2019 Free Agency Thoughts: Day One

I noted my thoughts about each of the Red Wings free agent signings yesterday as they were announced.  Since then, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has spoken and explained some of his plan.

I’m not sure I buy it, so I’m going to revisit those thoughts a bit.

Calvin Pickard

Yzerman confirmed that Pickard is bound for Grand Rapids, not competing with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit, as was suggested when rumors of the deal broke on Sunday.  That makes significantly more sense.

My only concern is how Pickard (along with Curtis McElhinney) was claimed on waivers at the start of last season, leaving the Toronto Marlies without any goalies.  That said, veteran goalies make it through waivers every year, it’s last year that was the outlier.  I think it’s safe to blame my concern on recency bias.

Patrik Nemeth

I honestly don’t know much about Nemeth.  At first glance he seems like a good fit for the Red Wings.  Yzerman specifically mentioned that he could play with either Mike Green or Filip Hronek.  I imagine that whichever of those two doesn’t pair up with Nemeth gets Danny DeKeyser and, while not great by any means, that could be a solid top four.

The problem is the ever-present logjam.  Assuming a third pair of Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson with Madison Bowey as the seventh defenseman, that means there’s no room for Dennis Cholowski or Oliwer Kaski or anyone who might surprise in training camp.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying that it’ll be okay because there will be injuries, which was the case to start the season last year.  In all likelihood, yes, players will get hurt.  If you are counting on that, though, you have to count on someone getting hurt badly enough that they go on injured reserve, otherwise their roster spot isn’t cleared and no one can be called up to fill in.  So to get significant time for anyone outside that top seven, you have to hope for significant time lost due to injury to someone, which doesn’t sit well with me.

By the end of the season things might be different.  Ericsson and Daley and Green could all be gone.  Of course, there’s most of a season to play between now and the trade deadline and the last time the Wings expected to see a veteran defenseman moved in February, he got hurt and ended up signing an extension.

Valtteri Filppula

Oh, here’s the big one.  Yzerman says that Filppula was brought back to give the Red Wings depth at center, allowing them to shift Andreas Athanasiou back to his natural position at wing.

Obviously the organization thinks Athanasiou’s try-out as second-line center to end last season didn’t go well enough.  That’s fine.  I don’t think it was enough time to tell but I’m willing to accept their conclusion.  The issue is that I don’t accept that Valtteri Filppula is a second-line center.

The Wings now have a top line center in Dylan Larkin and bottom-six centers in Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening, Christoffer Ehn, and Jacob de la RoseDarren Helm can fill in at center and Yzerman mentioned Justin Abdelkader as well, which I think would be awful.  Helm and Abdelkader can be ignored anyway, though, because that’s six centers for three lines, none of which is the second line.

If the choice is between playing Athanasiou out of position and seeing how it goes or playing Filppula up a line, I’d pick Athanasiou.

I have nothing against Filppula as a third line center.  If Yzerman were to find a way to move Nielsen and slot Filppula in there, I’d be all for it.  Especially with Filppula coming in cheaper than Nielsen.  But that’s not the move that’s happening.

Red Wings Sign Goalie Pickard

As rumored yesterday, the Red Wings announced today the signing of goalie Calvin Pickard to a two-year deal.

As per club policy the financial terms were not announced.

Until yesterday, I’d been unaware that the Detroit organization wasn’t expecting Patrik Rybar to return, so this deal was not on my radar at all.

Frank Seravalli said yesterday that Pickard should be expected to compete with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit while Max Bultman pointed out that seemingly-Grand Rapids-bound Filip Larsson was expecting the team to bring in a veteran to work with him on the Griffins.

Given the money involved, I have to think the Wings have Pickard slotted in for GR, but even that is problematic.  It was just last fall that Pickard was headed to the Toronto Marlies to start the season when he was claimed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers.  Another rash of goalie injuries like we saw last year and the Wings could lose whichever veteran they try to send to the Griffins, leaving Larsson alone there.

That said, much has already been made of the free agent goalie-go-round.  It’s possible that whoever gets left out on that ride would be available to a team facing an injury, so this year is a little different from last year.

Red Wings Add Blueliner Nemeth

The Red Wings signed defenseman Patrik Nemeth on Monday, as NHL free agency opened.

The deal was first broken by Frank Seravalli of TSN.

The two-year term gives the Red Wings some depth going into next summer, when much of their blue line corps will hit free agency.  Between now and then, though, it adds to a logjam that already includes Madison Bowey, Dennis Cholowski, Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, and Filip Hronek.  Additionally, free agent signee Oliwer Kaski will look to contend for a roster spot and veteran Niklas Kronwall may choose to return for another season.

This could be a sign that one or more of that group won’t be back with the Red Wings in the fall.  At this time, however, that’s a lot of defensemen for not enough roster spots.

Red Wings Bring Back Filppula on Two-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of center Valtteri Flippula to a two-year deal.

Financial terms were not immediately available, because of course they weren’t.  According to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has us blocked on Twitter, the deal is worth $3 million annually.

I don’t like this move.  At this point in his career, Filppula is a bottom-six center and the Wings have enough of those.  Maybe they’ll shift him (or someone else) to wing and play him on the third line.

I could have been okay with it if it were a one-year deal, giving Evgeny Svechnikov time in Grand Rapids to recover from his lost season and Joe Veleno a year to adjust to the professional game.  Now Filppula will be taking up a roster spot past that timeline.

Red Wings Release 2019-20 Schedule

The Detroit Red Wings announced their schedule for the 2019-20 season on Tuesday, just a week after revealing their preseason slate of games.

Detroit will open on October 5, visiting the Nashville Predators.

The Red Wings’ home opener is the next night as they host the Dallas Stars.

Detroit’s annual New Year’s Eve game will feature the San Jose Sharks while the Red Wings will close the season on April 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The first matchup of the season against the Lighting, Detroit GM Steve Yzerman‘s former team, will be on December 29 in Tampa.  The Red Wings will meet former GM Ken Holland‘s Edmonton Oilers for the first time on October 18 in Edmonton.

Both of the Red Wings’ visits to the New York Islanders will be at NYCB Live – the former Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum – rather than Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Detroit will play on back-to-back nights 14 times, with travel between the games for 13 of those sets.

There are two home-and-home series on the schedule, against Winnipeg in December and against the Rangers at the end of Feburary/start of March.

2019 Development Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings open up their annual development camp today and released rosters for it yesterday.  As such, I’m going to take my annual look at the assigned jersey numbers to try to see what those assignments might mean.

The usual caveat applies: While development camp numbers have been indicators of permanent changes in the past, they aren’t always.  Additionally, things can always change based on any roster moves that happen between now and the start of the season.  I think there are a few things we can assume based on this year’s assignments, though.

First off, the players who actually saw time in Detroit last season.

Filip Zadina keeps his #11, to no surprise.  Similarly, Kaden Fulcher sticks with #36 and Ryan Kuffner has his #56.  The first change is Taro Hirose, who goes from #53 to #67 after wearing #17 at Michigan State prior to signing with Detroit.

Sixth-overall pick Moritz Seider takes Hirose’s old #53.  It’s a number Seider has worn previously, so my guess is that Seider was assigned it and Hirose had to switch, rather than Hirose requesting a change.  We’ll have to wait until the full camp in the fall to see if Hirose keeps #67 going forward.

Seider getting #53 also necessitated a change for Kasper Kotkansalo, who wore that in camp last year.  He takes the #84 of Jake Chelios, who departed for the KHL this offseason.

The #14 worn last season by Gustav Nyquist has been assigned to second-round selection Robert Mastrosimone.  Meanwhile Martin Frk‘s #42 has gone to try-out Mathieu Bizier and Luke Witkowski‘s #28 to Gustav Lindstrom, who wore #54 (now assigned to Matt Puempel) in dev camp last year.  The #26 of Thomas Vanek goes to try-out Marc-Olivier Duquette.

Perhaps tellingly, the #3 formerly worn by Nick Jensen was not assigned.  I think this means it might go to free agent signing Oliwer Kaski, who is not attending this camp.

All of the Red Wings’ 2019 entry draft picks will be attending, except for Kirill Tyutyayev.  Antti Tuomisto has been assigned the #24 that Filip Hronek wore in training camp last year before switching to his current #17.  Albert Johansson takes #95, worn last summer by Seth Barton, who has switched to Alfons Malmstrom‘s #86.  Albin Grewe gets #18, vacated by last summer’s trade of Robbie Russo to the Arizona Coyotes.  Ethan Phillips will wear the #22 last worn by Wade Megan.  Cooper Moore gets the #96 last worn by Axel Holmstrom in 2017 while Elmer Soderblom takes #85 from 2018 camp try-out Luke Kirwan.  Gustav Berglund will wear #97, which I think makes him the first player to wear that number.  Seventh-round pick Carter Gylander will wear #60, which is one of the Red Wings’ standard goalie numbers in camp, worn by Fulcher last summer before his switch to #36.

Speaking of goalies, with Fulcher at #36, Filip Larsson switches to #38, worn by Pat Nagle in the main camp last fall and Joren van Pottelberghe in dev camp last summer.

Interestingly, free-agent invitee Robbie Beydoun is listed as #00, which has been illegal in the NHL since 1999.  I imagine this is either a placeholder number or the Red Wings are simply taking advantage of the rule not applying to development camps.  I would love it, though, if it’s a sign that the league has finally fixed their stat software and will allow the number again.

In addition to those already mentioned, many players returning to camp will wear different numbers than they did last summer.

Victor Brattstrom goes from #68 to #34.  Patrik Rybar has been assigned #34 but the Red Wings have a tendency to double-book goalie numbers in dev camp.

Jack Adams, having lost #70 to Christoffer Ehn, will wear #58.  Jonatan Berggren takes #57 with his old #15 having been assigned to Chris Terry in camp last fall.  Otto Kivenmaki takes the #49 vacated by Holmstrom’s return to Europe after losing #84.  Having lost #17 to Hronek, Ryan O’Reilly switches to #44.

Chase Pearson takes the #46 formerly of Lane Zablocki, who the Red Wings declined to sign, switching from #76.  Patrick Holway switches from #87 to #92 and Malte Setkov goes from #79 to #73.

Also worth noting, while Jared McIssac is not attending due to injury, the #63 he wore last year has been assigned to Griffins signee Alec McCrea, which could indicate that McIssac was going to switch numbers.

Neither #37 nor #77 are assigned, so these numbers don’t provide any clue as to whether or not Evgeny Svechnikov will switch for the third year in a row.

The full roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
58 Jack Adams
57 Jonatan Berggren
42 Mathieu Bizier
79 Samuel Bucek
50 Thomas Casey
18 Albin Grewe
67 Taro Hirose
49 Otto Kivenmaki
56 Ryan Kuffner
81 Alex Limoges
75 Troy Loggins
76 Jarid Lukosevicius
78 Gregor MacLeod
14 Robert Mastrosimone
62 Cody Morgan
44 Ryan O’Reilly
46 Chase Pearson
22 Ethan Phillips
89 Owen Robinson
85 Elmer Soderblom
82 Odeen Tufto
90 Joe Veleno
88 Chad Yetman
11 Filip Zadina

Defensemen

Num. Name
86 Seth Barton
97 Gustav Berglund
87 Charles-Edouard D’Astous
26 Marc-Olivier Duquette
92 Patrick Holway
95 Albert Johansson
84 Kasper Kotkansalo
98 Owen Lalonde
28 Gustav Lindstrom
63 Alec McCrea
96 Cooper Moore
94 Alec Regula
53 Moritz Seider
73 Malte Setkov
24 Antti Tuomisto

Goalies

Num. Name
00 Robbie Beydoun
34 Victor Brattstrom
68 Drew DeRidder
31 Jesper Eliasson
36 Kaden Fulcher
60 Carter Gylander
38 Filip Larsson
80 Keith Petruzzelli

Red Wings Draft Thoughts

Hope is not a strategy but inevitably it’s what you come out of the draft with.

I look at Moritz Seider and Antti Tuomisto – the Red Wings’ first two draft picks in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft – and I have hope.  Both are regarded as reaches – players selected earlier than expected but who could end up justifying it.  That’s where hope comes in.  You have to hope that what the Red Wings’ front office saw comes true.

This was the draft that the rebuild would be built upon.  The Wings organization spent a lot of time talking about how all of those second round picks were going to be important.  With those picks, they selected the stretch Tuomisto, winger Robert Mastrosimone (a pick I’m comfortable with), and defenseman Albert Johansson, who The Athletic’s Corey Pronman doesn’t even see in the NHL.

There are no true sure things in the draft but what’s been missing from Detroit’s rebuild is someone who’s as close to that as you can get.  Things might turn out alright with who they’ve selected but for now we’re left just hoping.

Red Wings Pick Defenseman Seider Sixth Overall

I was a little busy yesterday and didn’t get a chance to post my thoughts on the Red Wings’ selection of Moritz Seider at sixth overall.

Given the forward names that were being thrown around, and given that the Red Wings have picked near the top of the draft so rarely in recent history, it’s kind of hard to see them go off the board there. It’s clear that, despite the forwards that were available, they were focused on Seider and were going to pick him. It sounds like they would have preferred to get him at #35 but didn’t think he’s still be there, tried to trade down but couldn’t find a deal, so they picked him in the slot they had.

I see it as kind of the other shoe dropping after the Wings were focused on defensemen last season and then Filip Zadina fell to them. At some point, no matter who’s available, you have to address organizational needs. It could have been Quinn Hughes last year instad of Zadina and then Trevor Zegras this year instead of Seider.

Given how the first round fell out, getting their guy on defense early might prove to be wise. If Arthur Kaliyev, for example, falls to #35 and the Wings pick him, I’d be pretty okay with those first two picks.

That said, this kind of shows the problem with the Red Wings rebuild strategy – stocking up on second round picks. They haven’t had the assets to get extra first-rounders and that left them in a position last night where they had to take their guy early.

I’m not familiar enough with Seider to know if focusing in on him – as opposed to another defenseman – made sense. The pick feels off to me but, in his first draft with Detroit, I’m willing to give Steve Yzerman the benefit of the doubt.

Now we just have to see how the rest of the draft plays out.

Red Wings Reveal 2019 Exhibition Schedule

The Detroit Red Wings announced their preseason schedule for the 2019 campaign on Tuesday.

Some of Detroit’s traditional exhibition matchups have been shaken up.  While they will still play at home and on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs, their series with the Boston Bruins has been replaced by one with the New York Islanders.  Additionally, the Red Wings will host the St. Louis Blues in Calumet, MI, for the Kraft Hockeyville USA game.

It marks the first time the Red Wings have changed up their preseason opponents since 2011, when the Bruins replaced the Philadelphia Flyers on the schedule.  The Washington Capitals were to play against Detroit in the 2012 slate of games that was cancelled by that season’s NHL lockout.

The full exhibition schedule is as follows:

Date Opponent Venue Time
September 17, 2017 Chicago Blackhawks Little Caesars Arena 7:30 PM
September 18, 2017 Chicago Blackhawks United Center 8:30 PM
September 20, 2017 New York Islanders Little Caesars Arena 7:30 PM
September 22, 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins Little Caesars Arena 5:00 PM
September 23, 2017 New York Islanders NYCB Live 8:30 PM
September 25, 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins PPG Paints Arena 7:00 PM
September 26, 2017 St. Louis Blues Calumet Colosseum 7:00 PM
September 27, 2017 Toronto Maple Leafs Little Caesars Arena 7:30 PM
September 28, 2017 Toronto Maple Leafs Scotiabank Arena 7:00 PM

On the State of the Logjam

It feels like every offseason we talk about the logjam on the Red Wings’ blueline.  With Libor Sulak bolting the Griffins for the KHL on Tuesday and Jake Chelios doing the same last week, now’s a good time to take a look at where things stand in the Detroit organization.

Last season, the Red Wings came out of camp with the following 14 defensemen spread out between Detroit and Grand Rapids, excluding players signed to AHL deals:

Jake Chelios
Dennis Cholowski
Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser
Jonathan Ericsson
Mike Green
Joe Hicketts
Filip Hronek
Nick Jensen
Niklas Kronwall
Brian Lashoff
Dylan McIlrath
Vili Saarijarvi
Libor Sulak

There were also part-time defenseman Luke Witkowski and signed-but-assigned-to-Europe Gustav Lindstrom but I’m ignoring them for the purposes of this.

With everyone healthy, it made for a nice, even split of seven defensemen each for the Red Wings and the Griffins.  For most of the season, though, not everyone was healthy, leading to everyone on that list with the exception of Saarijarvi playing at least one game in Detroit.

As an aside, it drives me slightly nuts that the Red Wings brought up Chelios – who had no future in the organization even then – late in the season, rather than giving Saarijarvi a look.  In meaningless games, there’s no harm in giving an actual prospect minutes, even if you’re concerned he’s not quite ready.  McIlrath could be swapped for Chelios in this argument as well.

By the end of the season, Jensen was gone but Madison Bowey had joined the group, keeping the numbers the same.

Since then we’ve seen the addition of Finnish free agent Oliwer Kaski and the departures of Chelios and Sulak.  Not much of a difference.  What else could we see this summer?

The big name is Kronwall, whose contract is up this summer.  Ken Holland had stated that, should Kronwall want to return, there would be a spot for him.  Holland is in Edmonton and this is Steve Yzerman‘s team now, so does that offer still stand?  It feels like buzz about Kronwall returning for one more season has died down in the last several weeks.  Is that meaningful or is it just the nature of the news cycle?  My gut feeling is that Kronwall is done.

Hicketts is also something of a question mark.  He’s a restricted free agent so he has limited options but it’s possible he bolts for Europe, seeing few options in the Detroit organization.  I wouldn’t call it likely, though.

Then there are trade options.  Early “What Will Yzerman Do as GM?” stories pushed the possibility of trading Jonathan Ericsson or Trevor Daley before the start of the season.  While I’d like to see that, I think they have more value at the trade deadline and Yzerman will hold onto them until then.

On the flip side, there’s the question of whether or not Lindstrom will come over this season, adding a body back to the mix.  Gut feeling again…  I’m going to say he spends another season in Europe.  That could change if Ericsson or Daley are moved in the summer.

So coming out of camp next fall, that gives the Red Wings and Griffins something like the following:

Bowey
Cholowski
Daley
DeKeyser
Ericsson
Green
Hicketts
Hronek
Kaski
Lashoff
McIlrath
Saarijarvi

That’s still 12 names, so the logjam isn’t gone but there might be some room to work.

Let’s say Detroit starts with Bowey, Cholowski, Daley, DeKeyser, Ericsson, Green, and Hronek.  Bowey could be buried in GR but he can also be your seventh defenseman so we’ll assume he and Cholowski split time.

That puts Hicketts, Kaski, Lashoff, McIlrath, and Saarijarvi in Grand Rapids.  Maybe Kaski has a great camp and swaps out for Bowey…  Whatever.

The thing to see here is that, while the roster is still pretty packed, minutes in Grand Rapids have become available.  The ascension of Hronek and Cholowski, combined with the departures of Chelios and Sulak, means that Saarijarvi and Kaski (again, assuming he’s in GR) could have the opportunity for a decent amount of playing time to prove that they’re ready, which will be important if Daley, Ericsson, and/or Green are moved at the trade deadline.

Of course, it’s still early in the summer.  The Red Wings could make another Chelios-like signing to put a body (or bodies) in Grand Rapids, making those minutes harder to find.  Jared MacIssac could make the jump from juniors over the summer.  As of right now, though, there has been some movement on the logjam.