Guest Post: The Red Wings and the Media

The following is a guest post by Michael Petrella, formerly of The Production Line. It is presented here – as well as at Winging it in Motown and on Kukla’s Korner – unedited save for a trio of typos.

My name is Michael Petrella. I’m not a journalist by trade. As you may know, I had — for several years — a blog called The Production Line, with a pair of partners. We found ourselves being able to spend less and less time writing on the site, or running the podcast, so we’ve let the domain expire, but I’m very grateful that Clark Rasmussen from DetroitHockey.Net has offered to host an archive, so that it lives on.

If you’re familiar with TPL’s work, you’ll know that MOST of it was silly. Perhaps you recall Operation Curly Fries – our efforts working with Fox Sports Detroit and Arby’s to re-ignite the curly fry giveaway when a Red Wing scores a hat trick. We created a phenomenon called the Shirtuzzi. And there were more Whitney Houston-themed posts that I care to count.

But not everything was ridiculous — some of it was conscientious and thoughtful. Please don’t forget the several H2H gatherings, where we raised over $20,000 for Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Or my trip on Red Bird II, joining the team on a weekend home-and-home with the Nashville Predators. Or the series I did about playing collegiate hockey and the prevalence of painkillers and head injuries, and what it’s like to be a role-player compared to the responsibilities of top-end talent.

Once upon a time, I had a good relationship with the Detroit Red Wings. I had a two hour breakfast with Ken Holland, where he was very open and never once asked me NOT to print something. I had an open invitation to sit in the press box if ever I was around for a game (I no longer live in Michigan, and haven’t since I graduated high school). I was briefly credentialed by the NHL, and had the opportunity to interview Red Wings draft picks in Los Angeles at the 2010 Draft. I was even approached by the Red Wings to publish some information about a move that didn’t get a lot of positive publicity, though I was asked not to say where the information came from.

But all of that stopped. I can’t explain why — or what happened. But it was abrupt. I’m pretty sure that it’s based in The Production Line’s increasingly critical tone about Red Wings management and on-ice product. All I know is that one day e-mails stopped being responded to, the press releases stopped coming into my inbox, and things I’d discussed doing with the Red Wings were being done by other people.

This summer has been a bad one for Detroit Red Wings fans. It’s become obvious that it’s no longer a destination for free agents, and another July full of panic moves has been underway for a few weeks now. But this piece isn’t about that. At least not directly. It’s about the local media’s handling of the organization — and vice versa.

When news breaks — like the Dan Cleary signing, for example — it’s announced practically verbatim by several writers. Every article is nearly identical, but not identical enough to just be the press release, and is published at precisely the same time. It’s the hockey equivalent of state-run media. It seems as though the only information that’s released by the allegedly-independent media is the information that the organization wants to be released. Is it that anyone that isn’t willing to toe that line — bloggers, included — are excluded from access to the team, its players, or members of the front office?

No one seems to have a problem with that. No one has the guts to question it. No one is willing to rock the boat or burn whatever bridges they perceive they may have.

So I figured… I’ve already been blackballed, what do I care? The mainstream media — or diggers, as they’re passionately known by the Red Wings community — doesn’t care, presumably because any deviation from the company line will cost them their access. So, instead of doing what they’ve committed to doing — reporting, asking tough questions, and making good on their journalism degrees — they do nothing. They refuse to criticize, and happily post the exact same thing that all of the other writers in the area do. Pretty groundbreaking stuff.

I reached out to quite a few people to talk about it. Former members of the Detroit Red Wings media departments, current and former Detroit Red Wings beat writers, as well as national hockey media. Will there be any effect? Probably not. This seems like it’s become accepted practice, but I couldn’t sit by any longer, only reading what the North Korea of NHL teams wants its citizens to believe. But it’s worth a shot — and if I learned anything from my time running TPL, it was that no one answers if you don’t ask.

And, usually, the only question that needs to be be asked — and no one ever seems to ask — is “why?”

“[John] Hahn was a vindictive man who enforced codes of conduct through threats, intimidation, revoking of credentials, and out-and-out bullying. That’s not just personal dealings, that comes from hearing more than a few similarly-credentialed outlets vent aloud. Before he departed the organization, Hahn taught Todd Beam everything he knows, including simply ignoring those who the team doesn’t want to deal with, and Kyle Kujawa has been a quick study.”

That quote is from an anonymous source with access to the team.

John Hahn was — for sixteen years — the senior director of communications for the Red Wings. He left those responsibilities behind in September of last year, and handed the reigns to Todd Beam, the current director of communications. I found Mr. Beam to be a very kind and engaging man when I traveled with the team in 2011, but he didn’t yet hold that title.

One thing that’s clear is that bloggers still aren’t given access — though that’s not the aim of this article. We’ll touch on that more in a few minutes. More evidence from our unnamed friend, and some more regarding Hahn:

Hahn established the protocol by which the diggers operate during his nearly 20 years with the team, and the concept of a hierarchy of access is always in evidence. Whether it’s seating assignments, who can speak to whom, whether people have to “check” certain stories or subjects with the team before publishing them, which topics are off-limits, and which diggers get more access based upon their preferred status thanks to “playing well with others,” it feels like you’re dealing with high school cliques, and their strata are all but set in stone.

When I dealt with the team, John Hahn had a league-wide reputation as a dictatorial jerk, and according to people I spoke with who were intimate with the team’s situation, they insisted that the Red Wings’ status as an incredible pain in the real to deal with was one of the reasons we kept reading the outside media so gleefully wish to see the Big Red Machine fail (when it was the Big Red Machine).

Personally, I only encountered Mr. Hahn one time — when I was credentialed by the League to cover the 2010 Draft in Los Angeles. I didn’t have to interact with him, since I wasn’t representing the team, nor did I need anything from the Red WIngs to do what I was there to do, but he absolutely was an intimidating man that everyone — and I mean everyone — steered well clear of.

More confirmation, however, that the team’s principals aren’t the responsible parties for the lack of information coming from the team to the people who care about it most:

Talking about getting straight answers, minus the occasional lies that GMs and coaches tell everyone, I have never had any trouble asking questions to Ken Holland, when he was with the team Jim Nill, nor Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, any of the Griffins coaches, or even Mike Babcock.

When they want to talk to you, they’re incredibly accommodating in terms of their time, energy, and honesty. I’ve never had any indication that they’re somehow bad human beings who want to screw over the media or make their jobs harder than they already are (or vice versa).

The coaches and management obviously have an agenda with their information, they have an agenda as to how they want the team to be perceived, but even Babcock, testosterone included, is the most honest coach I’ve met. He spars with you, but he doesn’t screw around with you for the sake of being a more gigantic jerk than he already can be.

Every experience I’ve had suggests that PR or ownership… were the ones who wanted to make dealing with the team something of a shake-down.

So, the team’s media and public relations are to blame? About that…

“It’s a third-world media town. Let’s just say that the organization won’t be winning the Dick Dillman Award anytime soon.”

I asked the above-quoted former DRW media department employee, and everyone else, if the Red Wings threaten — explicitly or implicitly — to revoke their access to the team, its players or staff if they refuse to push the party line… and he makes it sound like the writers are more to blame than the team for pushing narratives:

The verbatim articles are a product of the writers, not the team. They’re all chatty, friendly, with few rivalries amongst them. They are very much ‘Super Friends’ on the beat and are given limited crumbs in media availability, or on conference calls, etc. Unlike many [Original Six] markets, Detroit’s media doesn’t feast off of rumors, off-ice antics, or running players out of town. It is very much old school… this is the story… these are the quotes… this is the narrative I’ve weaved around it.

You could look at markets like Montreal and Boston, where the media will literally carve up and eat the players alive (Tyler Seguin, Tim Thomas) and say that what happens in Detroit is a good thing (or a bad thing), that’s the way it is.

He even touches on some experiences with the team that I can absolutely confirm — like the aforementioned Ken Holland conversation. That’s evident when he says that “Babs will say no to a lot of things… Kenny won’t turn down a reporter’s phone call… and it’s the only place where the ‘Super Friends’ do well.”

Perhaps things will change if the Wings fail to make the playoffs and are forced to re-brand a bit… and also, start accepting bloggers into the fraternity:

…Two organizations that do it right were once in the Red Wings position (long playoff streaks and a perceived organizational arrogance about opening the gates and fans flying through. But when the Bruins and Blackhawks became non-factors in their city (2006, 2007)… both had to go back to the PR drawing board. When the Red Wings miss the playoffs for two or three seasons and are playing at 50 percent capacity, the media relations strategy will change.

It is impossible to compare Detroit and the five people who cover the team on a regular basis to the other five Original Six markets. The Bruins have six or seven George Malik equivalents who work for online outlets, just churning out content. It is actually pathetic how high quality their work is compared to those on the Detroit beat… yet they’re doing it for $10 an hour, while [the beat writers are likely making] 60K a year. It makes me violently ill.

Of the Detroit media, only Helene [St. James] could survive in another Original Six market. She’s the alpha female. The Regina George. Everyone follows her lead.

I reached out to Ms. St. James, as well as many others listed below, but as of this writing, she had not returned my inquiries.

Continuing down the blogger path, he offers me a very kind compliment and discussing how allowing someone to break through the barrier might have made a difference to the team’s coverage as a whole — even from the professional outlets.

If you were local, it would have been a game changer. So few of the Red Wings bloggers with some credentials [are not in] Michigan. To have someone who knew how to channel the emotion of the fans, to do so in an entertaining way… it would have been a blast to see how it would have played out IF they were ever credentialed.

As some of you grew a spine or two to ask the tough question after a game… and risked pissing off the ‘Super Friends’ in the process, it would have forced them to adapt.

An independent writer points to the team. A (former) team employee points to the writers. What does a mainstream media writer with access to the team think?

“I can only speak for myself. As a beat writer, I report the news and keep opinions to a minimum — with the exception of reader Q and A. Opinion pieces are best left to columnists.”

Ansar Khan, the gentleman who covers the Red Wings for MLive, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Most importantly, I tried to find out if the Red Wings threaten — whether explicitly or implicitly — to revoke access to the team if the local writers don’t fall in line. He says, in no uncertain circumstances, that the team does NOT dictate what’s reported, and have never threatened to deny his access.

The reason his gives for the media’s — or, at least, his — reluctance to criticize the team stems from the organization’s relative success the past several decades. You can debate amongst yourselves if just making the playoffs earns the team freedom from criticism. And there are plenty of people out there that defend every move that the Red Wings make (I heard from a bunch of you when I mocked the Quincey signing). There’s no arguing with them — the Red Wings are infallible because of past success (somehow). But sometimes it’s okay to question the team you love, even if you admire a majority of the things they’ve accomplished over history.

If you think the media is not critical enough of the organization, that’s your opinion. I don’t agree with some moves the team has made (Cleary), but I’m not going to destroy them for it. Four Cups since 1997 and 23 consecutive playoff appearances doesn’t earn them a free pass but with that kind of track record I would find it difficult to call for anybody’s head.

Again, to be clear: I’m not hoping to send waves through the front office based on Dan Cleary’s contract (though, that is questionable, particularly following the last three summers). My goal here is to find out if the local media’s unwilling or unable to offer the fans anything worthwhile — or if it’s the team driving the narrative.

So far we’ve learned those with semi-access blame the team… the team blames the writers… the writers seem to blame the fans for expecting more and defend the team because they’ve done so well in the past. Let’s take a step back… what does the national media think of Detroit’s coverage?

“For all of them publish ‘Hey, cool, Cleary is back’ at the same time with no real critical look at A) how bad he is, B) what it means for younger, better players, and C) whatever the fuck Holland was talking about is borderline dereliction of duty as a journalist and supposed hockey analysis. It was a move that deserves to be criticized on at least a superficial level.”

The problem is obvious not only to local Red Wings fans, who are more knowledgeable about the game and their team than they’re given credit for by the media. The above quote, and the following section are from a national hockey writer, who has asked to remain anonymous.

He points to a trend — that no one in the local, Detroit media questioned or criticized the move, but that nearly everyone else in the hockey media world did. There are plenty of articles that ask “why” and zero of them originate from Detroit.

It is either absurdly, embarrassingly lazy, or the team is swinging the hammer. Best case scenario is that all of them tried to get away with mulligans at the same time. It’s up to readers and whoever else to judge if that’s feasible. And if that is indeed what happened, it’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of things.

It honestly probably isn’t the team calling them up and saying ‘if you rip the Cleary deal, you’re out.’ It sounds to me more that they continue to buy into Holland’s justification for the deal, which is… not good. For whatever reason, they are not critical of that team.

The relationship between beat writers and teams is really complicated, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it. It’s incestuous and weird by necessity. You’re going to have different writers approach it in different ways. The fact that zero turning anything approaching a critical eye toward it is a problem, though. Maybe that is none of their jobs. For some people, that is actually the case. They’re just conduits without any responsibility to do next-level shit. Maybe it’s not their job, but it should be. Every beat writer should provide actual analysis, not just act as a conduit for the team’s decision-making process.

As noted, his interaction with the team differs from those with daily access, and from those who have to live nearby and rely upon the team for the entirety of their content. He admits that he has “next-to-no experience with them,” that he’s “never heard anything terrible about” about dealing with the Wings, and that the one time he was in the locker room, “everything went fine” but agrees that, as a consumer of information, something’s not quite right.

Near the end of our conversation, I sighed and lamented that Red Wings fans deserve better. He succinctly answered “I would say so.”

“Some of the best journalism advice I ever received was ‘don’t stand with everybody. People don’t want the same story, they want different perspectives.’”

If you’ve been a Red Wings fan for some time, you’ll remember Bruce MacLeod. Formerly of the Macomb Daily, he was the one beat writer we could always rely on to get a different angle and present something that was engaging and insightful and he wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine and explain what it’s like on the beat, and share his experiences, as well as a few clues as to why things are the way that they are.

The best writers, professionally, don’t want to miss anything. They don’t want to be one piece out of four. One way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to stand together. Not to mention, players don’t want to do five interviews — they’d rather do it all at once.

Imagine life as a beat writer. You’re traveling with the team, interacting with them every day. That’s what they do. This is their office. You don’t want to piss off someone in your office.

But there’s a definite need for people who are skeptical and agitating to a degree. New media, digital journalism would open everything up.

For the third time, I hear that the hockey operations people aren’t to blame, and that the general manager and former assistant GM are wonderful and never back down from a conversation, even if it’s a difficult one to have. And while Mr. MacLeod tells me that John Hahn isn’t as intimidating as we all may have felt, the team obviously wants to put the best foot forward and try to maintain that face.

From a club perspective, Ken Holland and Jim Nill give you everything you want.

The Red Wings really don’t control the media, other than who they credential. They’re one of the few teams that’s still a little backwards on new media. They view print and broadcast as the only things that really matter and are way behind on the other.

Once the team gives you contact, you’re on your own. There are no threats, but the team does control the message in that way.

So that’s where we’re left. The team has a vested interest in the information that’s exiting the locker room (obviously), but that they don’t rule with an iron fist — straight from the horse’s mouths. Could the team benefit from someone who questions and agitates and is skeptical of the things they’re doing? Of course. Will it be one of the beat writers we currently have? It doesn’t appear to be, nor does the team seem willing to allow someone different to have the kind of access that would require.

Like I mentioned at the very top, I’m not a journalist. It is not my intention to become a journalist. My goal with this project was to shed some light on what is very obviously a problem for Red Wings — and hockey — fans.

For casual hockey fans, who only read one of the local papers, the coverage is “good enough.” They get the facts, they get a quote here and there, and they can keep up with what the current roster looks like. For the bulk of us, who are rabid hockey fans and consider ourselves to be relatively knowledgeable when it comes to things like this, it’s shabby. Whether it’s because the team’s media department is strict and intimidating, or the writers are lazy and unwilling to ask tough questions and be critical of anything the organization does, we all lose.

What we’re left with is people who would be willing rock the boat being frozen out, people with access unwilling to deliver anything of value to those who consume it, and a team that doesn’t seem to care to rectify that — or change the way information is disseminated to the public based on some perceived sense of untouchability.

What it boils down to is a team that limits access to those that don’t care very much… and those that don’t care very much, don’t care very much. Everyone has a little bit of blame in this matter.

Whoever you feel is most to blame, one thing is clear: we deserve better.

Full Disclosure: I reached out to the Free Press’ Helene St. James, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, MLive’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan. Mr. Kulfan responded, saying that he was on vacation and that he’d get back to me but hasn’t yet. Mr. Khan is quoted above. The others have not responded to my requests.

I also reached out to multiple people who could speak about the environment within the media department at the Red Wings. Some respectfully declined to talk, and I won’t name them here.

A very special thank you to Bruce MacLeod, Ansar Khan, and a trio of people who requested anonymity. That will be honored. I would also like to thank George Malik, of the Malik Report, JJ from Kansas, of Winging it in Motown, and Clark Rasmussen, of DetroitHockey.Net, for agreeing to post this piece sight unseen. You’re a nice gang of fellas.

You can follow me on Twitter @TPLhockey, or e-mail me at

Update, 7/16/2014: Petrella adds the following addendum via Twitter:

One quick thing I’d like to add to yesterday’s post, and it’s regarding @Kyle_Kujawa. He’s mentioned very briefly, but at the end of a very powerful quote. I wasn’t expecting it, but he’s being viewed as a bit of a villain in this whole thing. I consider Kyle to be a friend, and owe him a great deal of gratitude, particularly for his help when he was with the Griffins. He was ALWAYS helpful when we asked to get a Griffin on the podcast, and NEVER asked to censor anything. I haven’t had to interact with him professionally since he’s joined the Wings, so I can’t speak to the quote’s validity — but if there’s one thing I regret, it’s that I didn’t reach out to him for comment. I’d certainly welcome his thoughts, and hope he accepts this apology for not offering to include him.

Guest Post: 2014 NHL Entry Draft Preview

Editor’s Note: Michael Petrella (@TPLHockey) of the dearly-departed Production Line joins us to offer the latest in his annual series of NHL Entry Draft previews. Any formatting issues are mine, not his.

Generally speaking, the 2014 Draft isn’t as “deep” as we’ve come to expect. It’s not as strong as last year’s — and don’t even get me started on the 2015 Draft, which is shaping up to the best in a generation. The top of this year’s Draft board is every bit as talented as you’d hope, but there’s a very sharp drop into the second tier.

Let’s put it this way: there’s no Anthony Mantha available at 20th overall this June.

While the top player in the Draft may very well be a defenseman (Aaron Ekblad), the bulk of the first round is going to be made up of forwards. In fact, after Ekblad, there’s a significant drop off to the second best defenseman — and there may only be 3-5 blueliners selected in the top 30. If a team needs a defenseman, and they don’t get Ekblad at one or two, they’re kind of screwed.

Luckily for the Red Wings, there are plenty of centers on the board — and it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that that’s the position they’re likely looking at. After trading Calle Jarnkrok to Nashville, and promoting Riley Sheahan to the Red Wings, there’s not a ton of depth down the middle, particularly since Mattias Janmark‘s permanent arrival in North America doesn’t appear to be imminent. Aside from Landon Ferraro and newly signed collegiate free agent Colin Campbell, neither of whom seem like they’ll factor into the big team’s plans, the center cupboard is dry.

The Wings don’t always keep their first round draft pick. During the late 90’s and early 00’s, they would often trade their top pick for immediate help. And while that practice has (mostly) been abandoned, it’s not unusual for the Wings to trade their top pick for a package of lower picks (several examples of which are below). With this Draft structured the way it is, it may be wise to employ that strategy again. There are a couple guys I like at 15, but if they’re not around, the group between 20 and 40 are largely equal.

2013 — Traded their 1st round pick (18th – Mirco Mueller) to San Jose for 20th (Anthony Mantha) and 58th (Tyler Bertuzzi).

2011 — Traded their 1st round pick (24th — Matt Puempel) to Ottawa for 35th (Tomas Jurco) and 48th (Xavier Ouellet).

2009 — Traded their 1st round pick (29th — Carter Ashton) to Tampa Bay for 32nd (Landon Ferraro) and 75th (Andrej Nestrasil).

2006 — Traded their 1st round pick (26th — Chris Summers) and 5th round pick (152nd — Jordan Bendfeld) to Phoenix for 41st (Cory Emmerton) and 47th (Shawn Matthias).

The stock of defensive prospects that the Red Wings have at their disposal is quite impressive. From Ouellet to Sproul to Marchenko to Almquist to Backman to Jensen, there’s no shortage of potential NHLers in the bunch. But, if the Penguins have taught us anything, it’s that you can never have too many blue chip blueliner prospects — even if they’re not going to be on the NHL squad, they’re valuable assets that can be moved for other assets. While there may not be a ton of potential first rounders, the collection of second round defensemen is vast — and if the Wings pick up a second (they currently do not have one), it may serve them well to pick one of the D that finds itself amassed in that group.

Another trend worth noting is their every-other-year-draft-a-goalie trend. I can’t remember who said it, but the Wings admitted to selecting a goaltender in every other draft to keep that cupboard full. After drafting Jimmy Howard in 2003, the trend started in ‘06:

2012 — Jake Paterson (3rd)
2010 — Petr Mrazek (5th)
2008 — Thomas McCollum (1st)
2006 — Daniel Larsson (3rd)

Obviously, this is the every-other year, so I would expect the Wings to take a goaltender in the mid to late rounds, and it almost has to be a collegiate-bound goaltender, since you get longer to sign them than junior players. The reason for this is that Mrazek and Paterson will BOTH be out of waiver exemption before Jimmy Howard’s contract expires… adding another goaltender to that logjam would not be wise.

While it’s not guaranteed that they’ll select a center in the first round, I’d say it’s a fair bet. Here are ten guys to keep an eye on — more information can be found below in the prospect rankings. I have ranked them in an order that’s a mixture of “likelihood to be available” and how much I like them as a fit for the Wings.

1. Alex Tuch — USNTDP, Boston College commit — 6’3, 222
2. Dylan Larkin — USNTDP, University of Michigan commit — 6’1, 190
3. Jared McCann — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) — 6′, 179
4. Sonny Milano — USNTDP, Boston College commit — 5’10, 159
5. Nick Schmaltz — Green Bay (USHL), North Dakota commit — 6’0, 172
6. Connor Bleackley — Red Deer Rebels (WHL) — 6’0, 192
7. Robbie Fabbri — Guelph Storm (OHL) — 5’10, 166
8. Jakub Vrana — Linkoping (SWE) — 5’11, 185
9. Kevin Fiala — Malmo (SWE) — 5’10, 165
10. Ryan MacInnis — Kitchener Rangers (OHL) — 6’4, 185

The top seven or eight will likely be selected in the first round. The others, however, are likely to slide into the second round. If the Wings prefer one of those guys, they’ll likely trade down as they so often do.

Without knowing the rest of the Draft order, it’s hard to say who the Wings may make a deal with, but let’s pretend they trade with someone like Anaheim to get the 28th and 38th (keep in mind that the Draft order won’t be set until after the remainder of the playoffs, so these numbers are just educated estimates) or Buffalo (31st, 39th, and 50th). The following players may be available and would be attractive Red Wings picks.

1. Jack Dougherty — USNTDP, University of Wisconsin commit — 6’2, 185 (Right Handed)
2. Jack Glover — USNTDP, University of Minnesota commit — 6’4, 190 (Right Handed)
3. Brycen Martin — Swift Current Broncos (WHL) — 6’2, 182 (Left Handed)
4. Alex Peters — Plymouth Whalers (OHL) — 6’4, 207 (Left Handed)
5. Marcus Petterson — Skelleftea (SWE) — 6’3, 161 (Left Handed)
6. Alex Vanier — Baie-Comeau Brakkar (QMJHL) — 6’5, 224 (Left Handed)

1. Anton Karlsson — Frolunda (SWE) — 6’1, 189
2. John Quenneville — Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) — 6’1, 185
3. Eric Cornel — Peterborough Petes (OHL) — 6’1, 186
4. Chase DeLeo — Portland Winterhawks (WHL) — 5’9, 177
5. Shane Eiserman — USNTDP, University of New Hampshire commit — 6’2, 201

As mentioned above, I don’t think the Wings use a first, second, or third round pick on a goaltender, but I do believe that they’ll select one at some point. I focused solely on collegiate goalies, for reasons listed, and here are some names to check out. Of the six listed, only the top two are guaranteed to be drafted, and they may very well be around in the fourth round. While the others can be offered invitations to camp, they cannot be signed to contracts because of their collegiate commitments. The only way to guarantee they remain Red Wings property is to select them in the Draft.

1. Ed Minney — USNTDP, Michigan State commit — 6’4, 201
2. Black Weyrick — USNTDP, Brown commit — 6’2, 201
3. Chase Perry — Wenatchee Wild (NAHL), Colorado College commit — 6’2, 163
4. Hayden Lavigne — Tri-City Storm (USHL), Michigan commit — 6’3, 181
5. Kasimir Kaskisuo — Minnesota Wilderness (NAHL), Minnesota-Duluth commit — 6’2, 185
6. Zach Nagelvoort — University of Michigan — 6’2, 190

Nagelvoort is already enrolled, and therefore would need to be signed in three years. The others get all four years of college eligibility before necessitating an entry level deal.


1 – Aaron Ekblad – D – Barrie Colts (OHL) – 6’4 – 215 – Canada
He was the first defenseman ever to be granted “exceptional player status” by the Canadian Hockey League, allowing him to compete in Juniors a year earlier than his peers. At the time, he was only the second player ever granted such status (Tavares was the first).

2 – Sam Reinhart – C – Kootenay Ice (WHL) – 6’1 – 185 – Canada
Even though this has been The Ekblad Draft for several years, Sam (son of former NHLer Paul) Reinhart has made up the ground and may very well be the top pick. It all depends what the Panthers want to do with their lottery win.

3 – Sam Bennett – W – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 6′ – 178 – Canada
And playing the role of Jonathan Drouin this year is Sam Bennett — a guy who, all of a sudden, found himself atop the CSS Rankings to deflect attention from the fact that this is a two-horse race yet again. He’s still a hell of a hockey player, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t leap the other two if common sense prevails.

4 – Leon Draisatl – W – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) – 6’2 – 208 – Germany
The top European player in this year’s Draft. Even though he’s German, he came to North America to play in the WHL with Prince Albert, presumably to play against better talent than is available in the German junior leagues. Or pro leagues, for that matter.

5 – Michael Dal Colle – W – Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 6’2 – 179 – Canada
Steadily rose throughout the rankings all season before becoming a consensus top five pick. Nice size and smart with a great shot. He’s a hell of a player considering someone may get him at five.

6 – Brendan Perlini – W – Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) – 6’3 – 205 – Canada
Fast, smart, and smooth — not to mention a great frame. Dangerous scorer, and responsible in the other two zones.

7 – Nikolaj Ehlers – W – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) – 6′ – 170 – Denmark
Probabaly the closest thing to Mantha in this year’s Draft. Certainly doesn’t have Mantha’s girth, but he scores practically at will in the Q, and came on very strong during the season. Rose from a potential second rounder to (on some lists) a potential top five pick.

8 – Nick Ritchie – W – Peterborough Petes (OHL) – 6’2 – 231 – Canada
Power-forward, huge frame. Big brother was selected 44th overall by Dallas in 2011, and Nick will certainly one-up him at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.

9 – Jake Virtanen – W – Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 6’1 – 208 – Canada
He’s the whole package: quick, nice shot, good hands. He may very well go higher than 9, but won’t slip much lower.

10 – Kasperi Kapanen – W – Kapla (FIN) – 6′ – 180 – Finland
Sami’s son (YOU’RE OLD!), he’s the best Draft-eligible player from Finland this year. He’s not as big as some others, but he uses his size well and is quite slippery.

11 – Haydn Fleury – D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL) – 6’3 – 198 – Canada
The second-best defenseman in the Draft, his first name really is spelled that way. Physical and not afraid to shoot.

12 – William Nylander – W – MODO (SWE) – 5’11 – 169 – Sweden
At one point was considered a potential #1 pick, knocking Ekblad down to #2, but has dropped a bit in recent months. Son of former NHLer Michael Nylander.

13 – Jared McCann – C – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) – 6′ – 179 – Canada
Not as big as some of the other centers available, he’s been a steady riser throughout the season. Nice two-way player that would certainly strike the Wings’ fancy.

14 – Nikita Scherbak – W – Saskatoon Blades (WHL) – 6′ – 172 – Russia
I love, love, love Scherbak more than most seem to. He is Russian, but he’s playing in the WHL. He’s probably the fastest player in the Draft (we’re talkin’ Helm fast), and has an unbelievable shot. If the Wings weren’t in desperate need of a center, I’d be a huge proponent of this pick.

15 – Alex Tuch – C – US NTDP – 6’3 – 222 – United States
While it’s possible he goes top ten, the Boston College commit has nice size and forechecks well.

16 – David Pastrnak – W – Sodertalje (SWE) – 6′ – 167 – Czech Rep
His name may sound familiar if you watched the World Junior Championship this season. He played well for the Czechs and will be a first round pick.

17 – Thatcher Demko – G – Boston College – 6’4 – 192 – United States
The top goaltender in the Draft is already manning the nets for powerhouse BC. It’s possible that no one picks a goaltender in the first round, but if there’s one taken, it’ll be this guy.

18 – Nick Schmaltz – C – Green Bay (USHL) – 6′ – 172 – United States
Another potential Wings pick is heading to North Dakota to play collegiate hockey. I’m less excited about him than Tuch or McCann, but Nick (brother of Jordan) Schmaltz will be a player.

19 – Dylan Larkin – C – US NTDP – 6’1 – 190 – United States
Heading to the University of Michigan in the fall, and it’s fair to assume that he — OR one of the three most recently mentioned centers — will be available at 15.

20 – Sonny Milano – C – US NTDP – 5’10 – 159 – United States
Here’s a funny one. He’s heading to Boston College (who know how to pick ‘em), and had an absolutely bananas U18 Worlds tournament, co-leading the champion United States in scoring with ‘15 phenom Jack Eichel (with whom he’ll be playing at BC). If there’s one guy that might jump up the rankings in the final two months before the Draft, this is it.

21 – Julius Honka – D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – 5’11 – 178 – Finland
22 – Ivan Barbashev – W – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) – 6’1 – 185 – Russia
23 – Josh Ho-Sang – C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL) – 5’11 – 166 – Canada
24 – Roland McKeown – D – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 6’1 – 197 – Canada
25 – Brendan Lemieux – W – Barrie Colts (OHL) – 6′ – 211 – Canada
26 – Kevin Fiala – W – Malmo (SWE) – 5’10 – 165 – Switzerland
27 – Anthony DeAngelo – D – Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 5’11 – 165 – United States
28 – Connor Bleackley – C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL) – 6′ – 192 – Canada
29 – Robbie Fabbri – C – Guelph Storm (OHL) – 5’10 – 166 – Canada
30 – Jakub Vrana – W – Linkoping (SWE) – 5’11 – 185 – Czech Rep

31 – Nikolai Goldobin – W – Sarnia Sting (OHL) – 6′ – 178 – Russia
32 – Adrian Kempe – C – Modo (SWE) – 6’2 – 187 – Sweden
33 – Ryan MacInnis – C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – 6’4 – 185 – United States
34 – Jack Dougherty – D – USNTDP/Univ. of Wisconsin – 6’2 – 185 – United States
35 – Anton Karlsson – W – Frolunda (SEL) – 6’1 – 189 – Sweden
36 – Brayden Point – C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) – 5’9 – 161 – Canada
37 – John Quenneville – C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – 6’1 – 185 – Canada
38 – Marcus Pettersson – D – Skelleftea (SWE) – 6’3 – 161 – Sweden
39 – Jack Glover – D – USNTDP/Univ. of Minnesota – 6’4 – 190 – United States
40 – Brycen Martin – D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL) – 6’2 – 182 – Canada
41 – Eric Cornel – C – Peterborough Petes (OHL) – 6’1 – 186 – Canada
42 – Chase DeLeo – C – Portland Winterhawks (OHL) – 5’9 – 177 – United States
43 – Daniel Audette – C – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) – 5’8 – 178 – Canada
44 – Shane Eiserman – W – USNTDP/Univ. of NH – 6’2 – 201 – United States
45 – Ondrej Kase – W – Chomutov (CZE) – 5’11 – 165 – Czech Rep
46 – Spencer Watson – W – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 5’10 – 185 – Canada
47 – Matt Mistele – W – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6’2 – 183 – Canada
48 – Oskar Lindblom – W – Brynas (SWE) – 6’1 – 191 – Sweden
49 – Ryan Collins – D – USNTDP/Univ. of Michigan – 6’4 – 179 – United States
50 – Alex Peters – D – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6’4 – 207 – Canada
51 – Tyson Baillie – C – Kamloops Blazers (WHL) – 5’10 – 185 – Canada
52 – Alex Nedeljkovic – G – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6′ – 184 – United States
53 – Blake Clarke – W – Saginaw Spirit (OHL) – 6’1 – 199 – United States
54 – Hunter Smith – W – Oshawa Generals (OHL) – 6’7 – 208 – Canada
55 – Christian Dvorak – W – London Knights (OHL) – 6′ – 179 – United States
56 – Ryan Donato – C – Dexter HS/Harvard – 6′ – 176 – United States
57 – Alex Vanier – D – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL) – 6’5 – 225 – Canada
58 – Jon Duchesne – D – Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – 6′ – 205 – Canada
59 – Ville Husso – G – HIFK (FIN) – 6’2 – 192 – Finland
60 – Jonathan MacLeod – D – USNTDP/Boston Univ. – 6’1 – 179 – United States

61 – Aaron Haydon – D – Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL) – 6’3 – 190 – United States
62 – Aaron Irving – D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) – 6’1 – 190 – Canada
63 – Connor Chatham – W – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 6’3 – 225 – United States
64 – Warren Foegele – W – St. Andrews HS/UNH – 6’1 – 183 – Canada
65 – Arkhip Nekolenko – W – Spartak (KHL) – 6’1 – 159 – Russia
66 – Adam Brooks – C – Regina Pats (WHL) – 5’10 – 170 – Canada
67 – Ben Thomas – D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 6’2 – 194 – Canada
68 – Jake Walman – D – Toronto Jr./Providence – 6’1 – 174 – Canada
69 – Brook Hiddink – C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 5’11 – 194 – Canada
70 – Patrik Koys – W – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) – 5’9 – 170 – Czech Rep
71 – Andreas Englund – D – Djurgarden (SWE) – 6’3 – 190 – Sweden
72 – Jayce Hawrlyuk – C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – 5’10 – 188 – Canada
73 – Justin Kirkland – W – Calgary Hitmen (WHL) – 6’3 – 181 – Canada
74 – Pavel Kraskovsky – F – Yaroslavl (KHL) – 6’4 – 181 – Russia
75 – Shayne Gersich – F – USNTDP/North Dakota – 5’11 – 172 – United States

#25 Brendan Lemieux is Claude’s son. Oof.
#27 Anthony DeAngelo has been suspended TWICE for using slurs against other players.
#33 Ryan MacInnis is Al MacInnis’ son. Inherited daddy’s slapshot, but plays forward.
#35 Anton Karlsson is Ottawa Senators star Erik’s brother.
#37 John Quenneville is Coach Joel Quenneville’s cousin.
#43 Daniel Audette is Donald Audette’s son.
#54 Hunter Smith is the tallest Draft-eligible player and is projected by some to go in 1st.
#55 Christian Dvorak is not related to former NHLer Radek.
#56 Ryan Donato is former NHLer Ted’s son.
#58 Jon Duchesne is not related to former Red Wing Steve.
#72 Jayce Hawrlyuk was briefly hospitalized after collapsing for unknown reasons.


1 – Florida Panthers – Aaron Ekblad – D
When the Panthers won the lottery and moved up to #1, the argument immediately became Ekblad or Reinhart. They have a bevy of nice young forwards, including Jonathan Huberdeau and last year’s second overall pick Aleksander Barkov. They’re a little light on the back end and Ekblad will be the franchise defenseman they’ve lacked forever.

2 – Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart – C
The Sabres need a little bit of everything, so to land a player that many think is the best in the Draft is a big deal, particularly after the emotional let-down of losing out on the Lottery. They slide into the player they likely would have selected had they won the top pick.

3 – Edmonton Oilers (trade for D likely if Ekblad gone) – Sam Bennett – W
I believe that the Oilers will try to move this pick unless, somehow, Ekblad slides down to three. The Oilers need defensemen, and have no need whatsoever for another young forward. If they can package this pick (and maybe one of those forwards) for an established blueliner, that’s what they’ll do. If they end up picking, it’ll likely be the consensus “other top player” available.

4 – Calgary Flames – Michael Dal Colle – W
So the top three players are off the board, no matter who’s picking, leaving the Flames and their new GM Brad Treliving. The Flames may go center since they have a little more prospect depth at the wing, but Dal Colle would be a tough guy to pass on.

5 – New York Islanders (potentially to Buffalo) – Leon Draisaitl – W
The Islanders are obligated to trade EITHER this pick or their first round pick in 2015 to Buffalo to complete the Vanek deal. If I’m the Islanders, I move this pick. While it’s unlikely that the Islanders both miss the playoffs AND win the lottery next season, the 2015 Draft is way too good to gamble with. Imagine keeping this pick (which is relatively weak for a Top 5 pick), and somehow getting the chance to pick McDavid or Eichel next summer. That’s a fate I don’t wish on anyone. A decision must be made by June 1st.

6 – Vancouver Canucks – Jake Virtanen – W
The Canucks need a right winger real bad. According to Hockey’s Future, only two of their prospects play the right side and only one of them is a surefire NHLer. Virtanen immediately fills that void and helps to rebuild a prospect base.

7 – Carolina Hurricanes – Kasperi Kapanen – W
New Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will likely be looking to make a splash, and who better than former teammate Sami Kapanen’s hotshot son? Kapanen may not be ranked as highly as this, but it’s a can’t-lose pick from a PR standpoint, and he’s a heck of a player to boot.

8 – Toronto Maple Leafs – Brendan Perlini – W
We’re starting to get into “best available” territory and Perlini is a great pick for the Leafs at number 8. For a team that has trouble playing both ways, he’s a nice player to start to right the ship organizationally.

9 – Winnipeg Jets – Nikoaj Ehlers – W
The Jets would do a backflip if they landed Ehlers without moving up, and they very well may. The best pure scorer in the Draft, he’d immediately be the top prospect in the organization and would look real good playing with Mark Schiefele for ten years.

10 – Anaheim Ducks (via Ottawa) – Nick Ritchie – C
It’s kind of a bummer that one of the top teams in the NHL also get a top ten pick, but that’s what happens when you make savvy trades. Since this is basically a bonus, you almost have to take the best available player — and the Ducks should be comfortable with their prospects on the back end and in goal. A big center fits their mold to a T.

11 – Nashville Predators – William Nylander – W
The Predators’ organizational strength lies down the middle, and some nice prospects on the left wing. The right wing position is a little thin, and though Nylander has fallen down the rankings a little bit, they’d be lucky to snatch him up without a top ten pick.

12 – Phoenix Coyotes – Jared McCann – C
Like the Predators, the Coyotes have a strong group of centers coming down the pipe. While it’s possible they look to the wing with this pick, the next half-dozen or so forwards are going to be centers. Defense is also possible, but arguably their best prospect (Brandon Gormley) plays back there.

13 – Washington Capitals – Haydn Fleury – D
The Capitals actually have some pretty decent stock in all areas, but if they’re thin anywhere it’s on the blueline. To get the second-best defenseman in the Draft without giving anything up would be exciting for them.

14 – Dallas Stars – Alex Tuch – C
The Stars are a nice young team, but the top of their prospect pool is a little bit lacking. Jim Nill is a Draft genius, however, and expect that to turn around quick-like. Tuch is a wonderful, wonderful player and will be a nice piece to have when he’s ready to leave school.

15 – Detroit Red Wings – Dylan Larkin – C
With Tuch and McCann off the board, the Wings will have their pick of a handful of worthy centers. Larkin is the biggest of them, and will be playing most locally at the University of Michigan. The Wings are no strangers to collegiate prospects (Howard, Smith, DeKeyser, Nyquist, Abdelkader, Glendening, etc.) and that system has served them well.

16 – Columbus Blue Jackets – Nikita Scherbak – W
They’ve never been afraid to grab a Russian in the past, and Scherbak is a good one for that system. He’s speedy and could potentially step right into the NHL with the right situation. He has some tools that even the playoff version of the Blue Jackets are lacking.

*Remaining Draft order is not necessarily in the following order. But for argument’s sake, we’ll pretend it is*

17 – Philadelphia Flyers – Nick Schmaltz – C
The Flyers lack what you might call an elite forward prospect. And while they might not get one at this point in this Draft, they’d do well to select a center that will be able to develop slowly in the NCAA rather than being pressured into turning pro and helping out right away.

18 – New York Rangers – Sonny Milano – C
It’s no secret that the Rangers dig American players, particularly guys who come through the National Team Development Program. Milano has had a real nice April, so it’s downright likely that he’s gone by this pick, but if he’s available, the Rags get their Ryan Callahan replacement.

19 – Minnesota Wild – Thatcher Demko – G
The one team that’s likely to go goaltender in the first round is Minnesota. Aside from Kuemper, they may not have another netminder who will definitely play in the NHL, and they’re in decent shape in other areas. Demko is a big-time goaltender, and is no stranger to big games already.

20 – Los Angeles Kings – Ivan Barbashev – W
This is really nice value for this late in the Draft, and the Kings know what they’re doing.

21 – Montreal Canadiens – David Pastrnak – W
Montreal had a monster 2013 Draft. They selected SEVEN guys I had ranked in the Top 100, including a guy I wanted so badly for the Red Wings to pick that it’ll be hard to watch him do well in Montreal (Sven Andrighetto). They’re fairly stacked everywhere, so they’re in “best available” territory.

22 – Tampa Bay Lightning – Roland McKeown – D
Steve Yzerman knows as well as anyone that winners are built from the back end out, and now that Bishop may have solved his goaltending issues and they’re (likely) satisfied with the top end of their forward prospect corps, it’s time to upgrade that blueline. The one-time top ten pick McKeown would slot right under Slater Koekkoek on that list.

23 – Chicago Blackhawks – Brendan Lemieux – W
Brendan Lemieux has risen all season and will make a team very lucky in the latter half of the first round. The Hawks only real glaring hole among the prospects pool is along the wing, and this is a nice pick. Also, as if it would be harder for Red Wings fans to hate the Hawks more, why not inject some Turtle into their eventual lineup?

24 – San Jose Sharks – Josh Ho-Sang – W
When Connor McDavid was a midget, he was the second leading scorer on his team. Josh Ho-Sang may have benefitted from playing with McDavid, but he’s proving to be a legitimate NHL prospect in his own right.

25 – St. Louis Blues – Connor Bleackley – C
If there’s anything the Blues could use, it’s another scoring forward among their ranks. Bleackley seems to have that ability and would make a nice addition to relatively thin crop of centers on the farm.

26 – Pittsburgh Penguins – Robbie Fabbri – C
The Penguins are drowning in defensive prospects, and don’t boast a heck of a lot of quality down the center. They only have one center playing somewhere aside from Europe and the NCAA, so they’re in a nice position to take a Guelph Storm.

27 – Colorado Avalanche – Anthony DeAngelo – D
The Avs could really use a winger or two in this Draft, but I can’t shake the feeling they’d like DeAngelo’s game. He generates offense from the blueline, and the Avalanche are not strangers to that kind of player — not to mention, why not add to the balanced attack that Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog will be running for the next decade?

28 – Anaheim Ducks – Julius Honka – D
After taking a forward earlier, they’d probably take a defenseman to get one of each out of the first round. Honka is rated higher than this spot, and the Ducks aren’t in any hurry to have him join the big club, so a project is just fine by them.

29 – Boston Bruins – Kevin Fiala – W
As impressive as the current Bruins are, there’s a not a whole lot to be excited about coming down the pipe. While they — like the Red Wings — like guys who play both ways (see: Bergeron, Patrice), I don’t think it’d be unwise to take a flier on a guy that’s balls-out offense. With Krejci, Lucic, and Marchand’s playing style, they won’t be around forever.

30 – New Jersey (required to pick 30th as punishment) – Nikolai Goldobin – W
The Devils could use a better selection that this one, but this is what they get. With next to nothing to look forward to on the wings, selecting a guy who practically scores at will in the OHL will be a nice get for the last pick in the round.

Red Wings Free Agency Recap: Day 2

It was a quiet day for the Red Wings in Day 2 of NHL free agency but that doesn’t mean it was uneventful. Here are a few things of note that happened today:

A mid-afternoon report stated that Daniel Cleary and the Red Wings had agreed to a three-year deal that would carry a $2.6 million cap hit, to be signed as soon as some of Detroit’s excess forwards are dumped (as mentioned yesterday, including RFAs the Wings are at the 50-contract limit). Quickly, that report was contradicted by one stating that the Wings would like to have him back if they can fit him under the salary cap.

I’m in the group that thinks the original report is closer to the truth and that there probably is a gentleman’s agreement in place to bring Cleary back but that the Wings organization is worried admitting as much would be considered circumventing the cap. And, for the record, I hope neither the term nor the value of the reported deal end up being true. Especially the term. As Helene St. James tells us, though, Mike Babcock loves Cleary so the Wings will do what they can to keep him.

Still no word on what will happen with Damien Brunner but there is a report that he’s looking for $3 – $3.5 million per year on a three-year deal. That was the high end of where I was willing to go for him. It’s apparent that Babcock does not love Brunner, despite being the one to seemingly promise him a top-six role last summer. As mentioned yesterday, he played well in the third-line role down the stretch and into the playoffs so I don’t blame the Wings for not giving him the promotion he’s looking for.

In a major blow to the Red Wings organization, head of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell and amateur scout Mark Leach have left Detroit to join former Wings’ assistant general manager Jim Nill, now the GM of the Dallas Stars. McDonnell ran the 2013 NHL Draft for Detroit after Nill’s departure, as Nill had been the Wings’ “draft guy” for years.

Detroit’s management and coaching staff has been raided repeatedly since their 2008 Stanley Cup win. After that season they lost assistant coach Todd McLellan to the San Jose Sharks and he took video coach Jay Woodcroft with him. In 2010, Vice President of Hockey Steve Yzerman left to take on the GM role with the Tampa Bay Lightning, taking scout Pat Verbeek with him. In 2011, assistant coaches Paul MacLean and Brad McCrimmon moved on to head coaching roles elsewhere and in 2012 the Wings lost another assistant head coach as Jeff Blashill shifted over to the head coaching job with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Alfredsson Reaction
Finally, today saw some interesting reaction to yesterday’s signing of Daniel Alfredsson, with “Puck Daddy” Greg Wyshynski taking offense to Alfredsson’s decision to “get selfish.” I’m not going to link to it because I think the guys at Yahoo see Wings fans as easy targets for extra clicks.

I think the accusation of selfishness is interesting given the timeline of his contract negotiations and the actual timing of the signing.

Supposedly Alfredsson made his contract demands to Ottawa and was told that they were “unfair.” The Sens let him reach July 1 unsigned, at which point he was free to talk to other teams. When he started talking to other teams he decided he wanted to leave; only then did Ottawa offer him a “blank check” to return. He said no and moved on.

A star player who’d spent his entire career offended by the route that negotiations took and making a selfish decision to bolt for personal reasons? Alfredsson’s choice came exactly two weeks before the tenth anniversary of when Sergei Fedorov did it to the Red Wings.

I wish more of today’s MSM had been around then so we could compare their thoughts on Alfredsson to what they said about Fedorov. For the record, I only wrote up a news piece rather than an opinion one at the time.

Red Wings Land Free Agent DeKeyser

The Detroit Red Wings are the winners of the Danny DeKeyser sweepstakes.

The team announced on Friday the signing of the Western Michigan defenseman to a standard two-year entry-level contract. The 23-year-old was considered the top NCAA player available in the 2013 free agent class and was sought after by many teams.

DeKeyser has a long history of connections with the Red Wings. He grew up a fan of the team in Macomb and played with Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill’s son, Trevor. With the Broncos, he was coached by Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill during his rookie year. He was also invited to the Red Wings’ summer development camp during his offseasons.

In three seasons at Western, DeKeyser accumulated 12 goals and 37 assists for 49 total points.

Financial terms of the deal were not announced but are expected to carry a rookie-max cap hit of $3,775,00. Most of that will be in bonuses that cannot be reached but are factored into the cap calculation nonetheless.

Thoughts on Possibly Signing DeKeyser

Western Michigan defenseman Danny DeKeyser is officially a free agent and the Red Wings are among a group of pretty much every team interested in signing him. TSN’s Bob McKenzie says that, while Detroit has long been considered the front-runners, several teams are interested.

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen him play in person but I’ve been on DeKeyser watch for awhile now based on scouting reports alone. As I said a couple days ago, I’m probably more hopeful that the Wings sign him than I should be.

The reasons for that are less about what DeKeyser could do for the Wings on the ice and more about what his signing could signify.

Here’s a guy who – whether he should be or not – is a much-sought-after player. He has his pick of places to play. And the Red Wings are in on that.

Does that sound like a familiar scenario? To me, it sounds a lot like last summer, when the Red Wings ended up spurned by everyone in that position.

Brad Stuart left Detroit to go back “home” to play in San Jose. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter chose Parise’s home of Minnesota over Detroit (among many others). Even Nicklas Lidstrom decided it was time to go back home to Sweden.

Here’s a guy for whom the Red Wings organization would be home. He’s from Macomb, where he played with Red Wings’ assistant GM Jim Nill‘s son Trevor. He played four years in Kalamazoo with the Broncos, coached for one of those years by former Wings’ assistant coach and current Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill. The Griffins and the Red Wings are his home teams.

Some times you can’t compete with the opportunity to play at home. That’s what we heard from the Wings’ brass when they lost out on all of those players last. What does it mean, though, if even with that opportunity on their side, Detroit still can’t sign DeKeyser?

We’ll see. I’m still hopeful. Every team that gets added to the list of suitors casts doubt on that, though.

Wings Re-sign Goalie MacDonald

The Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of goalie Joey MacDonald to a two-year deal on Monday. As per club policy, financial terms were not announced.

MacDonald had been expected to leave the Detroit organization as a free agent this summer. He was seeking a one-way deal in the NHL, which the Red Wings were unwilling to provide. Presumably such a deal could not be found, leading MacDonald to return to the Wings on a deal that is expected to be two-way.

In 15 games last season with the Red Wings, MacDonald went 5-5-3 with a 2.58 GAA and .917 save percentage. He has played 87 career games with Detroit, Boston, the New York Islanders, and Toronto.

In speaking with Red Wings blogger George Malik, Detroit assistant general manager Jim Nill called the deal, “Just a little insurance policy,” implying that MacDonald will not be the backup to Jimmy Howard this season.

Upcoming Downey Deal Confirmed

Aaron Downey will soon sign a two-way deal keeping him in the Detroit Red Wings organization for another season.

The deal will see him make $575,000 with the Red Wings and $100,000 with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Darren McCarty has been offered an identical deal but has yet to accept.

“The two-way (contracts) are not a reflection on the players,” said assistant general manager Jim Nill. “It’s because of the CBA. We need the flexibility.”

Abdelkader Joins Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings have signed forward Justin Abdelkader to an amateur tryout contract, making him available to play tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Muskegon native was Detroit’s 2005 second-round draft pick. He has played three seasons for the Michigan State Spartans, scoring the game-winning goal late in the third period of the 2007 NCAA Championship game.

By signing with the Red Wings, Abdelkader will forego his remaining season of eligiblity with the Spartans.

Abdelkader’s signing comes with Kirk Maltby unable to play due to an unspecified injury.

Red Wings’ assistant general manager Jim Nill said that the team is attempting to sign Abdelkader to a three-year entry-level deal. He must be signed by Saturday to be eligible for the playoffs.

Wings Front Office Headed to Toronto

… or so the Canadian media might have you believe.

TSN has a bit today about what top executives might be headed to Toronto. Of the thirteen names mentioned, four are currently in the Detroit organization.

The selection of the man to be tasked with rebuilding the Maple Leafs is big news up there and big names are being thrown around. The thirteen names?

Ken Holland, Jim Rutherford, Brian Burke, Scotty Bowman, John Muckler, Doug Armstrong, Neil Smith, Craig Patrick, Rick Dudley, Colin Campbell, Jim Nill, Steve Yzerman and Glenn Healy.

Holland, Bowman, Nill and Yzerman are all with the Wings in various capacities.

Why would any of them leave the Detroit organization? The answer seems to come down to “Because it’s Toronto.”

I say that answer applies to a different question. The question of why they wouldn’t want the job.

Notes on “Masterminds of Hockeytown”

The Detroit News has a great piece in today’s paper called Masterminds of Hockeytown. The News got to sit down with Mike Ilitch, Jimmy Devellano, Ken Holland, Jim Nill and Scotty Bowman and talk about the past 25 years of the Red Wings and a little bit of the future.

The full transcript of the session is also available. A lot of the history has been told before but there are a few notes about the future that find important.

News: Do you have any assurances from the league, if there’s expansion, which they’re talking about again, about getting back to the Eastern Conference?

Ilitch: Well, (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman has told Jimmy and I on two or three occasions that we’re next.

Devellano: I’d just like to add one more thing about expansion. There’s little doubt that Vegas is coming in (as an expansion franchise) — it’s about four years from now. And I truly believe Gary Bettman will move us East at that time.

Ilitch: Oh, I’m not selling anything, that’s for sure.

The first confirms what’s been rumored for years. The Wings belong in the Eastern Conference and they’ll get there someday.

The second terrifies me. I still contend that NHL talent is diluted. Expansion will not help this league.

The third puts to rest a rumor that apparently started during a Tigers broadcast this summer.

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