Red Wings Expose Stetcher, Cholowski for Expansion Draft

Protection lists for each of the National Hockey League’s teams in the upcoming Seattle Kraken expansion draft were distributed at 10 AM on Sunday and, unsurprisingly, began to leak out almost immediately.

In order to protect defenseman Nick Leddy – acquired from the New York Islanders on Friday – Detroit chose to expose Troy Stetcher, coming off a fantastic turn at the World Championships that included an assist on the tournament-winning goal.

There had been much discussion about whether or not Stetcher would be exposed in order to protect young defensemen Dennis Cholowski – a former first-round pick – and Gustav Lindstrom.  Instead, Stetcher’s presumed spot went to Leddy.  Filip Hronek and Lindstrom were the other two defensemen protected, leaving Cholowski exposed.

At forward, Vladislav Namestnikov was exposed in order to meet eligibility requirements.  Richard Panik had been the only other Red Wings forward who had played enough games, was under contract for the coming season, and who wasn’t a lock to be protected, but Panik was sent to the Islanders in the Leddy deal, forcing Namestnikov to be left off the list.

Namestnikov’s exclusion left room for Detroit to protect Givani Smith, with another former first-rounder, Evgeni Svechnikov, as the odd man out up front.

As expected, Thomas Greiss was the goalie Detroit protected, as Jonathan Bernier is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Other notable – but not necessarily surprising – names left exposed by Detroit include Danny DeKeyser and Frans Nielsen.

Thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2021 Roster

The Red Wings made a series of assignments to their taxi squad and to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday and, with that, their roster for the 2021 season is pretty much confirmed.

I qualify that because the Red Wings are starting with Bobby Ryan, Darren Helm, and Christian Djoos out of the lineup. So, while this might be the roster on opening night, it’s probably not exactly the one they’d hoped for, nor is it the expected roster on a nightly basis.  Even if they are small changes, we’re probably going to see a bunch of adjustments to this roster over the first month of the season.

Right now the taxi squad consists of Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Kevin Boyle, and Calvin Pickard.  You can bet that, once the Grand Rapids Griffins’ season gets going, five of those players will be in GR.  The Red Wings won’t want any of their youngsters sitting in the press box (or wherever the NHL has mandated that taxi squad players sit) when they could be playing in the AHL. They’ll keep one of the goalies up, as required, then swap out everyone else who isn’t playing for guys like Turner Elson and Dylan McIlrath.

Meanwhile, on the playing roster, we’re seeing these lines:

Obviously we’ve got some taxi squad guys in there but they’re not in positions we need to worry about. Rasmussen and Smith on a “fifth line” with a no-contact Bobby Ryan isn’t a real line and while Lindstrom may very well effectively be the Red Wings’ eighth defenseman right now, they’re not going to roll four pairings in a game so his play alongside Alex Biega in practice doesn’t matter.

The top line has been virtually set in stone since last season so there are no surprises there.  Vladislav Namestnikov with Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina is somewhat unexpected but likely influenced by Ryan’s injury.  Mathias Brome got some buzz in camp and seemed likely to get some NHL playing time once Helm and Ryan were out.  The fourth line looks a whole lot like a “and everyone else” line as I don’t see a reason for Frans Nielsen to be there.

I think once Ryan returns, we’ll see Nielsen drop out of the lineup (unless he’s rebounded strongly from last season but there’s been no camp chatter to say we should expect that) and Brome drop down a line.  Namestnikov could also move to the third line to make room for Ryan with Fabbri and Zadina.

Helm’s return (which I’m assuming would come later as he’s not even skating right now) would then seemingly push Adam Erne off the fourth line, unless Brome is shown to need AHL time to adjust to the North American game and he is the one who comes out of the lineup.

On defense, the big thing left to see is Djoos’ role on the team.  He’s sticking in the Detroit lineup as he would otherwise have to clear waivers and the Red Wings didn’t claim him just to be a tradable asset as they also can’t trade him without first waiving him.  Does he bump Marc Staal or Troy Stecher off that third pairing or is he just here as another depth guy, effectively replacing Lindstrom alongside Biega?

Assuming what I’ve suggested, a healthy lineup would need one more change, though, as the Red Wings would have 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies, putting them over the 23-man roster limit.  The easy answer there would be to drop Brome down to the Griffins as he wouldn’t need to clear waivers.  That said, I’ve already advocated for keeping Brome in the lineup over Nielsen and Erne, so a more interesting option would be to waive Nielsen and (assuming he’s not claimed) put him on the taxi squad.  The Red Wings have the salary cap space to eat his contract and the one-season taxi squad gives a place for Nielsen to go where he can’t take a spot with the Griffins from one of the kids who needs it.

Given that the Red Wings just re-confirmed that Nielsen will be an alternate captain under new captain Dylan Larkin, I can’t see them punting him to the sidelines so easily, though.

Obviously further injuries could change this quickly but I think this is an approximation of what we could be looking at under ideal conditions.

Red Wings Announce Larkin as Captain

The long-expected announcement of Dylan Larkin as the next captain of the Detroit Red Wings came Wednesday morning.

The Red Wings had been without a captain since Henrik Zetterberg was forced to stop playing due to a back injury at the start of the 2018-19 season.  The two season gap is the longest the Red Wings had gone without a named captain in their history.

Via press release, the team confirmed that Luke Glendening and Frans Nielsen will be Larkin’s alternates.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle

Wings Sign Bertuzzi to One-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday that they have accepted an arbitrator’s award of a one-year, $3.5 million contract to Tyler Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi will be a restricted free agent again after the deal expires.

The Red Wings had reportedly asked for a $3.15 million salary while Bertuzzi went for $4.25 million.  Obviously, the arbitrator agreed more closely with the team’s argument.

The salary commitment to Bertuzzi was never going to be a problem with regards to the Red Wings’ salary cap constraints.  On a one year term, the actual number was only important for setting the scene for his next deal.

Prashanth Iyer of Wings for Breakfast recently tweeted about the Wings’ disastrous season over-inflating the value of some players.  I agree with that concern.  Bertuzzi could be Detroit’s third-best forward, but where would he slot in on a good team and how would he get paid relative to that?

The bottom line is that you don’t want Bertuzzi to be the next Justin Abdelkader, so it’s important for the Red Wings to delay having to make a decision on paying him top dollar until they’re sure he’s worth it.  Is there a risk that, in the next year, Bertuzzi could earn a bigger contract than he had up to this point?  Of course.  Personally, I haven’t seen enough from Bertuzzi to think that risk outweighs the reward, though.

The only really interesting thing about this is that, due to arbitration having been required, a second buyout window will open for the Red Wings.  Theoretically, they could now buy out Frans Nielsen.

That said, I don’t think they should.  They can overpay Nielsen this year and look at buying him out next summer, even if they decide to bury him in Grand Rapids for the year (or somewhere else, at least, depending on what the AHL’s schedule looks like).  Of course, I also wouldn’t have bought out Abdelkader this year, so what do I know?

On the Red Wings 2020-21 Lineup

The 2020-21 season is, at best, about 12 weeks away.  With Detroit GM Steve Yzerman‘s signings over the last couple days, though, we can get a look at what the Red Wings’ lineup might look like.

I’ve touched on this as players were signed but want to pull it all together and take a full look at it here.

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip ZadinaVladislav NamestnikovRobby Fabbri
Dmytro TimashovSam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

Danny DeKeyserFilip Hronek
Patrik NemethTroy Stecher
Marc StaalJon Merrill
Alex Biega

Jonathan Bernier
Thomas Greiss

I think that lineup is an upgrade over the one they iced on opening night a year ago.  The question is, how much better?  Playoff contention better?  Or just “not the worst team in the league by far” better?  Probably somewhere in between.

There are a few players missing here, which could be a problem.

Evgeny Svechnikov doesn’t have a roster spot.  Given that he’s on a one-year deal and isn’t waiver exempt anymore, he kind of needs one and a final chance to prove himself.

Maybe Filip Zadina stays in Czechia and Bobby Ryan moves up a line and Svechnikov slots in where Ryan was.  Maybe Tyler Bertuzzi goes to arbitration and that opens up a new buyout window for the Wings, and Frans Nielsen gets bought out, opening up a spot for Svechnikov.  There’s been interest in Luke Glendening in the past; maybe the Wings move on that sooner rather than later, Helm or Filppula move to centering the fourth line, and Svechnikov slots in there.

Similarly, there’s not a spot on defense for Moritz Seider, Gustav Lindstrom, or Dennis Cholowski.  I don’t see how Seider and Lindstrom aren’t in Europe for the duration of the season but that doesn’t help Cholowski.  If the AHL actually has a season, I think we’ll see Cholowski with the Griffins, getting a lot of minutes.  If the AHL can’t go, we’ll have to see how the NHL adapts before guessing what happens with Cholowski.

Of course, depending on what the NHL schedule looks like, the trade deadline could come around the end of the season for the European leagues, so Detroit could sell at the deadline and then fill their roster spots with players coming back over.  There are a lot of questions to answer with how the season will work, first.


Update, October 12, 11:30 AM: There is an option with regards to Nielsen that I failed to note above.  The Red Wings don’t need to clear his cap space or his spot on the 50-man Reserve List; he could just be waived and assigned to the Griffins (or somewhere else).  With buyouts on the brain, somehow I missed that.

They’d be paying him a lot of money to play in the AHL but it might serve a dual purpose.  Depending on what happens with the AHL season and the various European leagues, the Red Wings might have players who would otherwise be filling roster spots in GR instead playing overseas.  By sending Nielsen down, they’d get the Griffins a body that they’d otherwise have to sign.


Jersey Geek Guessing Game Recap

Every player the Red Wings acquired via free agency previously wore a number that is currently assigned to a Detroit player or prospect.  Here are my guesses as to how each player’s number will work out with the Wings.

Bobby Ryan has worn #9 for much of his career, aside from #6 for a few years in Ottawa when #9 was taken and #54 as a rookie in Anaheim (and in some international tournaments).  Of course, #9 is retired in Detroit and #6 is out of circulation.  He said he’d like #17 because he was a Brett Hull fan, or #12,  but #17 belongs to Filip Hronek and #12 is retired as well.  My guess is that Ryan either pries #17 from Hronek (perhaps Hronek switches to the #79 he wore in his youth) or he goes back to #54.  Longshot option: He gets Hull’s number but it’s not the #17 he wore in Detroit, rather the #16 he wore elsewhere, with the Red Wings deciding it’s time to stop keeping it out of circulation.

Jon Merrill wore #15 for three years with the Vegas Golden Knights and #7 for much of his time prior to that with the New Jersey Devils.  Dmytro Timashov currently has #15 and #7 is retired.  I could see Timashov switching to the #88 he wore before coming to the NHL, which would open up #15 for Merrill, or I could see Merrill wearing the #24 he wore at Michigan, taking it from prospect Antti Tuomisto.

Thomas Greiss has worn #1 for his entire NHL career but it’s retired in Detroit.  It’s hard to tell if there’s a different number he prefers.  By keeping #30 and #33 out of circulation, the Red Wings make it hard to work with traditional goalie numbers.  I’m guessing they’ll hold off on assigning #35 for a bit but if they don’t, Greiss could take that.  They could make #30 available again and give him that.  They could take numbers from any of the goalie prospects.  He could go non-traditional with #60 or #80 or something.  If they don’t do any of those things, I’m guessing #29 goes to Greiss.

Troy Stecher wore #51 for his whole Vancouver Canucks career but Valtteri Filppula has that in Detroit.  Stecher wore #2 for his college career at North Dakota and, while that’s currently assigned to Joe Hicketts in Detroit, Hicketts’ path to the Red Wings seems to be gone, so the team could let Stecher take his number.  I could also see Stecher taking Jonathan Ericsson‘s #52, if the team allows it, or something like #42.

Vladislav Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career.  Joe Veleno has it in Detroit but he’s not in Detroit right now.  Will the Red Wings make one of their top prospects give up his number to someone who’s on a short-term deal?  If so, there’s an easy answer.  If not, I’d love to see him take his uncle Vyacheslav Kozlov‘s #13, but it’ll probably be something like #95 or #98.  Or #60 if Greiss doesn’t go that route.

Red Wings Sign Forward Namestnikov

The Detroit Red Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov on Sunday, continuing the rebuild of their roster.

Namestnikov is a familiar face for Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, who drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for Tampa Bay.

Financial terms were, of course, not officially announced, but the deal reportedly carries a $2 million salary cap hit, with annual amounts of $1.5 million and $2.5 million.  Like Thomas Greiss‘ deal, more money is in the second year.  Whether as escrow protection for the player or expansion draft protection for the team, we’re seeing that become more common this year.

Namestnikov gives the Red Wings another option at second-line center, should Robby Fabbri not work out there.  Theoretically, the team could roll lines looking something like this:

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip Zadina – Vladislav Namestnikov – Robby Fabbri
Dmytro Timashov – Sam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

That’s a completely rebuilt middle six since the start of last season, done entirely on the cheap.  They’re not world-beaters by any means but that’s not a bad accomplishment for Yzerman.  Perhaps most importantly, that’s a lineup where you can clearly see a top nine and then a fourth line, rather than a top line and then a bunch of other players slotted in wherever they can.

The problem is that this leaves no room for Evgeny Svechnikov, who is basically on a “last chance” one-year deal and would have to clear waivers to be reassigned elsewhere.  Maybe this means the Wings let Zadina stay overseas for another year.  Maybe it means they dump a contract.  I don’t know.

Jersey number geek notes: Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career, save for a stint as #65 as a rookie. Will the Red Wings let him take #90 from Joe Veleno? If not, I bet Namestnikov goes with something like #60 or #95. It certainly blocks Bobby Ryan from following in the footsteps of Mike Modano and Stephen Weiss, though, and turning his #9 into #90.  Outside chance?  Namestnikov wears #13 in honor of his uncle, Vyacheslav Kozlov.

Red Wings to Buy Out Abdelkader

Detroit General Manager Steve Yzerman made a surprise move in the hours leading up to the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, waiving alternate captain Justin Abdelkader for the purposes of a buyout.

Per CapFriendly, the buyout will cost the Red Wings $1,805,556 in salary cap space this season, $2,305,556 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, and then $1,055,556 through the 2025-26 campaign.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the team would do this, given the length that the buyout would remain on the books.  Especially with Stephen Weiss still having one year left on his buyout.  I thought that, given that the team was not expected to be a cap team for the next couple seasons, they’d rather ride out a couple more years of Abdelkader being overpaid.

This could mean that Yzerman has another salary dump deal like the Marc Staal trade lined up and needed to limit Abdelkader’s salary now, rather than waiting to do it.  With an immediate buyout, the Red Wings save $2.4 million towards the coming season’s cap.


I’ve always joked that I’m contractually obligated to speak up on Abdelkader’s behalf.  He gave DH.N an interview back in 2005, during his freshman year at MSU, when players speaking with bloggers was relatively unheard of.  I kind of snuck into the party with the Stanley Cup in 2008 at his parents’ house.

That said, this is the right deal for the Wings, especially if they made it in order to clear space for another salary dump deal.  I’d have rather seen them cut someone like Frans Nielsen loose but Abdelkader maxes out the buyout value, so it makes sense.

Red Wings Bring Back Gagner on One Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings re-signed center Sam Gagner to a one year deal on Saturday.

The deal is reportedly worth $850,000 because of course financial terms were not officially announced.

I love this deal if only for the dollar amount.  Do I want a 31-year-old taking away spots from the kids in the Wings’ system?  No.  But at $850,000, Gagner can be buried in Grand Rapids (or whatever the farm system looks like whenever the next season happens) if Michael Rasmussen or Joe Veleno or whoever wins a roster spot (or if Frans Nielsen suddenly returns to form somehow).  If not, he slots in cheaply and can maybe be flipped for a fifth-rounder at the trade deadline.

Random thought: As the 2020 offseason hasn’t started yet, had Gagner’s previous contract actually expired?  That’s usually how I differentiate between someone re-signing (signing with Detroit after their contract expired, having spent time as a free agent) or signing a contract extension (new contract with more years ready to kick in after the expiration of their existing deal, avoiding free agency).


The Wings also announced the signing of Griffins forward Turner Elson to a one year deal reportedly worth $725,000 at the NHL level and $115,000 in the AHL.

That one’s slightly interesting because Elson was making $700,000 at the NHL level under his previous two year deal (not that he actually played any NHL games under that contract) but $100,000 for the first year and $175,000 for the second year in the AHL.  The original deal was signed in February of 2019 so that first year would have been pro-rated but, however you slice it, he just signed for an NHL raise and an AHL pay cut.

Thoughts on the Captaincy

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill announced today that the team would go a second consecutive season without naming a captain.

The move comes contrary to rumors that flew all summer about Detroit star Dylan Larkin being named as the successor to Henrik Zetterberg, whose playing career is over due to back issues but will remain under contract with the club for two more seasons.  While Larkin may indeed be the Red Wings next captain, that won’t happen this season.

While a new captain will not be named defensive specialist Luke Glendening was added to the rotation of alternate captains (alongside Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, and Frans Nielsen), giving the Red Wings four players wearing the A.

The captaincy is something that is very tradition-heavy in the NHL.  Steve Yzerman‘s retired jersey banner includes the C in recognition of his tenure as Detroit’s captain.  Joe Sakic’s does as well, as the Avalanche have never had an original thought.

It was a big deal when the Vancouver Canucks named goalie Roberto Luongo as their captain in 2008, skirting NHL rules to do so.  Similarly, it was something of a shock when, just five years ago, the San Jose Sharks stripped Joe Thornton of their captaincy.

Now, it seems that some of the gravitas behind the captaincy is gone.

Per the NHL rulebook, only players with letters are allowed to talk to the referees.  That rule is ignored on a nightly basis.  If any player can talk to the refs, there’s no in-game reason to designate one as captain.

The Red Wings showed how unnecessary on-ice captains are during the 2015-16 season.  For 34 games that year they dressed two or fewer captains due to injury, opting not to name replacements on a game-by-game basis, knowing there was no need to.  A season earlier they did that ten times, while also using four alternate-alternate captains.

Compare the current decade to the 1990s.

From 1990-91 to 1999-2000, there were six instances of a team going an entire season without a captain.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning.

There will be as many cases of teams going captain-less this season, same as last season.  There will be 25 instances of teams not naming a captain between 2010-11 and 2019-20.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Teams are instead opting to name a “leadership group,” as the Golden Knights called it in 2017 and the Canucks did in 2018 and the Red Wings have seemingly done this year.

It may just be that the captaincy doesn’t carry the importance it used to.  If a letter isn’t required on the ice, and if leaders make themselves known in the dressing room regardless of whether or not they’re a captain, then why name one at all?