On Red Wings Veterans Earning a Roster Spot

Okay, this is old news by now but I was thinking tonight about the idea that Daniel Cleary will supposedly have to earn his roster spot and decided to look into some history around that kind of decision.

I think it’s safe to say you don’t give a guy a $2.5 million contract with the intent of dumping him in the minors. Cleary is going to be on the opening night roster, barring injury. So Ken Holland and Mike Babcock (and Cleary himself) saying he has to earn it… Just talk.

But lets say it wasn’t. Lets say the Wings were bringing back Cleary but that Tomas Jurco had just as much of a chance to make the final roster. Would that be as groundbreaking as it seems?

It turns out, yes.

In the Ken Holland era, no veteran has ever been waived at the start of the season in favor of a younger player who could be sent to the minors without passing through waivers.

Okay, yeah Cory Emmerton lost his roster spot to Joakim Andersson last fall but Andersson was out of waiver options. Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson were all sent to Grand Rapids but not at the start of the season.

Derek Meech was waived and sent to GR in 2010 but not in favor of a player who wouldn’t have to pass through waivers.

Kyle Quincey was lost off waivers in 2008 but that was so the team could keep Meech and Chris Chelios.

Before that, we go back to the waiver draft era. Chris Osgood was lost in 2001 when Dominik Hasek was signed to replace him. Brent Gilchrist was lost and then re-acquired in 1998. In 1997, Tim Taylor was lost but because he was out of options, not because someone beat him out.

Not that it’s a surprise but history shows that veterans haven’t needed to earn a roster spot since Holland took over the team.

Free Agent Preview 2011

We’ve got under four hours until the NHL’s 2011 free agency season kicks off, so I’m going to take a quick look at the Red Wings’ roster, where they stand with their own free agents, and who they might be looking at on the market.

Forwards
Four forwards who were with Detroit last season are set to become free agents.Mike Modano won’t be back with the Wings but he’s not ruling out playing another year somewhere. His departure seems to have been a mutual decision as the team doesn’t have room for him and he didn’t have a particularly fun year in his hometown.

Kris Draper wants to return but has been told he won’t be offered a contract immediately. If the team can replace him they will.

Patrick Eaves is supposedly close to a deal to stay in Detroit but little is known about that. Reportedly, his concern is more about playing time than money.

Drew Miller has an offer on the table from the Wings but wants to test the open market. Like Eaves, he supposedly is looking for a place where he won’t have to worry about being a healthy scratch on a nightly basis.

Defensemen
The Red Wings kept Jonathan Ericsson in the fold, signing him to a (some might say ridiculous) three-year, $9.75 million deal last night. I don’t agree with the money but it gives Detroit six defensemen signed to NHL contracts for next season.

Detroit will look to replace the retired Brian Rafalski via free agency but their options are becoming limited. Christian Ehrhoff signed with Buffalo yesterday and James Wisniewski – long believed to be the Red Wings top target – seems to be set to sign a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tomas Kaberle is available as a third option from the top-tier talent but the Wings may have to look for a cheaper, less-talented player to round out their blueline corps. The name most mentioned to that extent is Ed Jovanovski.

If the Wings are looking to go cheap and roll the dice on defense, I’ve got a feeling about Sheldon Souray. Assuming a low contract, he’s the kind of low-risk, high reward guy Ken Holland likes to go after.

Of the team’s own free agents, neighter Ruslan Salei nor Derek Meech will be offered deals.

Goaltenders
Like Kris Draper, Chris Osgood won’t know if he’ll be back until the Red Wings are done shopping elsewhere. After injuries the last two seasons, the team is worried about Osgood’s health. With a relative glut of goalies on the market, he could be easily replaced. Former Osgood backup Ty Conklin is a possibility, among many others.

Joey MacDonald will not return to the Detroit organization. He’s looking for a one-way deal in the NHL or he’ll head to Russia. The Wings wanted him on a two-way deal so he could continue mentoring Thomas McCollum in Grand Rapids and be called on in Detroit if needed.

My Weekend Without Wings: Part One

The Red Wings face two Eastern Conference opponents this weekend but I’ve traded in those games for a couple others. Last night I skipped out on the Detroit – Montreal matchup to head to my first Griffins game of the year, a 4-3 Grand Rapids loss to the Texas Stars.

The loss reminded me of many Detroit losses this season. The Griffins were sloppy early. Their passes weren’t connecting, they weren’t taking shots, and when they did shoot they were firing right into Texas goalie Tyler Beskorowany’s chest protector.

The Stars were up 3-0 by the end of the first and made it 4-0 4:09 into the second.

Griffins coach Curt Fraser looked like he wanted to throw something. At various points he was laying into the players on the bench and the officials on the ice. I’m not sure how effective it was but it was entertaining.

The Griffins’ special teams helped them rally back. Brendan Smith had a shorthanded goal on a rush in the middle of the second and Jamie Johnson scored a power play goal late in the period.

Ilari Filppula scored with 48 seconds left and the Griffins skating six-on-four but Grand Rapids couldn’t get the tying goal.

As I said, this looked a lot like some Detroit losses earlier this season. Several Wings looked bad in those games and you’d never guess how good they really are, so I don’t want to pass judgement on the Griffins players based on one night.

That said, Smith looked really good out there. Head and shoulders above everyone except for Jakub Kindl, who’s not even supposed to be there anyway.

Joey MacDonald was strong in net considering the porous defense. He got a little lucky on a first-period penalty shot that beat him but went off the post.

Derek Meech is never coming back to Detroit but looked good. Ilari Filppula looks a lot like his younger brother, passing too much when he should shoot.

I’ve got some photos I’ll get posted to the site when I can.

Part Two of my weekend puts me at the Big House for U-M vs. MSU this afternoon. With the 3:00 start, traffic, and incoming snow, I’m not expecting to make it back to catch the Wings and Devils at 7:00.

Lightning Claim Ritola, Meech and Maltby Waived

Forward Mattias Ritola has been claimed on waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ritola was placed on waivers by the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, with the team hoping he would clear so they could send him to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He is a known commodity to Tampa Bay scout Pat Verbeek and general manager Steve Yzerman, who were with the Detroit organization last season.

The Red Wings also announced that veteran forward Kirk Maltby and defenseman Derek Meech were waived, with the intent of sending them to Grand Rapids. Meech cleared waivers last month.

The moves get the Red Wings down to a 23-man roster.

Numbers Game 2010

Red Wings Central has published Detroit’s training camp roster, meaning I moved too slowly getting my annual sweater number predictions made. It turns out I was right on a couple of my unpublished guesses and wrong on some others.

Mike Modano, as widely-reported, will wear #90 rather than switching to #89 with his usual #9 unavailable.

Free agent signee Ruslan Salei will keep his usual #24, inheriting it from Brad May.

Jiri Hudler will be making no change upon his return from the KHL, picking up the #26 he left behind a year ago.

This will not be the year that Justin Abdelkader takes the #87 he reportedly asked for last year. He’s back with #8.

Like Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey before him, Jakub Kindl is changing his number for his full-time jump to the big club. The #5 he wore in Grand Rapids is – of course – in use with the Red Wings so he’s switching from #46 to #4. This was one of my predictions.

Griffin Tomas Tatar has a somewhat expected switch. With his star rising in the organization, his jersey number drops from #72 to #21. I had expected him to get the #27 he wore last season in Grand Rapids. That number went to Travis Ehrhardt, who previously wore #45.

Given his status as a high-risk, high-reward European free agent signing, I’d expected Ilari Filppula to get the cursed #21 of Igor Grigorenko and Ville Leino. He gets neither that nor the #81 he wore in Finland, instead taking his brother’s original #41.

Rookie Brendan Smith will make his first appearance at Detroit’s camp wearing the #2 formerly belonging to Jiri Fischer.

Making their second runs with the Red Wings, Joey MacDonald returns to his #31 while try-out Aaron Downey will wear #32 with his previous #20 and #44 now taken.

The following are the remaining number changes for Red Wings prospects:

Mitchell Callahan, from #73 to #65
Jan Mursak, from #39
Andrej Nestrasil, from #56 to #49
Brent Raedeke, from #62 to #47
Jamie Tardif, from #67 to #29
Gleason Fornier, from #54 to #67
Brian Lashoff, from #49 to #25
Sebastian Piche, from #58 to #54
Logan Pyett, from #60 to #22

Red Wings Sign Abdelkader for Two Years

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of restricted free agent forward Justin Abdelkader to a two-year deal.

Financial terms of the contract were not officially announced but the Detroit Free Press reports that Abdelkader will make $750,000 this season and $825,000 in 2011-12 for an annual cap hit of $787,500.

Abdelkader was the last of the Red Wings’ crop of restricted free agents to sign with the team. Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Helm and Derek Meech had all previously signed. Daniel Larsson and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen remain RFAs but have signed in Europe for the coming season.

Red Wings Sign Defenseman Salei

The Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of defenseman Ruslan Salei to a one-year contract on Monday.

Financial terms of the deal were not officially announced but the deal is reportedly worth $750,000.

Salei is coming off of an injury-shortened season with the Colorado Avalanche that saw him appear in only 14 games, though he did captain the Belorussian squad at the Vancouver Olympics.

The Red Wings had been in the market for a defenseman to play on the third pairing with Jonathan Ericsson. With Salei signed and Jakub Kindl moving up from the Grand Rapids Griffins, Derek Meech is expected to be moved.

Meech Re-signs with Red Wings on One-Year Deal

Restricted free agent defenseman Derek Meech signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Following club policy, financial terms were not announced, however CapGeek.com reports that the deal is for $500,000.

Meech is expected to be traded before the start of the season, as he has been unable to remain in Detroit’s lineup over four seasons with the Red Wings.

With his signing, the Wings have only two restricted free agents left to sign: Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. They are also in the running for unrestricted free agent Mike Modano and are looking to sign a sixth defenseman.