Pre-Deadline Thoughts

We’re about 16 hours away from the NHL trade deadline and the thought that keeps coming into my head is how disappointing it all is.

Traditional thinking about the trade deadline is that rebuilding teams will sell off their expiring veteran contracts in return for assets to help the rebuild.  This is nothing new.  In the coming hours, the Red Wings will attempt to do that.  It’s the NHL’s circle of life.

But while the names of Mike Green and Trevor Daley get thrown around as possible trade targets, the name generating perhaps the most buzz is Andreas Athanasiou.  I can’t help but think that it’s a sign of how dysfunctionally constructed this team is that, because their veterans have so little value, to fuel the rebuild the Red Wings must look at dealing a 25-year-old pending restricted free agent.

Trade deadlines haven’t gone exactly to plan since the Red Wings started their rebuild.

In 2017, the big trade piece out of Detroit was supposed to be Thomas Vanek, who ended up only fetching a third round pick and Dylan McIlrath when a market never developed.  Moving Vanek, Steve Ott, Brendan Smith, and Tomas Jurco cleared roster spots and got at least something in return for a handful of pending free agents, but there were no first-round picks or top prospects coming back.

In 2018 that was supposed to change as Green would be a pending free agent and, clearly, the former NHL All-Star would draw interest.  Instead, Green spent the deadline injured and then-GM Ken Holland was forced to deal Tomas Tatar.

Now, let me be clear, the return for Tatar was fantastic.  But it needed to be in moving a 27-year-old with three more years left on his deal.  And it didn’t negate the disappointment of being unable to move Green.

Last year Gustav Nyquist and Nick Jensen may have been on the younger side of players you’d expect to move out during a rebuild but they were both pending unrestricted free agents, so moving them made sense.  Again, though, no marquee piece came back.  And again, no market formed for other Red Wings veterans such as Jimmy Howard and Niklas Kronwall.

Finally, we come to this year, where the Red Wings have Green again available, as well as Daley.  Howard is again a pending unrestricted free agent, as is Jonathan Ericsson.  But no body seems to want any of them because their games have fallen off a cliff.  So, much like 2018, in order to escape this deadline having acquired anything of value for the rebuild, Athanasiou has to be made available.

Maybe Athanasiou brings back something like Tatar did.  I can’t see it happening, though.  What I don’t want to see is Athanasiou bringing back the third round pick that Vanek got (or even the second and third round picks that Nyquist got) and the Wings feeling forced to make that move simply because they have no other moves to make.

The feeling I’m getting right now, though, is that feeling of disappointment.  The feeling that there won’t be a market for any of the Wings’ players and they’ll have to settle a bad deal just to come out of the deadline with anything.

An(other) Alternate Rebuild

Over the holidays I ended up in several conversations with family members about the state of the Red Wings’ rebuild.

There was a lot of disbelief about how bad the Red Wings are (which shows me which of my family members don’t follow this site on Twitter).  The general assumption was that the team would have rebounded more quickly than they have.  When looking at rebuild timelines, I found myself comparing the Red Wings to the New York Rangers.

The difference between the teams is that the Rangers had assets to give up in trade when they started their rebuild.  They shipped out Ryan McDonaugh and J.T. Miller to Tampa Bay, Rick Nash to Boston, and Kevin Hayes to Winnipeg, among others.

The Red Wings, meanwhile, had to watch a market not develop for Jimmy Howard, and a market not develop for Thomas Vanek, and Mike Green get hurt in the lead up to the trade deadline.

Former Detroit GM Ken Holland deserves credit for some of his deals, certainly, but he was working from a disadvantage from the start, as the Red Wings haven’t had big pieces to sell for futures.

So start the rebuild earlier, right?  When the Red Wings actually had tradable assets?  I’ve looked at what the Red Wings’ rebuild might have looked like if they’d stopped buying at the deadline sooner, but what if they were actively selling?

Let’s call the lockout-shortened 2013 season the Red Wings’ last chance at a deep run, an overtime loss away from a spot in the conference finals.  As such, this rebuild doesn’t begin until the 2014 trade deadline.  Perhaps they not only choose not to acquire David Legwand but they decide to actively sell and start the rebuild.

Daniel Alfredsson has value at that point but he also had a no-move clause; I’ll assume he stays put.

Jonas Gustavsson could have some value as a pending free agent.  The goalie market is fickle and he has a modified no-trade clause.  It’s unlikely he’s bringing in a difference-making haul but there’s room for something there.

Kyle Quincey is a pending free agent in the summer of 2014, so there’s an interesting rental option.  Similarly, Jonathan Ericsson is on an expiring deal (though with a modified NTC).

I’ll assume Gustavsson, Quincey, and Ericsson all get traded, replaced by the earlier promotions of Petr Mrazek and Ryan Sproul and an Adam Almquist that stays in North America with a roster spot reserved for him.

Come February 2015, the Red Wings are out of contention but don’t have any obvious candidates to deal away.  Brendan Smith could be an option but I’m going to say he’s young enough for the Wings to keep and not good enough for a team to throw a great deal at Holland to pry him away.  It’s possible that Detroit signed a veteran defenseman instead of going with Sproul/Almquist and that this veteran could be flipped here but that’s going to be the case at every deadline.

In 2016 we’re looking at Darren Helm and Justin Abelkader being possible trade deadline departures.  We’re also getting into a series of years where the Red Wings should be looking to deal Howard and go with the younger Mrazek in goal.

So by the time we catch up with when Detroit’s rebuild actually happened, we’ve moved out Gustavsson, Quincey, Ericsson, Helm, Abdelkader, and Howard.  We might have also seen the Red Wings sign some veterans to one-year deals only to flip them at the deadline (which could be how this alternate Red Wings team still ends up with Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott in time for the 2017 deadline).  We also might have seen Sproul and Almquist (or anyone else who stepped up with more ice time available) flipped.

I can’t see them having moved Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, or Niklas Kronwall.

The problem is I also can’t see any of those deals having brought back large pieces for Detroit’s rebuild.

Quincey is two seasons removed from having fetched a first-round pick but hasn’t really proven that he was worth that investment.  Ericsson is comparable.  Neither Helm nor Abdelkader has dropped off quite as much as we’ve seen since then.  Possibilities are there, for certain.  But there’s no McDonaugh in that group.

That said, that doesn’t mean there would have been no benefit to starting the rebuild sooner.  While I lament the Red Wings’ lack of high-value draft picks, high quantity of draft picks is still a good thing.

Dropping out of contention sooner also makes the Red Wings’ draft picks from 2014 on better, perhaps with bouncing lottery balls being kinder as well.  The 2019 version of this team could be benefitting from those draft picks rather than a 2014 draft that has produced only Dylan Larkin and Christoffer Ehn.

Given that we know the Red Wings got nothing for Quincey and Gustavsson and will likely get little to nothing for Ericsson, Helm, and Abdelkader, it’s safe to say that starting the rebuild sooner would have allowed them to cash in on more pieces.  However, that doesn’t mean that the team would be back in contention by now.


A deeper comparison of the Red Wings and Rangers…

Detroit’s streak of making the playoffs ended in 2017, with their rebuild beginning six weeks earlier at the at the trade deadline.  The Rangers, meanwhile, notified their fanbase of their intent to rebuild via letter in February 2018, in advance of that season’s trade deadline.

Starting with the 2017 trade deadline, through the end of the 2018-29 season, Detroit turned nine roster players (Nick Jensen, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Steve Ott, Riley Sheahan, Brendan Smith, Tomas Tatar, and Thomas Vanek) and a draft pick (a 2018 fifth-rounder that became Justin Almeida) into two players (Madison Bowey and Dylan McIlrath) and 13 draft picks.

None of the players selected with those picks have made the NHL, so it’s far too early to tell how the trades turned out overall.  That said, I want to look at what the Red Wings traded for, not the specific players they used those picks on.  Using PDWhoa’s Consolidated Draft Pick Value, the thirteen picks come to a total value of 481.24 (excluding the two future draft picks that don’t have a value yet, as we don’t know their overall position in their respective drafts).

The pick that became Almeida carries a value of 19.36, giving Detroit an increase of 461.88 in draft pick value.

That number feels underwhelming to me.

The Rangers, on the other hand, acquired 480.29 in draft pick value.  That doesn’t seem like much difference but New York started their rebuild one year later, giving them two drafts worth of picks to work with instead of three.  They also added players such as Brendan Lemieux and Brett Howden.

New York was also able to leverage the number of picks they’d acquired into deals for long-rumored Red Wings’ target Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox.

I’m not saying the Rangers’ rebuild is complete by any means.  They’re simply my example for how different a rebuild looks when a team has pieces to work with from the start.

Red Wings Acquire Defenseman Biega

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Sunday night the acquisition of defenseman Alex Biega from the Vancouver Canucks in return for left wing David Pope.

Biega cleared waivers last week and had been assigned to the AHL’s Utica Comets while Pope had been with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

I’ll admit, the move confuses me.

Biega cleared waivers last week, which means that, if the Red Wings wanted him in Detroit, they could have had him for free.

Sometimes a team will skip out on making a claim only to later trade for the player because they don’t have enough contract spots.  In this case, though, the Red Wings were at 47 out of a possible 50 contracts, so they had slots available.

Perhaps they didn’t make a claim because they wanted him in Grand Rapids, so they needed him to clear waivers first.  That would make some sense, except the Red Wings and the Griffins both already have eight defensemen on their respective rosters.

It could also be that something changed with the Red Wings’ lineup between when Biega was on waivers and this trade.  Trevor Daley did not play the third period tonight against the Stars.  If Daley’s injury is expected to be significant and if Jonathan Ericsson is not expected to return soon, the trade could have been made to give the Red Wings a seventh defenseman with experience.

I find that option hard to believe, though, because the Wings could have just called up Dylan McIlrath, Brian Lashoff, or Joe Hicketts, as they’ve done in the past.

The way this makes the most sense to me is if Daley and Ericsson will not be available long-term and the organization wants to keep McIlrath, Lashoff, and Hicketts all in Grand Rapids to mentor guys like Moritz Seider and Gustav Lindstrom.  I find it hard to believe that one of the AHL veterans couldn’t be spared to fill in with Detroit but I could see if that was the organization’s thinking.

I imagine we’ll learn more about the thinking behind the deal on Monday.

2019 Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

With the Red Wings having claimed the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup as champions of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, the team is ready for their main training camp to begin, and with that comes the release of their training camp roster.

The roster includes 67 players.  Only two players who were on the Prospects Tournament roster will not be appearing in the main camp – Elmer Soderblom and Gustav Berglund.  No NHL free agents will be appearing with the Red Wings as pro try-outs.

There are no surprise jersey number changes revealed by the roster announcement.

Evgeni Svechnikov, who missed the entire 2018-19 season, will keep the #37 he was scheduled to wear last year.  He wore that number for his debut in 2016-17 before switching to #77 for the 2017-18 campaign.

Finnish free agent signing Oliwer Kaski claims that #77, after having worn #7 with Pelicans last season.  Kaski taking #77 would explain why Taro Hirose, who specifically was looking for a number with seven in it, took #67 instead of #77.

I had speculated that #26 might have gone to Thomas Vanek on a PTO but that ended up going to Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain Matt Ford, who was assigned #77 last fall.  Similarly, I thought that #50 might go to someone on a try-out but, instead, it’s been assigned to Dominik Shine, with Ryan Kuffner having taken the #56 that Shine wore in camp last year.

Goalie Calvin Pickard, the Red Wings’ only remaining free agent signing to not have a number announced, has taken #31.  He’s worn #30 in the past but Detroit has that semi-retired for Chris Osgood, it would seem.

The #3 worn last season by Nick Jensen has been assigned to defenseman Jared McIsaacLibor Sulak‘s #47 has gone to Marcus Crawford of the Griffins.

Any other changes are related to camp invitees and/or were already confirmed.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
8 Justin Abdelkader
11 Filip Zadina
15 Chris Terry
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Matthew Ford
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Mathieu Bizier
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
50 Dominik Shine
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Matt Puempel
56 Ryan Kuffner
57 Turner Elson
58 David Pope
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
61 Jacob de la Rose
62 Cody Morgan
64 Josh Kestner
67 Taro Hirose
70 Christoffer Ehn
71 Dylan Larkin
72 Andreas Athanasiou
73 Adam Erne
75 Troy Loggins
76 Jarid Lukosevicius
78 Gregor MacLeod
79 Thomas Casey
81 Frans Nielsen
82 Tyler Spezia
88 Chad Yetman
89 Owen Robinson
90 Joe Veleno

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Jared McIsaac
17 Filip Hronek
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
25 Mike Green
28 Gustav Lindstrom
29 Vili Saarijarvi
32 Brian Lashoff
47 Marcus Crawford
52 Jonathan Ericsson
53 Moritz Seider
63 Alec McCrea
65 Danny DeKeyser
74 Madison Bowey
77 Oliwer Kaski
83 Trevor Daley
86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous
87 Marc-Olivier Duquette
94 Alec Regula
98 Owen Lalonde

Goalies

Num. Name
31 Calvin Pickard
35 Jimmy Howard
36 Kaden Fulcher
38 Filip Larsson
45 Jonathan Bernier
60 Pat Nagle
68 Sean Romeo
80 Anthony Popovich

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.

Is Mike Green This Year’s Thomas Vanek?

With the NHL’s All-Star Break over, we’re fully into trade deadline season, and the biggest chip the Red Wings have to cash in is defenseman Mike Green.

We knew that would be the case coming into the season.  As much as the team itself said otherwise, they weren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot.  As such, their pending free agents – most notably Green – would be available come February.  And as much as the team continues to say they’re going to try to make a push, they’re in exactly the spot we expected.

Early in the season we heard a lot about possible destinations for Green.  Toronto and Pittsburgh and Edmonton and Tampa.  Vegas jumped onto the list as it became clear that they weren’t fading.

But with every look at the possibility of trading Green, more disclaimers were added.  Suddenly there were concerns about being too expensive.  About being one-dimensional.  About teams not having room for someone who plays his role.

It reminds me of the lead up to trading Thomas Vanek to the Florida Panthers for a third-round draft pick and minor-leaguer Dylan McIlrath last season.

Vanek was expected to fetch the most leading up to Detroit’s sale at the trade deadline.  According to some reports, a first-rounder wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.  Multiple teams were interested.  Then, as the clock ticked down, it came down to just the Los Angeles Kings and the Panthers, with the Kings bowing out and going with Jarome Iginla instead.  Vanek went to Florida, with the Panthers failing to make the playoffs anyway.

Immediately, we heard talk about how Vanek was too one-dimensional.  He was only successful when playing sheltered minutes.  That a third-round pick was actually a great return for him.  None of this was stated in the lead up to the deadline but once the deal was made they were presented as irrefutable facts.

Now come back to Green.  He’s the Red Wings’ top trade piece.  He’s also a power play specialist.  He’s a bottom-pair defenseman on a good team.  He’s unreliable in his own zone.  He’s expensive, even with Detroit retaining salary.

I’m not saying it will happen, but I could see Green’s value in trade being less than many fans would hope.  We saw it with Vanek and it may be the case again.

On the Blueline Logjam

It feels like this is a topic that comes up every year.  Throughout the entire Red Wings organization, there is a logjam at defense.

It’s been this way for several seasons.  The initial answer was that the team would trade defensive depth for help at forward but those trades never materialized.

Other moves have happened.  They did lose Alexey Marchenko on waivers to Toronto last season and then traded Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers.  Nathan Paetsch and Conor Allen chose to leave the Griffins for Rochester.  They also added Trevor Daley and sometimes-defenseman Luke Witkowski in Detroit while Filip Hronek and Vili Saarijarvi graduated from juniors to Grand Rapids.

This led to last night, where Hronek and Saarijarvi, two of the organization’s top prospects, couldn’t even crack the lineup for the Griffins’ home opener.

Some of that is politics, I’m sure.  You don’t send Ryan Sproul to Grand Rapids to have him sit there and the other five guys all played on the Griffins’ championship-winning team last year, so of course you dress them for the banner-raising.  But that you have to deal with issues like that shows a bigger problem.

When healthy, the Red Wings expect to be playing Danny DeKeyser,
Daley, Jonathan EricssonMike GreenNiklas Kronwall, and Nick Jensen.  Xavier Ouellet slots in as the seventh defenseman, and he filled in on opening night with Kronwall hurt, while Witkowski is your thirteenth forward or eighth defenseman (depending on injuries).

That pushes Ryan Sproul down to Grand Rapids, where he, Brian Lashoff, and Dylan McIlrath are the vets on the blueline.  That’s three spots out of six taken up by players who are legitimately no longer prospects.  Dan Renouf and Robbie Russo, who both made it into games in Detroit last season, come next, followed by Joe Hicketts.  Hronek and Saarijarvi have nowhere to play.

Oh, sure, there will be injuries.  And players will rotate in and out of the lineup.  But is that how you want these guys to start their pro careers?  Slotting in irregularly, hoping someone else gets hurt so they get a chance?

The organization has made no move to fix this.  In fact, they’ve only added to it by bringing back players such as Lashoff and McIlrath, opting for veteran leadership in Grand Rapids over a chance for their prospects to play.  In fact, if the rumored Riley Sheahan for Derrick Pouliot trade had gone through, it would have only made the situation worse.

This has been an issue for several seasons.  I can’t help but think that this is the year it becomes a big problem.

Thoughts on Day One of Free Agency

Sigh.  Okay, I guess we’re doing this.

Day One of the 2017 Free Agent Season is in the books (or at least as far as the Red Wings are considered).  Detroit general manager Ken Holland called it “a great day for the Red Wings.”  Lets take a look at what the team did and didn’t do.

Trevor Daley

The big – and most-expected – signing for Detroit was veteran defenseman Trevor Daley.  It’s a three-year deal for $9.5 million with a no-trade clause that scales back in the third year.

I don’t love it.  I wish the Wings were just going with the kids for a bit and seeing where it takes them.  That said, I don’t hate it, either.  By all accounts, Daley will be a great mentor for some of those kids and, assuming Mike Green is dealt at the deadline next year, the lost roster spot will only be for half a season.  The contract is much better than I was expecting.

It says something when a resounding “meh” is the most you can say for the best signing of the day.

Luke Witkowski

The other deal the Wings closed immediately upon the opening of free agency was to bring in Tampa Bay defenseman Luke Witkowski.

This is the guy who broke Anthony Mantha‘s hand in a stupid fight near the end of the season.  I see no reason to bring a guy like him in.

The deal is for $750,000, which can be completely buried in the AHL.  But we said that about Steve Ott‘s deal at this time last summer and he saw zero minutes in Grand Rapids so don’t count on it.

If the Wings were looking for a big, tough, young defenseman, they had Dylan McIlrath in Grand Rapids already.  If they wanted that from a forward, where they supposedly are ready to shift Witkowski, then they had Tyler Bertuzzi.  This signing was completely unnecessary.

I feel like this is also part of a “grass is greener” issue with the Wings’ front office.  Too many times of late they’ve brought in someone else’s marginal player rather than give their own marginal player a shot.  Which is funny because if someone lasts long enough to become a veteran in the Detroit system, Holland will bring them back repeatedly.  See Darren Helm, Daniel Cleary, Kyle Quincey.

Tom McCollum

Speaking of bringing someone back, the Wings traded for goalie Tom McCollum, one year after letting him walk from the Griffins as a free agent.  I guess this makes McCollum and Matej Machovsky the tandem in Grand Rapids after the Wings find a way to unload Petr Mrazek.

Turner Elson

In another Grand Rapids move, the Wings signed Turner Elson out of the Colorado organization.  He’s a center, so I suppose he somewhat makes up for the loss of Tomas Nosek to the Vegas Golden Knights via expansion.  Or he makes up for any of the other minor leaguers getting shuffled around this summer…

Kyle Criscuolo

… such as the Griffins losing Kyle Criscuolo to the Sabres.  It’s always tough to see big pieces of a championship team depart.  He had an AHL-only deal with Grand Rapids and now he gets a two-way deal with Buffalo so he’s moving up in the world.

Mitch Callahan

Moving up or moving home is Mitch Callahan.  He signed with the Edmonton Oilers and will either get the shot with them that he never really got in Detroit or will get to play closer to home, as the Oilers’ AHL affiliate is the Bakersfield Condors, who play just a couple hours from Callahan’s hometown of Wittier, CA.

Eddie Pasquale

Joining Callahan in the Edmonton organization is goalie Eddie Pasquale, who spent only a season with the Griffins.  As mentioned above, the Griffins seem to have their tandem set, but that’s a lot of turnover at goaltender through the organization.

Matt Caito

The Griffins also lost Matt Caito to the Iowa Wild.  Caito spent most of the season with ECHL Toledo so I don’t think we can call this a big loss.


So the Wings got the defenseman they wanted but who might not be able to help them much at a price that was acceptable.  They added a guy they definitely didn’t need, and they swapped some players around at the AHL level.

Are they better than they were yesterday?  Probably.  Are they good enough to make the playoffs?  Probably not.  And the Griffins are probably worse than they were when they won the Calder Cup.

Wings Add Defenseman Witkowski

The Red Wings signed defenseman Luke Witkowski from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday at the opening of NHL free agency.

The move comes paired with the signing of veteran defenseman Trevor Daley from the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Assuming Witkowski isn’t bound for the Grand Rapids Griffins, it gives the Red Wings nine defensemen on their roster.

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports that the team may shift Witkowski to forward.

Witkowski, a native of Holland, Michigan, captained the Syracuse Crunch team that the Griffins defeated in the Calder Cup Finals for the first half of the season.  After being called up to the Tampa Bay Lighting, he could not be returned to the team for the playoffs.

I don’t like this move.

As a defenseman, Witkowski doesn’t seem to provide anything that the recently re-signed Dylan McIlrath can’t.  If he makes the Wings’ roster, it’s at the expense of Xavier Ouellet or Ryan Sproul.  If he’s in Grand Rapids, he’s taking a roster spot from Joe Hicketts or Filip Hronek or Robbie Russo or Dan Renouf, or forcing Vili Saarijarvi back to juniors.

As a forward…  Why not just sign a forward?  Why not give Tyler Bertuzzi a shot?

Update, 5:25 PM:  I completely missed this earlier but the Red Wings announced this as a two-year deal.

The official press release did not include term and seemingly all other outlets continue to report it as a one-year deal but it’s probably safe to trust the official Twitter account.

Red Wings Leave Mrazek Exposed for Expansion Draft

There were few surprises when the Red Wings’ expansion draft protection list was (eventually) released this morning, but the one that did come down was a big one, as the team opted to protect goalie Jimmy Howard rather than Petr Mrazek.

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

I’ve been ranting about this on Twitter all morning, so obviously I think this is the wrong move.  Let me touch on a couple other things first, though.

I half-expected Niklas Kronwall to be protected, even though his contract and injury history make him pretty much unclaimable, so seeing him available is good.  Similarly, the Red Wings could have left Andreas Athanasiou unprotected to protect Darren Helm but didn’t.  So there were some good choices here.

Let’s come back to the goalies, though.

Yesterday the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames made waves with the Coyotes sending veteran goalie Mike Smith to the Flames for a pick and a prospect.  At the time, I wondered how Ken Holland couldn’t have gotten a deal done to send Jimmy Howard to Calgary instead, as the Wings certainly could have asked for less, with the cleared cap space being the real acquisition for Detroit.  After all, Smith is two years older than Howard, signed for more money, and had worse stats than Howard last season.

One response was that Smith is seen as more durable than Howard.  While that’s possible, it’d be somewhat ridiculous, as Howard missed significant time last season but Smith missed half the year in 2015-16.

Another idea was that Calgary GM Brad Treliving specifically wanted Smith, as he was with the Coyotes when they signed him.  That’s always possible, but I find it hard to believe that familiarity was worth the higher price paid for Smith than the Wings would have to have asked for Howard.  Either Treliving did a disservice to the Flames by overpaying for a goalie or Ken Holland did a disservice to the Red Wings by not negotiating hard enough to trade Howard.

I’m also focusing on Howard here because we know the Flames traded for Smith and Howard is more like Smith than Mrazek is.  We have no idea what kind of deal it would have taken to move Mrazek to Calgary but we can guess what kind of deal would have gotten Howard there.

If Howard gets dealt yesterday, Mrazek gets protected today, and concerns about losing a goalie for nothing are gone.

I think it could have been avoided, but regardless the reason, the Red Wings hit yesterday’s deadline with two NHL goalies on their roster and could only protect one.

With that out of the way, some thoughts on protecting Howard over Mrazek…

There’s a lot of chatter that neither will be selected because there are better goalies available.  If that’s the case, I would think you try to slide Howard through because at 33 and with a $5.29 million cap hit and coming off an injury-filled season, it’s less likely that he gets claimed, just in case.

If there’s a deal in place to “guide” the Golden Knights towards picking a certain player, it doesn’t matter who you have unprotected.  That said, Ken Holland said he wasn’t going to do that.  Kenny has lied to us before, though.

Ignoring both of those, the reason to leave Mrazek unprotected is because you don’t care if you lose him.  For a team in the Red Wings’ position, that’s a mistake.  This team needs to get younger and cheaper, even if that means worse (which I think it arguable).  Shed bad contracts and look to the future.  You do that by protecting Mrazek, not Howard.

Protecting Howard over Mrazek feels like sacrificing youth for another playoff push.  It feels like the tie goes to the veteran.  It feels like the “Red Wings Way” that led to the end of the playoff streak and no long playoff runs in nearly a decade.