot that Michael Rasmussen is supposed to compete for.  Or Filip Zadina?  Or Evgeny Svechnikov?

Vanek’s signing would only take one spot and they need a lot more open than that to get the kids playing time, but it would seemingly show that, once again, the organization is only giving lip service to the idea of a youth movement.


So what will we see when noon rolls around?

Bernier is the only “confirmed” signing.  backup goalie is also the only position the Red Wings actually need to fill.

Vanek wouldn’t surprise me, based on the buzz and the fact that they wanted to bring him back last year.  I hope not, though.

Anything beyond that would unnecessary, so I hope it’s a quiet day for Detroit.

Red Wings Agree to Terms with Green

I’m going to agree with George Malik here and just call Mike Green’s new contract official.

Bob McKenzie had previously nailed down the financials of a then-unconfirmed deal.

The move was long-rumored but I can’t say I’m thrilled with it.

With Xavier Ouellet having been bought out and Green brought back, the Red Wings have six defensemen on their roster for next season.  Seven if you count Luke Witkowski.

Dennis Cholowski, Filip Hronek, and Joe Hicketts have all been discussed as possibly ready to jump to the NHL.  The Red Wings have said that they want to get their youth more ice time.  How are they going to do that with six guys already on the roster?

Yes, they could move Nick Jensen.  That’s a possibility that’s been rumored for most of the summer.  If they do, it opens up one spot for three players.

It could have been two spots for three players.

It’s just not necessary and it’s frustrating to see the Wings organization once again talking about playing the kids but not leaving open roster spots available to them.

2018 Development Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings released the rosters for their annual development camp today and, as per usual, there are some interesting jersey numbers in the set.

This is where I have to note that summer jersey numbers (specifically development camp and the prospects tournament) don’t usually mean much, but sometimes they’re a sign of number changes or

Of this year’s draft picks, Filip Zadina gets #11 and Joe Veleno gets #90, their usual numbers.  Ben Street had been assigned #11 last season but never wore it and David Pope had worn it in development camp but is now assigned #45.  Veleno’s #90 was worn in development camp last season by Keith Petruzelli, who is now assigned #80.

Jonatan Berggren has been assigned the #15 that used to belong to Riley Sheahan.  Speaking of players traded away last season, Dennis Cholowski will be wearing the #21 of Tomas Tatar after having previously worn #95, #2, and #53.  Meanwhile, free agent signee Patrik Rybar will wear the #34 formerly worn by Petr Mrazek.

Ryan O’Reilly is the only remaining 2018 draftee to be assigned a “normal” jersey number, with his usual #71 flipped to the #17 of David Booth.  I still expect Tyler Bertuzzi to take that number once the main camp rolls around.

Jared McIsaac, Alec Regula, and Seth Barton – Detroit’s trio of blueline draftees from last weekend – have been assigned #63, #94, and #95, respectively.  Jordan Sambrook wore both #63 and #95 last summer but will not be at this camp while Kaspar Kotkansalo had worn #94.  Kotkansalo will wear the #53 vacated by Cholowski.

The two goalies the Red Wings picked on Saturday – Jesper Eliasson and Victor Brattstrom – will wear #31 and #68, respectively.  The Wings regularly switch their prospect goalie jersey numbers up, as seen by now-departed Matej Machovsky wearing both of those numbers at different points last summer.

Wrapping recent draft picks up, Otto Kivenmaki has been assigned #84, the number Reilly Webb wore at development camp last year before switching to his current #50.

Mattias Elfstrom, a 2016 draft pick, switches from #56 to #37.  Jack Adams switches from #74 to #70, with Cole Fraser taking #74 after previously wearing the #85 now assigned to free agent tryout Luke Morgan.

With Eric Tangradi having claimed #26 during the Wings’ main camp last fall, Chase Pearson switches to #76.  Similarly, having lost his #48 to Givani Smith, Gustav Lindstrom switches to #54.

Defenseman Malte Setkov goes from #86 to #79, with Alfons Malmstrom taking the #86, having lost his #4 to Dylan McIlrath.  Meanwhile Patrick Holway completes a swap with Filip Hronek – Hronek took Holway’s #24 last summer with Holway taking the #87 Hronek switched from this summer.

Rounding things out are the goalies, which (as I mentioned) are always somewhat chaotic.  After wearing #36 in development camp last summer and #68 in main camp, Kaden Fulcher will wear #60 this time around, with Filip Larsson (who’d previously worn #68) taking #36.  Joren van Pottelberg is the only goalie keeping his previous number, as he wore Tom McCollum‘s #38 in development camp last year.

The full roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
70 Jack Adams
15 Jonatan Berggren
82 Colt Conrad
37 Mattias Elfstrom
64 Zach Gallant
67 Brady Gilmour
89 Pavel Gogolev
92 Maxim Golod
20 Nicolas Guay
78 Taro Hirose
84 Otto Kivenmaki
85 Luke Morgan
17 Ryan O’Reilly
76 Chase Pearson
45 David Pope
27 Michael Rasmussen
88 Ryan Savage
48 Givani Smith
90 Joe Veleno
75 Sebastian Vidmar
81 Trevor Yates
46 Lane Zablocki
11 Filip Zadina

Defensemen

Num. Name
95 Seth Barton
21 Dennis Cholowski
73 Marcus Crawford
74 Cole Fraser
62 Trevor Hamilton
87 Patrick Holway
53 Kasper Kotkansalo
54 Gustav Lindstrom
86 Alfons Malmstrom
63 Jared McIsaac
94 Alec Regula
79 Malte Setkov
50 Reilly Webb

Goalies

Num. Name
68 Victor Brattstrom
31 Jesper Eliasson
60 Kaden Fulcher
36 Filip Larsson
80 Keith Petruzzelli
34 Patrik Rybar
38 Joren van Pottelberghe