Pregame: Sabres @ Red Wings – 10/2

The Red Wings kick off their first season in the Eastern Conference tonight, hosting new divisonal-rival Buffalo in the 2013-14 opener.

After spending most of the preseason banged up, Detroit is mostly healthy as the regular season begins. Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves are on long-term injured reserve and Jordin Tootoo and Jonas Gustavsson are on short-term IR but the top six forwards and all the defensemen are fine.

The Wings will skate with the following lines to start:

Henrik ZetterbergPavel DatsyukJustin Abdelkader
Johan FranzenStephen WeissDaniel Alfredsson
Daniel ClearyJoakim AnderssonTodd Bertuzzi
Drew MillerCory EmmertonMikael Samuelsson

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson
Danny DeKeyserJakub Kindl
Kyle QuinceyBrendan Smith

Jimmy Howard will start in goal with Petr Mrazek serving as his backup.

The game will be the regular season Red Wings debuts for summer free-agent signings Alfredsson and Weiss. Everyone else in the lineup played at least one game for the Wings last season.

Game time is 8:00 PM on NBCSN.

Griffins Update Jersey Numbers Again

With their training camp complete, the Grand Rapids Griffins have once again reassigned a handful of player jersey numbers.

The team originally shuffled things around when camp began. Included in those changes was Marek Tvrdon losing his #16 to Xavier Ouellet and taking the #13 that had belong to Gustav Nyquist. With Nyquist back in Grand Rapids, he reclaims #13 and Tvrdon takes #39, worn last season by Jan Mursak and assigned to Travis Novak in camp.

Coincidentally, Nyquist originally claimed #13 from Mursak, who took the #39 he was assigned in Detroit when he returned to the Griffins alongside Nyquist last season.

Richard Nedomlel switches from #45 to #42, after having been assigned #41 at the end of last season.

The only other switch is that Nick Jensen, who did not skate at camp while injured, drops from the #48 he was assigned during the Griffins’ Calder Cup run to the #14 vacated by Chad Billins‘ departure for the Calgary Flames’ system.

One curiosity is that Kevin Lynch is no longer listed on the Griffins’ web site. Lynch was assigned #25, the number worn in Detroit by Cory Emmerton, who cleared waivers on Monday and was expected to be assigned to Grand Rapids. Emmerton’s old #8 is worn by Willie Coetzee, so it could be that Lynch was set to change to accommodate Emmerton. Alternately, Lynch could have been assigned to the Toledo Walleye and it hasn’t been announced yet.

Nyquist Demoted as Red Wings Set 23-Man Roster

The Detroit Red Wings set their initial 23-man roster on Monday, sending forward Gustav Nyquist to the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins as part of the effort.

In addition to demoting Nyquist, the team placed forwards Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves on long-term injured reserve. Forward Jordin Tootoo and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson went on short-term injured reserve.

Though he cleared waivers earlier in the day and Detroit general manager Ken Holland had said he would be assigned to Grand Rapids, center Cory Emmerton remained with the Red Wings. He can be demoted any time in the next month or before he plays ten games without needing to clear waivers again.

To take advantage of the salary cap benefits of Helm and Eaves going on LTIR, defenseman Xavier Ouellet was callled up from the Griffins. Goalie Jared Coreau was called up to replace Gustavsson.

Some of these moves are expected to be “paper moves” with additional roster manipulation coming before the Red Wings’ opener on Wednesday night. Specifically, Coreau may switch spots with Petr Mrazek and Ouellet may swap out for someone else.

Emmerton Clears Waivers

Detroit Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton cleared waivers on Monday, paving the way for him to be sent down to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

With Darren Helm injured, Emmerton had been expected to start the season as the Red Wings’ fourth-line center but he was outplayed in training camp and throughout the preseason by prospects Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan, making him expendible.

Emmerton, 25, was originally drafted by Detroit in the second round (41st overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He spent four seasons with the Griffins, playing in 217 games and scoring 34 goals and 77 assists before earning a spot with the Red Wings during the 2011-12 season. In 121 career games with Detroit he has 12 goals and seven assists in a checking-line role.

With Emmerton in the AHL, his entire $533,333 salary cap hit comes off the Red Wings’ books.

Pregame: Penguins @ Red Wings – 9/25

The Red Wings begin the final part of their preseason schedule tonight, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first of three games in four nights.

Detroit will be without Daniel Alfredsson and Jakub Kindl due to injury and will be sitting their top line and top defensive pair. Petr Mrazek will get the start in goal. Expected lines are as follows:

Johan FranzenStephen WeissJustin Abdelkader
Gustav NyquistJoakim AnderssonTomas Tatar
Drew MillerCory EmmertonMikael Samuelsson
Daniel ClearyRiley SheahanTodd Bertuzzi

Kyle QuinceyBrendan Smith
Danny DeKeyserXavier Ouellet
Adam AlmquistBrian Lashoff

Game time is 7:30 PM on FS+ and NHL Network.

Pregame: Blackhawks @ Red Wings – 9/22

A night after dropping a 2-0 decision to the Boston Bruins in their preseason home opener, the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit lost to the ‘Hawks in Chicago last Tuesday.

The Wings will be using the following roster:

Forwards
Justin Abdelkader
Pavel Datsyuk
Gustav Nyquist
Riley Sheahan
Joakim Andersson
Tomas Tatar
Cory Emmerton
Landon Ferraro
Louis-Marc Aubry
Mikael Samuelsson
Henrik Zetterberg
Luke Glendening

Defensemen
Brendan Smith
Nathan Paetsch
Alexey Marchenko
Jonathan Ericsson
Adam Almquist
Niklas Kronwall

Goalies
Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

Game time is 5:00 PM on FSD.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Blackhawks – 9/17

Coming off a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh last night, the Red Wings move on to face the Blackhawks in Chicago tonight.

The red team gets the nod this time around, with the lineup looking as follows:

Todd BertuzziStephen WeissDaniel Alfredsson
Gustav NyquistRiley SheahanTomas Jurco
Teemu PulkkinenAndreas AthanasiouMitch Callahan
Drew MillerCory EmmertonPatrick Eaves

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson
Nathan PaetschBrian Lashoff
Xavier Oulette – Ryan Sproul

Jonas Gutstavsson will start in goal and Jared Coreau will play the third period.

Game time is 8:00 PM. It will not be televised in either market and won’t be on the radio in Detroit but WGN will carry it in Chicago and stream the feed.

Red Wings Free Agency Recap: Day 1

The Red Wings made quite the splash as the NHL’s 2013 free agency period opened on Friday. Here’s the breakdown of what happened:

Arrivals
The big surprise to start the day was that longtime Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson would be spurning the Senators and joining the Red Wings for a (presumably) final run at the Stanley Cup. There’s a lot of drama around how he left the Sens but he arrives in Detroit on a $5.5 million deal. The base salary is only $3.5 million, so the final $2 million could apply to the Wings’ 2014-15 cap instead of the 2013-14 one. Alfredsson is penciled in to play the right wing on the second line as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be reunited on the top line.

Centering Alfredsson will be new addition Stephen Weiss. Signed from the Florida Panthers on a five-year deal with a $4.9 million cap hit, Weiss replaces the departed Valtteri Filppula. Detroit won a bidding war with the St. Louis Blues for the onetime Plymouth Whaler. The $4.9 million is a steal compared to the $6 million it was rumored Weiss was asking for.

Departures
As mentioned, Weiss replaces Valtteri Filppula, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning shortly after the Weiss deal was announced. Filppula reportedly was looking for first-line center pay and a first-line center role. He’ll be the number two center in Tampa behind Steven Stamkos, making $5 million per season for the next five years.

Though not yet signed by anyone else Damien Brunner seems to be out in Detroit. Red Wings general manager says he expects Brunner to go “in a different direction” for his next deal. The rumor is that Brunner is asking for guaranteed top-six minutes, something he couldn’t get with Detroit after falling to the third line (but having success there) late last season. There has been little buzz on where he might end up.

It seemed like Daniel Cleary was on his way out of Detroit but there are still rumors that the door is open for his return. The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins were vying for his services but both teams dropped out. The Anaheim Ducks were also reportedly interested at one point. The Red Wings have continued to be reported as “in” on Cleary, to the extent that at one point it was thought he’d be back in the Winged Wheel by the end of the day. As of right now, Cleary is still on the market.

Defenseman Ian White – who no one expected to return to Detroit – is also still on the market with no apparent suitors.

Grand Rapids
The first of two Griffins-centric came when former Ferris State defenseman Chad Billins signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Calgary Flames. Billins spent all of last season on an AHL-only deal with Grand Rapids and was rumored to be a Red Wings target for a deal similar to what he took with Calgary.

Former University of Michigan forward Luke Glendening did stick with the organization. After spending last year on an AHL-only deal with the Griffins, he signed a one-year, two-way deal with Detroit today. He’s expected to stick with the Griffins next season but will provide additional depth if the Red Wings need a call-up.

Additional Moves
In addition to being in on Cleary, the Wings are reportedly interested in former Dallas captain Brenden Morrow. This makes absolutely no sense, so I have no idea why the team would be interested.

Detroit still has four restricted free agents to sign. Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Tom McCollum will be looking for deals but restricted free agents tend to sign after their teams are done with the unrestricted market, so it’s likely only a matter of time.

On top of those moves, the Wings will need to make at least one trade before the start of the season. After all of the RFAs are signed, the team will be maxed out at 50 player contracts and have 16 NHL forwards. If Cleary or Morrow were signed, there wouldn’t be room to sign all of the RFAs. Trade bait includes Cory Emmerton, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson has a no-trade clause but could be convinced to waive it if the alternative was to be buried in the lineup. The Wings are reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman on the trade block.

Free Agency Preview 2013

With the 2013 NHL Entry Draft completed, focus around the hockey world turns to the league’s free agents.

We’ve hit Canada Day, the traditional start to NHL free agency, but it will be a quiet day this year as the new CBA has pushed free agency back to July 5 to avoid this week’s holidays in the United States and Canada.

With a couple days before unrestricted free agent signings begin, I figured I’d take a quick look at where the Red Wings sit right now.

Overview
With pending restricted free agent Jakub Kindl having been signed last Friday, Detroit currently has 21 players signed for next season and roughly $8.2 million remaining in space under the salary cap. The 21 players include forward Tomas Tatar, who spent most of last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins but is expected to join the Red Wings full-time next season (and has also requested a jersey switch from #21 to #90, reportedly). Not included are any of Detroit’s seven pending free agents.

External Targets
Now-former Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier is the only external target I’d really like to see the Red Wings bring in, even at the cost of internal options, and I don’t expect him to come cheap. He’s reportedly asking for $5 million per season for five years. The $5 million I think is entirely appropriate (much more so than Valtteri Filppula requesting that amount, which I’ll get to shortly) but the term worries me. I’d hate to see the Wings lose out on him because of term, though. The contract he was just bought out of carried a $7.727 million cap hit and carried through the 2020 season.

Nathan Horton (Boston) and Viktor Stalberg (Chicago) are other names that Detroit is being associated with, as well as Stephen Weiss (Florida). Horton has injury concerns and Stalberg is entirely unproven, I have no interest in them. Weiss has local ties, having played with the Plymouth Whalers, and I like him if the Wings are unable to land Lecavalier or retain Filppula, but he has to come at a good deal. He carried a cap hit of $3.1 million on his last deal with an actual salary of $4.1 million, I’d hate to see the Wings give him more than $4 million annually.

Mike Ribeiro (Washington) and Michael Ryder (Montreal) are also options but will likely want more money and/or term than Detroit is willing to offer.

Unrestricted Free Agents
The aforementioned Filppula is Detroit’s highest-priority unrestricted free agent. There were rumors that his rights might be moved during the draft, ending his tenure with the Red Wings. As that didn’t happen, it would appear that the two sides are still working on a deal to keep Filppula with the team that drafted him. He’s reportedly asking for five years at $5 million or more, which is an obscene amount for a player who’s scored twenty goals once (though he came close with 19 in his last contract year). He’s likely to get it in the open market as there’s a weak free agent pool this summer. I think he’s gone and I’d rather give his money to Lecavalier anyway.

Both the Red Wings and forward Daniel Cleary have said they’d like to work our a deal but I just don’t see a roster spot for him. At 34 he might be convinced to come back at a discount to the team that resurrected his career following the Great Hockey Stoppage of 2004-05 but even if he signs for $1 million annually, I don’t see a spot for him unless the Wings move players out before the start of the season. They may have to do that anyway (more on that below) so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cleary brought back on the (relative) cheap but I expect him to head elsewhere.

Damien Brunner is the big wild card of the UFA bunch. He says he wants to come back and Detroit wants him back but how do you value a player who has half an NHL season under his belt? I wouldn’t mind throwing him a three or four year deal for Filppula’s old cap hit of $3 million but, like Filppula, Brunner has a chance to get paid on the shallow open market. Brunner is the only Detroit UFA I’d be disappointed if they lost out on.

Ian White is Detroit’s last unrestricted free agent and it’s already known that the team won’t offer him a contract, nor should they. He should have been dealt at the trade deadline, as he only played a grand total of two games after that date anyway.

Restricted Free Agents
With Kindl signed, Brendan Smith is Detroit’s lone defensive RFA. He’s not going anywhere, the Red Wings will match offers for any of their RFAs this season. I don’t think Smith should get much more than Kindl’s $2.4 million cap hit but he’ll probably get somewhere between that and the $3.775 that Kyle Quincey makes. Smith hasn’t proven himself so the Wings would be paying for potential if they hit the high end of that range, which always happens with players coming off their entry-level deals.

Gustav Nyquist falls into that scenario. As a projected top-six forward, he’s got a lot of potential to get paid for. He hasn’t shown (because he hasn’t had the opportunity) that he can play on a top line consistently, though, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he got a deal under $2 million, in the Justin Abdelkader range.

Joakim Andersson is in much the same position as Nyquist but seemingly has less offensive upside. On a team loaded with bottom-six forwards, that doesn’t give him as much leverage. $1.3 million?

Buyouts / Trades
Even assuming the Wings retain only their restricted free agents and don’t bring in anyone new – thus losing Filppula, Cleary, Brunner and White with no replacements – the team will still have 24 players on its roster heading into training camp. Someone won’t be coming back.

Mikael Samuelsson is a frequent mention as a possible candidate for a compliance buyout, which would get his $3 million off the books. He’s got a no-trade clause so this is the only way the Wings could be rid of him, but he may not be eligible for a buyout as he spent much of the 2013 season injured and injured players can’t be bought out. If he’s injured all year next year that’s not a problem as he can go back on long-term injury reserve but it’s tough to count on him being hurt the whole time. Samuelsson is probably the fan consensus as the most likely buyout.

Todd Bertuzzi is another buyout candidate with a NTC and a $2.075 cap hit. I have to think the team would prefer to keep him but might buy him out if Samuelsson can’t be dumped.

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo is almost assuredly gone, whether by buyout or trade. General manager Ken Holland was reportedly looking to move him during the draft but apparently didn’t find any buyers. The thought on Colaiacovo has been that he’d been a relatively cheap veteran guy for a team to pick up, so there would be trade interest. If no trade is found, he’ll probably be bought out, so we should know what happens to him by July 3 (the last day a player can be placed on waivers with enough time to clear before the July 4 buyout deadline).

Jordin Tootoo is like Colaiacovo in that the team seems open to trading him. They probably won’t buy him out, though, so if a deal comes along that works they’ll take it but if not they’re fine keeping him.

Cory Emmerton could be this year’s Mattias Ritola. The Wings likely won’t try to move him until they know whether or not they have to as the season gets closer. If they can’t move him, they’ll lose him for nothing on waivers in October.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Blackhawks – Game 1 – 5/15

The Red Wings and Blackhawks begin their Western Conference Semifinal matchup tonight with Game One in Chicago.

Detroit will go with a similar lineup to what they used to close out their series with the Ducks on Sunday. Mikael Samuelsson is out in favor of Cory Emmerton on the fourth line but everything else remains the same.

As I tweeted on Monday, it’s the first time since 1985 that the Wings will be the lower seed in a series against Chicago.

Today’s stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are only 6-9 all-time in Game One against the ‘Hawks. They are winless in six series openers in Chicago.

Game time is 8:00 PM on NBCSN.