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.

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.

Wings Sign Czech Goalie Machovsky

The Detroit Red Wings signed Czech goalie Matej Machovsky to a one-year deal on Tuesday.

Machovsky skated with the Red Wings at their 2016 Development Camp in Traverse City, so he’s a bit of a known quantity to the organization.

On one hand, the move seemingly comes out of nowhere, as Machovsky left the Ontario Hockey League four years ago and has been playing in Czechia ever since.  At 23 years old (24 by the time the season starts) he’s not exactly a traditional prospect.

That said, the Red Wings’ goaltending pipeline is a mess.  They have to hope they’re able to unload Jimmy Howard (and his contract) this summer  without taking on another NHL-level goalie so they can go with a tandem of Petr Mrazek and Jared Coreau next season.  Eddie Pasquale is a free agent.  Cal Heeter is as well, and was never signed to an NHL deal anyway.  Jake Paterson hasn’t been able to break into the AHL, let alone look NHL-ready, and is a restricted free agent this summer.  Chase Perry and Filip Larsson simply aren’t ready.  Maybe Joren van Pottlebergh could make the jump.

This at least gives them a body going into the summer, a bit of depth to work with.  Is it a sign that a deal for Howard is coming?  Does Machovsky leapfrog Coreau on the depth chart?  I have no idea.

It is worth noting that Machovsky will be exempt from the waiver draft.  Maybe the Wings think Coreau will get claimed and this is a move to replace him.  Again, I don’t know.

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.