Wings Continue Depth Signings as Free Agency Opens

After announcing the signings of backup goalie Jonathan Bernier and forward Thomas Vanek as soon as free agency opened on Sunday and confirming a one year deal with third-string goalie Harri Sateri shortly after, the Red Wings announced a slate of deals aimed at providing further depth to the franchise.

A little reaction from Tony Androckitis of Inside AHL Hockey

Undoubtedly they’re good moves for the Griffins.  Terry and Megan make up for the likely departures of two of Matt Lorito, Ben Street, and Eric Tangradi.  Chelios is an upgrade over the departing Dan Renouf, who wasn’t given a qualifying offer by the Red Wings.

That said, I praised letting Renouf go because it helped clear out the organization’s logjam on the blue line.  Unless Chelios is bound for Toledo, his signing seems like a bad sign for Vili Saarijarvi and Dennis Cholowski and Libor Sulak, all of whom would be battling for playing time with the Griffins (unless Cholowski manages to leapfrog Filip Hronek and go straight to Detroit, but that still doesn’t open up a roster spot anywhere).

So, yeah, these might be good deals for the Griffins, but they feel like bad ones for the Red Wings.

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.

Red Wings Lose Frk to Carolina

For the second time in three years, the Red Wings lost a player to the Hurricanes via waivers, as Carolina claimed Martin Frk on Sunday.

Frk, Detroit’s second-rounder in 2012, never saw a game with the Red Wings.  He had 27 goals and 17 assists for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.

In 2014, Carolina claimed Andrej Nestrasil from the Red Wings.  Last season, Detroit lost Landon Ferraro to the Boston Bruins.

While Frk was claimed, Nick Jensen, Brian Lashoff, Mitch Callahan, and Eric Tangradi cleared waivers.


My thoughts on this are on Twitter but to re-hash…  I don’t think losing Frk by itself is a major issue.  I do think losing him for nothing combined with the coming demotions of Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha is disheartening.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it when those moves become official tomorrow.

Red Wings Waive Five

Per Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, the Red Wings placed five players on waivers today.

Mitch Callahan, Eric Tangradi, and Brian Lashoff come as no surprise, as they all cleared waivers last year and spent the season (aside from a brief call-up for Tangradi) in Grand Rapids.

Martin Frk seems to be a victim of the Red Wings deciding to keep eight defensemen on the roster while Niklas Kronwall recovers from injury.  With eight blueliners, there’s only room for 13 forwards, leaving Frk out.

Nick Jensen has lost the battle for the final spots on the blue line, as it would seem the seventh and eighth spots have gone to Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul.

If I had to guess, Jensen will be claimed.  Frk might be as well, but I thought there was no way Landon Ferraro and Callahan would make it through in 2014 so what do I know?

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Jensen, Tangradi Called Up as Andersson Demoted

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Sunday that defenseman Nick Jensen and forward Eric Tangradi were called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins. To help make room for the pair, forward Joakim Andersson – who cleared waivers at noon on Saturday – was sent to the Griffins.

Jensen gives the Red Wings seven defensemen on the roster with Niklas Kronwall recovering from knee surgery. The extra blueliner may be required, as Brendan Smith left Saturday’s game late in the third period and has been dealing with an unspecified injury.

Originally Detroit’s fifth round selection (150th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Jensen, 25, has eight goals and 36 assists over the last three seasons with the Griffins. He has yet to make his Red Wings debut.

Tangradi, signed as a free agent by the Red Wings last summer, is the Griffins’ heading scorer with 31 points in 36 games. He was called up to Detroit earlier this season but did not make an appearance in the lineup. In 143 career NHL games, Tangradi has five goals and ten assists for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, and Montreal Canadiens.

Andersson will rejoin a Griffins team for whom he scored 38 goals and 63 assists in 189 career games. In 25 games with the Red Wings this season, he has one goal and two assists in a fourth-line role.

Jensen and Tangradi could be in the lineup for the Red Wings on Monday when they visit the New York Islanders.

Red Wings Call Up Tangradi

In advance of their Monday night visit to the Minnesota Wild, the Detroit Red Wings announced the call-up of forward Eric Tangradi from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

With forward Dylan Larkin nursing an upper-body injury, the Red Wings are down to just twelve forwards, even with previous call-up Tomas Nosek in the lineup. Facing back-to-back road games, Tangradi was called up to give the team extra depth.

In 24 games with the Griffins this season, Tangradi has scored 13 goals, good for most on the team and fifth-most in the AHL.

Originally a second-round draft pick (42nd overall) by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, this is Tangradi’s first season with the Detroit organization after signing as a free agent over the summer. In 143 career NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, and Montreal Canadiens, he’s scored five goals and added ten assists.

Red Wings Sign Cleary to One-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced late on Friday the signing of veteran forward Daniel Cleary to a one-year deal.

The contract is reportedly a two-way deal for $950,000. The entire amount of the contract would come off of the Red Wings’ salary cap if Cleary were assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.

Cleary, 36, is coming off a season that saw him play just 17 games, scoring a goal and an assist while on a contract that paid him $2.5 million.

The deal is reportedly the result of a handshake agreement between Cleary and Detroit general manager Ken Holland two years ago. Supposedly, at the urging of then-head coach Mike Babcock, Holland promised Cleary a series of one-year deals to match the three-year offer he was rumored to be mulling from the Philadelphia Flyers. Such an agreement, however, is expressly forbidden by the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA.

With the signing, the Red Wings now have 20 forwards who would have to clear waivers to be sent to the Griffins to start the season, though two of those players are Andy Miele and Eric Tangradi, who were specifically signed for Grand Rapids. Another, Louis-Marc Aubry, is unlikely to get a shot with the Red Wings. This leaves Cleary, Joakim Andersson, Landon Ferraro, and Mitch Callahan fighting for the final roster spots.