Slightly surprising news today, as the Red Wings have placed Jonathan Ericsson on waivers.
As I noted via Twitter, I’d expected Ericsson to somehow never recover from his injury and just ride out the season on IR, then retire this summer.
At his age and coming off of injury, any other team claiming Ericsson is unlikely. That said, it doesn’t mean that he’s bound for Grand Rapids at noon tomorrow, as the team also made a series of other moves.
With Ericsson coming off of IR, Alex Biega was sent down to the Griffins. Biega had cleared waivers while he was still with the Canucks organization so he didn’t need to be waived again.
Forward Adam Erne went on IR retroactive to October 18, with the team using that roster spot to call up Evgeny Svechnikov from the Grand Rapids.
The Erne/Svechnikov moves are a pretty simple one-for-one swap. With Erne out, the Red Wings want to get Svechnikov up.
Biega being sent to Grand Rapids clears a spot for Ericsson to come back. I was under the impression that a player on waivers did not count against the roster limit unless he played in a game while on waivers, which could be wrong but I swear Detroit did it with Drew Miller at one point.
If my impression is right, it means that Biega only needed to be sent down if there was a chance that Ericsson would play tonight against Vancouver. If the Wings are in need of a defenseman, it could have just been Biega playing. This implies that either my impression is wrong or something else is happening.
Assuming that Ericsson does not play tonight and clears waivers tomorrow, Biega being in Grand Rapids already will have cleared a roster spot for Ericsson to stay in Detroit, which could be that “something.” Ericsson clearing waivers gives the Red Wings some flexibility in setting their roster but it doesn’t mean he has to be sent down.
Biega being with the Griffins puts them in a roster crunch, with Oliwer Kaski and Vili Sarrijarvi already rotating in and out of the third defensive pair. As such, keeping him there does not seem to be a valid long-term plan.
My gut feeling is that, if Ericsson clears waiver and if he is assigned to Grand Rapids, he could choose to retire rather than report. This might be the best solution for everyone involved, as Ericsson would avoid riding the bus in the AHL to close out his career while the Red Wings wouldn’t be hit by salary cap recapture penalties as Ericsson is in the last year of his contract. Additionally, the Wings could then call Biega back up, taking care of some of the blueline logjam throughout the organization.
I admit, though, that scenario doesn’t seem like the “Red Wings Way.” We’ll have to wait to see how new GM Steve Yzerman plays this.