Red Wings Re-Up Staal on One Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Sunday the signing of defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year contract extension.

Staal had been a pending unrestricted free agent.  He was originally acquired last offseason in a salary dump move from the New York Rangers.

The deal is reportedly worth $2 million and includes a full no movement clause.

There were probably better defensemen that the Wings could have chased down in free agency but, since the end of the season, word from the organization has been that they wanted to bring Staal back.  Clearly the interest was mutual.

I don’t love the deal.  I’d rather have seen that cap space spent on another salary dump from another team.  That said, there are only so many of those available.  Also, $2 million is an absolutely fine number for Staal.  If he’s open to it (because of the no movement clause), the Wings can retain half of his salary and move him on to a contender at the deadline pretty easily.

It does mean that Detroit’s blueline is pretty set at this point.

Filip Hronek – Danny DeKeyser
Moritz Seider – Nick Leddy
Troy Stetcher – Staal
Gustav Lindstrom

Those aren’t meant to be true pairings, just an idea of how spots could play out.  The point is that Staal is a $2 million third-pairing guy and that’s not horrible, even if I don’t entirely love it either.

Wings Select Defenseman Edvinsson, Goalie Cossa in First Round of Draft

The Detroit Red Wings made two selections in the opening round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, adding defenseman Simon Edvinsson and goalie Sebastian Cossa to their slate of prospects.

The Red Wings took Edvinsson with the the sixth overall pick in the draft, where they had been projected to take center Mason McTavish.  McTavish went third overall to the Anaheim Ducks, however, and Edvinsson – projected to have been picked third by some – dropped to Detroit.

Later in the round, Detroit executed a trade with the Dallas Stars to move up from 23rd overall to 15th overall, sending the 48th and 138th overall picks to Dallas to complete the transaction.  The move enabled the Red Wings to pick the goalie, Cossa.

I had been really high on McTavish and was certain he was Detroit’s pick – if he made it to #6.  He didn’t.  With McTavish, as well as Michigan’s Kent Johnson, off the board by the time Detroit got to pick, I’m not surprised that they went with the big Swedish defenseman Edvinsson.

I don’t dislike the pick in a vacuum, it’s just that the Red Wings seemed to already have a bit of high-level defense in the pipeline, with Moritz Seider, William Wallinder, and Antti Tuomisto.  Their most glaring need was at center, but the two top centers were gone.  It left Detroit kind of in no-mans-land.

With Cossa at #15, the Wings got a player I really liked, but I’m not sure I would have traded up to get him.  Had he still been available at #23, I would have taken Cossa in an instant.  That said, the Wings had draft capital to burn.

The second rounder they gave up was acquired from the New York Rangers in the Marc Staal deal and the fifth rounder was originally Ottawa’s, acquired from Montreal for Jon Merrill, and the Red Wings still have their own picks in each of those rounds.  I’ve lamented the Wings’ having quantity but not quality when it comes to draft picks and, in making this deal, they converted quantity to quality.

So with the picks, Detroit improves on their already impressive slate of blueline prospects and gets a seemingly-legitimate goalie of the future in case Thursday’s trade for Alex Nedeljkovic doesn’t pan out (or is only a short-term fix).  They still need to find a center and improve their forward depth in general at some point.  If I were the Wings, I’d be hoping Aatu Raty continues his slide and is available at #38.

Red Wings Acquire Goalie Nedeljkovic From Carolina

The Detroit Red Wings acquired goalie Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday in return for a third-round draft pick and the rights to pending unrestricted free agent goalie Jonathan Bernier.

The draft pick was Vegas’, acquired in the 2018 Tomas Tatar trade.

Nedelkjovic was a pending restricted free agent but, per his agent, immediately signed a two-year deal with Detroit carrying a $3 million salary cap hit.

The 25-year-old former Plymouth Whaler and Flint Firebird had a breakout season last year, putting up a .932 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average after taking over the crease when former Red Wing Petr Mrazek went down with an injury.

I love this move.  I think the Red Wings were going to pay around $3 million for a goalie to replace Bernier no matter what and giving up a third rounder makes it worth it to ensure that it’s someone who could be in Detroit for a long time going forward.  Nedeljkovic is immediately the Red Wings’ goalie of the future due to a complete lack of any prospects in the pipeline.

Wings Sign Rasmussen to Contract Extension

The Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of pending restricted free agent forward Michael Rasmussen to a three-year deal on Thursday.

Financial terms were not officially announced, of course, but PuckPedia reports the deal carries a $1.46 million salary cap hit.

This looks like a solid deal to me.  Rasmussen was one of the Wings’ better players late in the season but he has yet to fully prove himself.  This deal gives him a raise but not so much of one that the Wings will be weighed down by it if he doesn’t continue to grow as a player, and he will still be an RFA at its expiration.

With Rasmussen signed, the Red Wings are up tosix forwards from last season’s roster under contract.

Red Wings Lose Cholowski to Kraken via Expansion Draft

The Seattle Kraken announced their thirty Expansion Draft selections on Wednesday night, including the pick of Dennis Cholowski from the Detroit Red Wings.

Cholowski was Detroit’s first-round pick in the 2016 Entry Draft but had a hard time sticking in the Red Wings’ lineup.

I didn’t want for the Wings to lose Cholowski, but at the same time I don’t feel bad that they did.  Maybe he’ll thrive in a different environment.  He’s not a Red Wing anymore so I don’t care either way.

But his departure causes me to look back at the Wings draft picks from that era with disappointment.

Going back to the 2014 draft, first-rounder Dylan Larkin is the only player to have established himself in the NHL.  Dominic Turgeon is still in the organization and Christoffer Ehn played with the Wings for a bit but Chase Perry, Julius Vahatalo, Axel Holmstrom, and Alexander Kadeykin never made it.

From 2015, first-rounder Evgeni Svechnikov hasn’t been able to regularly crack the lineup.  Fifth-rounder Chase Pearson might have fourth-line potential.  Vili Saarijarvi was traded away for a goalie who was waived after two games, Joren van Pottleberghe doesn’t seem to have a future in North America, Patrick Holway is unsigned and Adam Marsh never made it.

In 2016, there was the now-departed Cholowski, Givani Smith and Filip Hronek selected in the second round, and then Alfons Malmstrom, Jordan Sambrook, Filip Larsson, and Mattias Elfstrom.  Hronek is Detroit’s top defender right now and Smith probably has a spot on the fourth line.  Larsson could recover his college form, but the others are a loss.

Finally, there’s the 2017 draft, the first one where the team couldn’t deny that a rebuild was underway.  The Red Wings stocked up on third round picks that year, looking for as many “lottery tickets” as possible.  Those third-rounders ended up being Kasper Kotkansalo, who has yet to sign with Detroit; and Lane Zablocki, Zach Gallant, and Keith Petruzzelli, none of whom signed.  Michael Rasmussen came out of the first round and Gustav Lindstrom came out of the second.  Then there was Malte Setkov, Cole Fraser, Jack Adams, Reilly Webb, and Brady Gilmour.  Of those, only Adams still has a chance in Detroit.

So over four years, four first-round picks in the top twenty, and thirty-one draft picks overall, what the Wings have to show for it is Larkin, Smith, Hronek, Rasmussen, and Lindstrom.  A top two center, a fourth liner, a top four defenseman, a third liner, and a third-pair defenseman.  If you really want to reach, maybe Svechnikov still pans out.  Maybe Kotkansalo or Adams or Larsson does something.

That’s just abysmal for a time frame where the team’s core was aging and they really needed to be gearing up for the future.

Red Wings Expose Stetcher, Cholowski for Expansion Draft

Protection lists for each of the National Hockey League’s teams in the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft were distributed at 10 AM on Sunday and, unsurprisingly, began to leak out almost immediately.

In order to protect defenseman Nick Leddy – acquired from the New York Islanders on Friday – Detroit chose to expose Troy Stetcher, coming off a fantastic turn at the World Championships that included an assist on the tournament-winning goal.

There had been much discussion about whether or not Stetcher would be exposed in order to protect young defensemen Dennis Cholowski – a former first-round pick – and Gustav Lindstrom.  Instead, Stetcher’s presumed spot went to Leddy.  Filip Hronek and Lindstrom were the other two defensemen protected, leaving Cholowski exposed.

At forward, Vladislav Namestnikov was exposed in order to meet eligibility requirements.  Richard Panik had been the only other Red Wings forward who had played enough games, was under contract for the coming season, and who wasn’t a lock to be protected, but Panik was sent to the Islanders in the Leddy deal, forcing Namestnikov to be left off the list.

Namestnikov’s exclusion left room for Detroit to protect Givani Smith, with another former first-rounder, Evgeni Svechnikov, as the odd man out up front.

As expected, Thomas Greiss was the goalie Detroit protected, as Jonathan Bernier is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Other notable – but not necessarily surprising – names left exposed by Detroit include Danny DeKeyser and Frans Nielsen.

Red Wings Acquire Defenseman Leddy from Islanders

The Detroit Red Wings acquired defenseman Nick Leddy from the New York Islanders on Friday, in exchange for forward Richard Panik and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.

Detroit also retains 50% of Panik’s salary, $1.375 million for the next two seasons.

This deal doesn’t make sense to me.

Leddy is probably an upgrade over some of Detroit’s defensemen from last season, sure.  But to take on his salary, retain half of Panik’s salary, and throw in a second-round draft pick to make that upgrade seems like a steep price to pay.

Additionally, by completing the trade now, the Red Wings pretty much have to protect Leddy over Troy Stetcher for the Seattle Kraken expansion draft.  Stetcher was not one of the defensemen Leddy would be an upgrade over, so add the risk of losing Stetcher to the cost paid for Leddy and I really don’t get it.

Sure, there’s the “They’ll get a first-rounder for Leddy at the next trade deadline” argument but, as I’ve written before, we go into every season with some player who for sure will be flipped for a high pick at the deadline and it never happens, so we should probably stop being so sure about that.  Additionally, if the Wings do lose Stetcher to Seattle, the cost includes a guy they probably could have flipped for a second-rounder.

One thing I haven’t touched on is giving up Richard Panik.  I said when he was acquired that I don’t like him, he did nothing to endear himself to me in his short tenure with Detroit, and I don’t see a negative to his departure.

I don’t get the timing on this move and I don’t get the cost.  Maybe there’s something else coming but as it is right now, this looks like a really bad deal to me.

Wings Hire Tanguay as Assistant Coach

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday the hiring of Alex Tanguay as assistant coach.

Tanguay replaces Dan Bylsma, whose contract was not renewed when the Red Wings brought back head coach Jeff Blashill.

The Red Wings’ statement on the hiring specifically called out Tanguay’s work on the power play with the AHL’s Iowa Wild over the last two seasons.

Iowa had the AHL’s fifth-best power play in Tanguay’s first season behind the bench at 21.9 percent, and its offense was among the league’s most productive, improving from 3.08 goals per game in 2019-20 to 3.15 goals per game over a 34-game schedule in 2020-21. The Wild also had the second-best shot-per-game average in the AHL in each of the past two seasons, averaging 32.68 combined in Tanguay’s tenure with the club.

The longtime Colorado Avalanche forward also scored 28% of his points on the power play.

Tanguay sounds like a good hire for Detroit.  I wasn’t really expecting him but, with those numbers, maybe I should have been.

I’d kind of come around on the idea of Igor Larionov as assistant coach but I have no idea if that was ever actually an option for the Wings or just social media spitballing.

Red Wings Bring Back Blashill as Head Coach

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday the signing of head coach Jeff Blashill to a contract extension.

Blashill’s contract with Detroit had been set to expire this offseason.

In six seasons as the Red Wings’ head coach, Blashill has taken the team to the playoffs only once.  His overall record with Detroit is 172-221-62.

Notably, the length of the extension was not announced.

The team also revealed that assistant coach Dan Bylsma will not return to the team.


Blashill hasn’t exactly had much to work with as far as talent on the roster goes during his time in Detroit, so I understand the idea of keeping him to see what he could do with a more well-assembled group of players.

The problem with that thinking, though, is the question of whether or not the roster will be better next season.  If the roster isn’t going to be much better and the coach isn’t going to be different, how are you expecting a different outcome?

Perhaps the thinking is that a different coach couldn’t do better with the players Detroit has available.  That may also be true and is a little harder to counter.

I don’t particularly think it was necessary to make a change.  That said, it feels a lot like, over the years, the organization has been content to trot out the same old players, the same old coaches, and hope for something to change.  Swapping out Blashill would have been a sign that these losses, no matter how necessary for draft capital and the rebuild, are unacceptable over the long-term.

Thoughts on the 2021 Season

The Red Wings’ 2021 campaign wrapped up on Saturday night in Columbus, a 5-4 overtime loss to the  Blue Jackets.

With that, the strangest season on record ended with perhaps the most predictable result.  The Red Wings having slightly improved, still finishing in the bottom third of the league, still missing the playoffs.

While the team was competitive on many nights, which was good to see, there still wasn’t a lot to be excited about over the season.

Oh, sure, it was good to see Thomas Greiss right himself after a slow start, giving the Red Wings two solid goalies after spending the 2019-20 campaign with only Jonathan Bernier able to win.

Michael Rasmussen took a big step forward in his development.  Adam Erne – mostly due to one very hot streak – matched a career high in points despite the shortened schedule.  Filip Zadina put up 20 points in a top-six role.

These are all good things.  But they’re small steps forward.  They’re necessary for the rebuild that the Red Wings are going through.  Perhaps more importantly, for the most part, they were expected.  And as I said off the top, this team did what was predicted.

Perhaps the least-predictable thing was Steve Yzerman‘s trade deadline deal of Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals.

Dealing Mantha, who – while only 26 – is at the older end of Detroit’s rebuild core, makes a lot of sense.  Especially when the return is considered.  Richard Panik is a throw-in for salary considerations but the younger Jakub Vrana put up a point per game once coming to Detroit, plus a first- and second-rounder.  That’s a lot of options for the continuing rebuild.

But the Mantha deal was the lone bit of meaningful excitement from the season.  Yes, Vrana’s four-goal night was fun to watch, as was Sam Gagner‘s hat trick, but what impact did those performances have on the season as a whole?  Little, if any.

The season always had a “lets get through this and see what we can do when we come out the other side” feel to it.  And now we’re on the other side.

So what’s next?

It would appear that the coaching question will be answered first.  Jeff Blashill‘s contract is up.  The Wings haven’t performed well under him but he hasn’t exactly had much to work with, either.  I can see Yzerman bringing him back and I can also see him bringing someone else in.  It really depends on whether Yzerman thinks any of the other coaches available would do better under the circumstances.

I’m not sure they would.  So, right now, my guess is that Blashill is back on a short-term deal.  Perhaps with a revamped coaching staff surrounding him.

After the coaching question is answered will come the expansion draft, as I’m assuming the Red Wings won’t move to lock up any of their unrestricted free agents if it means expending an expansion draft protection slot on them.  There are lots of ways Detroit could go in their protection strategy but, of note, I expect to see Evgeny Svechnikov and one of Dennis Cholowski or Gustav Lindstrom made available.  Richard Panik will be available.

Like Vegas – who selected Tomas Nosek from Detroit – before them, Seattle will be picking from kids who haven’t fully cracked the lineup yet and overpriced veterans.  I would love to see them take Panik off of Detroit’s hands but I don’t see it happening.  I could see them taking Givani Smith in the same vein as the Golden Knights’ pick of Nosek.  My expectation, though, is that they’ll swing for the fences and take Svechnikov, hoping they can give him the opportunity the Wings never seemed to be able to.

Either way, whoever the Kraken take from Detroit, it’s likely to be someone who would be disappointing to lose but whose departure doesn’t drastically impact the rebuild.

Beyond the expansion draft is free agency, which is so far away that I’m not going to bother trying to predict anything.  That, though, is where we’ll see if we should expect more of the same next year, as the new Wings’ roster is assembled.