Wings Bring Back Forward Vanek

After it was reported this morning that the two sides had reached a deal, the Red Wings officially announced that they’re bringing back forward Thomas Vanek.

Reportedly it’s a one-year, $3 million deal.

As I said in the pre-free agency post, I like Vanek.  I don’t like this signing.

Unless the Red Wings move a forward, I don’t think they’re leaving enough roster spots open for Michael Rasmussen or Filip Zadina or anyone else to make a push in training camp.  And, as I don’t think this team is competing for the Cup any time soon, I’d rather see the kids out there than retreads.

That said, at least it’s a one-year deal, so he can be flipped (again) at the deadline if the Wings are, in fact, out of it by then.

I guess the next question about Vanek is if he wears the #62 he had during his first run with the Wings or takes his usual #26.


Update, 12:25 PM: So much for easily flipping Vanek at the deadline:

I suppose I shouldn’t be shocked.  Holland just can’t help himself from giving out random NTCs to veterans.  I suppose we can always hope that, if necessary, Vanek will, in face, waive it.

Pre-Free Agency Thoughts

NHL Free Agency opens in about 6 hours and the Red Wings are already expected to be active.

The league’s free agent interview period reduces some of the drama of July 1.  We already know that Detroit has a verbal deal with Jonathan Bernier after calling on Carter Hutton and having Robin Lehner visit Detroit.  We know they’ve talked to former Red Wings Thomas Vanek and Valtteri Filppula.  We know they have interest in Carolina center Derek Ryan.

Filppula and Ryan come with a somewhat unexpected connection: According to Craig Custance of The Athletic, the Red Wings are interested in centers in case Henrik Zetterberg is unable to play this season.

That’s a bit to unpack so I want to break it down bit by bit.

Goaltending

This is the easy one.

I think I would have preferred 26-year-old Lehner over 29-year-old Bernier, as Lehner still has time to turn his career around and possibly become what Petr Mrazek was supposed to be for the Red Wings.  That said, Bernier has stats that are similar to Jimmy Howard‘s over the last several seasons and, with Howard a free agent next summer, it gives the Red Wings the option of trading him at next spring’s trade deadline if they’re out of playoff position.

Zetterberg

This is a complicated one.

When his contract was signed, I don’t think anyone expected him to play it out.  Then the CBA was rewritten to punish teams who had signed back-diving contracts.  Since then, LTIR has been abused to circumvent that punishment.

If Zetterberg’s back is hurt again, it would be very easy for him to go on LTIR for the rest of his career.  That said, when the Red Wings packed up for the summer, he said he expected to play in the fall.  What could have happened between then and now that would change that?

Filppula or Ryan could just be an insurance policy, but it seems expensive and premature unless there’s something the team isn’t telling us at this point.

Bottom line is I wouldn’t want to see the Red Wings sign a Zetterberg replacement without knowing for sure that Zetterberg would be out.

Vanek

Sigh.

I like Thomas Vanek.  I don’t want the Red Wings to sign him.

Custance made the point that Vanek seems to make Andreas Athanasiou better.  I agree.  But I also think Athanasiou isn’t long for the Red Wings, so signing someone to make him better doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Maybe you sign Vanek for a year and Athanasiou for a year and try to flip them both at the deadline?  I don’t know.

The larger point is that Vanek takes up a roster spot.  I already wrote about Mike Green‘s re-signing leaving little room for “the kids” on the Wings’ blueline.  If Vanek is signed, that gives the Red Wings 13 forwards on the roster (including Tyler Bertuzzi, who was in Detroit to end last season).

Yeah, they could send Luke Witkowski to Grand Rapids.  Or Martin Frk.  But all that does is open a spot on the fourth line or in the press box.  Where’s the spot that Michael Rasmussen is supposed to compete for.  Or Filip Zadina?  Or Evgeny Svechnikov?

Vanek’s signing would only take one spot and they need a lot more open than that to get the kids playing time, but it would seemingly show that, once again, the organization is only giving lip service to the idea of a youth movement.


So what will we see when noon rolls around?

Bernier is the only “confirmed” signing.  backup goalie is also the only position the Red Wings actually need to fill.

Vanek wouldn’t surprise me, based on the buzz and the fact that they wanted to bring him back last year.  I hope not, though.

Anything beyond that would unnecessary, so I hope it’s a quiet day for Detroit.

2018 Development Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings released the rosters for their annual development camp today and, as per usual, there are some interesting jersey numbers in the set.

This is where I have to note that summer jersey numbers (specifically development camp and the prospects tournament) don’t usually mean much, but sometimes they’re a sign of number changes or

Of this year’s draft picks, Filip Zadina gets #11 and Joe Veleno gets #90, their usual numbers.  Ben Street had been assigned #11 last season but never wore it and David Pope had worn it in development camp but is now assigned #45.  Veleno’s #90 was worn in development camp last season by Keith Petruzelli, who is now assigned #80.

Jonatan Berggren has been assigned the #15 that used to belong to Riley Sheahan.  Speaking of players traded away last season, Dennis Cholowski will be wearing the #21 of Tomas Tatar after having previously worn #95, #2, and #53.  Meanwhile, free agent signee Patrik Rybar will wear the #34 formerly worn by Petr Mrazek.

Ryan O’Reilly is the only remaining 2018 draftee to be assigned a “normal” jersey number, with his usual #71 flipped to the #17 of David Booth.  I still expect Tyler Bertuzzi to take that number once the main camp rolls around.

Jared McIsaac, Alec Regula, and Seth Barton – Detroit’s trio of blueline draftees from last weekend – have been assigned #63, #94, and #95, respectively.  Jordan Sambrook wore both #63 and #95 last summer but will not be at this camp while Kaspar Kotkansalo had worn #94.  Kotkansalo will wear the #53 vacated by Cholowski.

The two goalies the Red Wings picked on Saturday – Jesper Eliasson and Victor Brattstrom – will wear #31 and #68, respectively.  The Wings regularly switch their prospect goalie jersey numbers up, as seen by now-departed Matej Machovsky wearing both of those numbers at different points last summer.

Wrapping recent draft picks up, Otto Kivenmaki has been assigned #84, the number Reilly Webb wore at development camp last year before switching to his current #50.

Mattias Elfstrom, a 2016 draft pick, switches from #56 to #37.  Jack Adams switches from #74 to #70, with Cole Fraser taking #74 after previously wearing the #85 now assigned to free agent tryout Luke Morgan.

With Eric Tangradi having claimed #26 during the Wings’ main camp last fall, Chase Pearson switches to #76.  Similarly, having lost his #48 to Givani Smith, Gustav Lindstrom switches to #54.

Defenseman Malte Setkov goes from #86 to #79, with Alfons Malmstrom taking the #86, having lost his #4 to Dylan McIlrath.  Meanwhile Patrick Holway completes a swap with Filip Hronek – Hronek took Holway’s #24 last summer with Holway taking the #87 Hronek switched from this summer.

Rounding things out are the goalies, which (as I mentioned) are always somewhat chaotic.  After wearing #36 in development camp last summer and #68 in main camp, Kaden Fulcher will wear #60 this time around, with Filip Larsson (who’d previously worn #68) taking #36.  Joren van Pottelberg is the only goalie keeping his previous number, as he wore Tom McCollum‘s #38 in development camp last year.

The full roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
70 Jack Adams
15 Jonatan Berggren
82 Colt Conrad
37 Mattias Elfstrom
64 Zach Gallant
67 Brady Gilmour
89 Pavel Gogolev
92 Maxim Golod
20 Nicolas Guay
78 Taro Hirose
84 Otto Kivenmaki
85 Luke Morgan
17 Ryan O’Reilly
76 Chase Pearson
45 David Pope
27 Michael Rasmussen
88 Ryan Savage
48 Givani Smith
90 Joe Veleno
75 Sebastian Vidmar
81 Trevor Yates
46 Lane Zablocki
11 Filip Zadina

Defensemen

Num. Name
95 Seth Barton
21 Dennis Cholowski
73 Marcus Crawford
74 Cole Fraser
62 Trevor Hamilton
87 Patrick Holway
53 Kasper Kotkansalo
54 Gustav Lindstrom
86 Alfons Malmstrom
63 Jared McIsaac
94 Alec Regula
79 Malte Setkov
50 Reilly Webb

Goalies

Num. Name
68 Victor Brattstrom
31 Jesper Eliasson
60 Kaden Fulcher
36 Filip Larsson
80 Keith Petruzzelli
34 Patrik Rybar
38 Joren van Pottelberghe

Belated Draft Weekend Thoughts

I was in and out of cell service while camping in Manistee for draft weekend, which means I didn’t really get a chance to put down my thoughts on the Red Wings’ selections as they happened, so I’m going to run through some of that now.

After weeks of debating Quinn Hughes over Evan Bouchard over Adam Boqvist, is it weird that not getting any of them feels a little like a letdown, even if the reason the Wings “missed out” is because Filip Zadina fell to them?

Even with the Wings’ defensive needs, Zadina was absolutely the right pick at #6.  Or #5.  Or probably #4.  The Wings got the best player available, someone who could step into the lineup right now and contribute.

And at #30, they got another forward who fell to them in Joe Veleno, someone projected to go ten or more picks higher.  At #33 Jonatan Berggren, a projected first-rounder,  was still on the boardand the Wings were able to snap him up.  A trio of solid steals in their first three picks set the tone for a very good draft.

Jared McIsaac and Alec Regula and Seth Barton are all solid picks in the second and third rounds and hopefully one of them can give Detroit some defensive help relatively soon, but they’re not the big names we spent so long looking at.  I would have preferred Bode Wilde over McIsaac at #36 but I can’t argue with the pick.  I might have just gotten overhyped about Wilde.

From there on out we have two goalies in Jesper Eliasson and Victor Brattstrom as the Red Wings desperately search for Jimmy Howard‘s heir.  Detroit has gone from drafting a goalie every other year to drafting two in a single season and it’s a really weird look, to me.

Forwards Ryan O’Reilly (not that one) and Otto Kivenmaki wrap things up and I can’t help but keep coming back to the defensemen.

We keep being told you can’t get quality defensemen on the market, you have to draft and develop them yourself.  The Wings desperately need help on defense.  Yet only a third of their picks were defensemen and none of them were top names.

But at the same time, I can’t fault any of their picks, really.  Would I sacrifice Berggren to give them the option to get both McIsaac and Wilde?  I’m not sure I can sell myself on that.

Really, after getting Zadina, they could have drafted me and I’d still call this a solid draft.  There’s a difference between worrying about defense and complaining about who they did pick.


Speaking of defense, Sunday night the Wings made an effort to clear some of their blueline logjam.

I think this is a sign of how the Griffins will look next year more than anything.  The Wings have kept players around to help prop up the Grand Rapids roster for several years now and this summer they’re cutting them loose.

Russo has been dealt.  Dan Renouf wasn’t given a qualifying offer.  Add in buyout candidate Xavier Ouellet and it’s clear the Wings are trying to give room for guys like Joe Hicketts, Dennis Cholowski, and Filip Hronek.  And Vili Saarijarvi, who suddenly moves from Grand Rapids’ seventh defenseman to their second pair.

Like in Detroit, next season in Grand Rapids will probably be a bit difficult.  But it’ll be good for the rebuild.

Petrella’s Pre-Lottery Look at the Red Wings’ Options

Editor’s Note: Formerly of The Production Line, Michael Petrella is known for his NHL Entry Draft previews, having provided his thoughts on previous drafts here.  Now he takes a look at options and issues the Red Wings might have with their first-round pick as we wait for the Draft Lottery to find exactly where that pick will land.

My favorite thing to do leading up to the NHL Draft is to try and build a consensus. I’ll find as many reputable lists as I can, see how they line up with one another, and try to order the players in such a way that – usually – plays out fairly predictably on Draft Day.

This year, outside of #1, there’s very little consensus. That would be exciting any other year – but as a Red Wings fan with a vested interest in the Draft Lottery, it is absolutely terrifying. By the end, I’ll hope to make a convincing argument that “winning” the second or third pick might actually be a little bit of a disaster for the Red Wings – not because they won’t get a great player, but because they’ll get a great player that, perhaps, they don’t need as badly as others.

THE PLAYERS

The one spot where there’s a consensus is at the top. Aside from a list or two trying their best to build some suspense, the prize of this year’s Draft is Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Whichever team wins the lottery will be selecting Dahlin, regardless of organizational need. Period, full stop.

Things start to get murky (though not as murky as they’re about to) at 2. A pair of wingers have emerged as the next tier of players available for this Draft. One of them – Evgeny’s little brother Andrei Svechnikov – seems to be gaining an edge, but no one would call you an idiot if you preferred Czech LW Filip Zadina. For what it’s worth, the Wings seem to be leaning Zadina, who The Athletic named as the one guy they’d go off-script to grab, if given the chance. More on that later.

After the top three, things go off the rails. A more-or-less consensus Top 10 does seem to be coming into focus, but the rankings therein vary wildly. Let’s look at a few examples.

Brady Tkachuk, son of Keith and brother of Calgary Flame Matthew, is another winger who plays with an edge (like the rest of his family) but seems to possess a better nose for the net. He’s ranked 4th in a bunch of places, in the 5-6 range in a bunch of others, somewhere around 9 in a few, and even – in one place – outside of the top ten.

There’s a trio of defenseman who find themselves in this tier, as well. Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist, U of M blueliner Quinn Hughes, and London Knights captain Evan Bouchard are all reasonable selections in the top five. Boqvist is usually the one listed highest (in other words, the second best defenseman in the Draft), but no one should be shocked if all three are taken in the top six selections. Hughes is listed 3 or 4 a few times, but 5-7 a few more times. Bouchard, the year’s more impressive Draft riser, may be taken before Hughes – with size as a primary reason why (Bouchard is 6-2, 192 compared to Hughes’ 5-10, 174), as is the great attribute of being a “one-man breakout.”

Dahlin is all alone in Tier I. Zadina and Svechnikov headline Tier II, which likely includes the rest of the guys mentioned so far. A third tier is headlined by the next three.

A fifth defenseman who will likely go in the top ten is Noah Dobson, a 6-3 player from the QMJHL. He sometimes hops one of the above listed guys, but he’s more often found in the 6-9 range.

A pair of centers round out what’s shaping up to be top ten-ish picks. They are USNTDP player Oliver Wahlstrom and the first player to gain Exceptional Status from the Q, Joe Veleno. Neither seem like they’re in play in the top five, but you never know how things shake out on Draft Day. After the top ten, things go even further off the rails, but since the lowest the Wings can pick is 8th (until the Vegas pick), that’s where we’ll stop exploring for the time being.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The Red Wings can select 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th, pending the results of the Draft Lottery. The top three selections are made via lottery, and Detroit has a fairly equal chance at any of those picks (8.5% for first, 8.7% for second, and 8.9% for third). They have an 8.4% chance at remaining at fifth, a 34.5% chance at sliding down to sixth, a 26.7% chance at sliding to seventh, and a 4.3% of ending up at eighth.

One of the following statements will be painfully obvious, and the other will seem like absolutely nonsense, but bear with me.

Winning the Draft Lottery would be the best possible scenario (duh).

Winning one of the other two spots – 2nd or 3rd – would be a minor disaster (allow me to explain).

If they get the first pick, we’ve already established it’s a no-brainer. Dahlin is the pick, and they get the best defensive prospect to come through the Draft in literal decades. He’s the best player by a mile, and he fills a glaring need for Detroit, who hasn’t had a bluechip prospect on the back end in some time (also literal decades).

Things start to get weird if they’re picking 2nd or 3rd. It’s no secret that they’re desperate to pick a defenseman, and have no real organizational need for another winger. Aside from Dylan Larkin, most of their young players and prospects are on the flanks: Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Givani Smith, and Michael Rasmussen are all being used (or will be used) as wingers at the NHL level. So, if defenseman is the priority for their first round pick, a center (which you can never have enough of) is a secondary priority.

Picking 2nd or 3rd, and taking any of the non-Dahlin defensemen or centers might be a bit of a stretch. So the Wings are left with a few options: do they take the best player, even if it doesn’t help fill their glaring needs? Do they select a player they really like, regardless of Draft position, possibly reaching to get a guy outside of his pedigree? Do you fantasize about trading down before realizing this is Ken Holland we’re talking about, and moving from 2nd to 5th doesn’t really benefit the also-bad team that is selecting 5th in this scenario?

Craig Custance had a really great article on The Athletic a few weeks ago. In it, he identified a pool of eight players that, even in the worst-case scenario where the Wings move down to 8th, one or more will be available for selection. They are the same eight players listed above (before discussing Wahlstrom and Veleno).

Custance also mentions that Svechnikov and Tkachuk don’t fit any organizational need. And then there’s this tidbit: “The Red Wings like both players but the crucial need is on defense and it would be hard to pass on a potential top pair defenseman for another winger in the system. The one exception would be Filip Zadina. The organization is well aware they need a game-breaker to compete with the best teams in what’s becoming a one-goal league. Zadina is that guy.”

Considering how important this Draft is for the Red Wings, taking a guy that doesn’t necessarily fit an organizational need would be really disappointing, despite Zadina (or Svechnikov for that matter) being an excellent player. Perhaps “DISASTER” is over-selling it a touch, but it’s not ideal for the team to take someone they don’t NEED when they’re picking as high as they have in 28 years. A similar situation arises if they’re picking 6th or lower, which we’ll explore in a moment.

SO WHO’S THE PICK

I ran Tankathon’s Draft Lottery Simulator a bunch of times. The Wings won the Lottery a little less than 10% of the time, as the numbers above suggest would be the case. They picked in the top three about 20%, again in line with the numbers. They picked 6th or 7th more than 50% of the time, so it’s difficult to gauge who their selection could be until the Lottery is complete. But, we can mock out who it might be at any of those potential spots.

If they win the Lottery, and select first overall, they will add D Rasmus Dahlin to the team.

If they select second overall, Custance’s article seems to point to their preference for LW Filip Zadina. Though a defenseman is of the utmost importance, the gap between Zadina and Boqvist, et al, might be too wide to pass on the Czech winger. They’re in the same tier, yes, but that tier is leaning a little top-heavy to the wingers.

If they select third overall, there’s a decent chance that whoever selected above them took Andrei Svechnikov, so they may still get Zadina here. If Zadina is picked second, I don’t have a clue what they’ll do. A fair bet would be D Adam Boqvist, or whoever they have as the second-ranked defenseman, drafting him a slot or two above where they could probably get him otherwise.

They cannot select fourth overall. Better hope Svechnikov, Zadina, and Tkachuk go in order!

If they select fifth overall, and the three wingers are taken, they have their pick of the remaining defensemen, with Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, or Quinn Hughes all available – and they get to select the one that fits their needs the most. If, however, it goes Dahlin-Svechnikov-Zadina-Boqvist (for example), they’re left with two of those three. Still an okay position to be in.

If they select sixth overall, there will either be two of those three defensemen on the board… or one of those three and Tkachuk, which means their pick will likely be made for them, letting Tkachuk slide to 7, and taking whichever D is still unselected. The pressure to make the “right” choice would come off, which might be a good thing, but if they have their lists ranked differently than this one, perhaps all of their guys are gone.

If they select seventh overall, they’re in trouble. It’s possible that all four of those defensemen are gone, as are the top two wingers, leaving them Brady Tkachuk, who we’ve already established they don’t really need, one of the centers that are probably being selected a little bit too high, or Noah Dobson, a defenseman who, again, is very good but seems to be ranked a touch lower than the others. If someone above them loves Tkachuk, great – there’s one of Boqvist/Hughes/Bouchard left, and he’s your choice.

If they select eighth overall, things are rough. It’s possible that Tkachuk is there, who at this point you almost have to take… or they take one of the “third tier” players in Dobson, Veleno, or Wahlstrom – all wonderful hockey players, but two tiers below where you want your highest pick in generations to come from. The best case scenario for the 8th pick is someone above them really needing a center and taking one of them, or someone really loving Tkachuk (neither of which is that difficult to believe, really), and there’s still a Tier II defenseman on the board, and he falls into Detroit’s lap.

TL;DR

1st overall (8.4%) – Rasmus Dahlin. This would be a franchise-altering pick.

2nd overall (8.7%) – Filip Zadina. Purest goal-scorer in the organization, will have to find D elsewhere.

3rd overall (8.9%) –Zadina OR Adam Boqvist. Boqvist is a hell of a “consolation” prize.

5th overall (8.4%) – Evan Bouchard OR Quinn Hughes. Either would immediately be the team’s top prospect, and either would invigorate a less-than-exciting D corps, which has plenty of second pair-type guys, and no first pair-type guys.

6th overall (34.5%) – Hughes OR Bouchard. Less decision-making on their part, but still get a great player.

7th overall (26.7%) – Hughes OR Noah Dobson OR Brady Tkachuk OR Oliver Wahsltrom OR Joe Veleno. Hughes may still be around, but if he’s not, they’ve got the entire next tier of players to choose from and Tier II leftover Tkachuk.

8th overall (4.3%) – Dobson OR Tkachuk OR Wahlstrom OR Veleno. Maybe they get lucky and someone above them loves one or more of these guys, and a Tier II defenseman falls into their lap.

On Lottery Odds and the Red Wings’ Options

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m on #TeamTank for the Red Wings.  They can’t finish 31st overall anymore to get the best odds in the NHL’s draft lottery – and they probably can’t finish 30th, either – but they could still drop to 29th and get an 11.5% chance at drafting Rasmus Dahlin first overall.

The argument against the tank is that an 11.5% chance isn’t all that great, and not that much better than the 7.5% chance they currently hold.  You can’t expect players to give up, anyway, and it’s worth the drop in draft position to give young players such as Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Joe Hicketts valuable experience, playing hard even in games that seemingly don’t matter.

That last point is absolutely valid.  The Wings’ younger players have looked good as the season winds down and that bodes well for next season and beyond.

The second point, that you can’t expect players to give up, makes sense but is a little harder to handle.  After seeing the Red Wings drop ten consecutive games looking relatively awful earlier this season, it’s a little hard to see them suddenly look so much better when more of those losses could actually be put to use.  But that’s how a season goes; you have ups and downs.

The problem I have is with the first argument, and I have it for two reasons.

The first is simple.  Yes, 11.5% isn’t that much more than 7.5%, but it’s still more.  More is good.

The second is that it focuses entirely on first overall when there are more players to look at.

Dahlin is the consensus number one pick and is in a tier of his own when it comes to the available players in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.  Then come forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina, then back to defensemen with Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, and Adam Boqvist.  You could argue for Brady Tkachuk or Ryan Merkley, especially depending on each team’s needs, but that’s the top group I’m going to go with.

The Red Wings need a defenseman.  I could see them picking Svechnikov and uniting him with brother Evgeny but it wouldn’t make a ton of sense.  Win the lottery and that’s easy, it’s Dahlin.  Lose and you’re looking at Bouchard, Hughes, or Boqvist.

But what if you not only lose but get passed by lower teams?  That’s what I think the Wings should be worried about.

Detroit holds the sixth overall pick right now at 26th in the current standings.  That puts them in a position to get one of the four defensemen on our list.  But it also means there’s a 31% chance that they get passed by at least one team, bumping them out of the top six and into a position where they have to hope another team reaches for someone else.

If they were to drop behind the Vancouver Canucks and up to the fifth pick at 27th in the standings, the chances of getting bumped out of the top six drop to 9.61%.  That becomes 2.98% if they drop to 28th and it becomes impossible to go lower than sixth overall after the lottery if they end up in 29th.

Tanking wouldn’t just increase their chances at getting Dahlin but put them in a better position if they don’t.

That said, as I admitted above, you can’t expect the players to quit.  If they wouldn’t embrace the tank for Dahlin, they’re not going to just to make sure they get Hughes instead or Merkley or something like that.  I just think there’s so much focus on first overall that we lose sight of who will be available when the Wings are more likely to pick.