Red Wings Deal Jurco to Blackhawks

The Red Wings opened up their trade deadline sale on Friday afternoon, sending restricted-free-agent-to-be Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks for a third-round draft pick.

As I said in my trade deadline preview yesterday, Jurco wanted out and wasn’t getting opportunities in Detroit anymore, so it’s not a surprise to see him dealt.

Honestly, I’d expected him to get waived at a handful of points this season, so getting a third-rounder for Jurco is pretty fantastic in my mind.

As I said via Twitter, this feels a bit like the Wings dumping Aaron Ward in 2001.  A perfectly serviceable player who wasn’t happy in Detroit and will go on to bigger and better things elsewhere.  Now it’s up to Ken Holland to do the same thing he did then, turn that draft pick into something useful.  The Ward draft pick became Jiri Hudler.  Let’s see what this pick becomes.

Red Wings Sign Mrazek to Two-Year Deal

Per Elliotte Friedman, the Red Wings have signed goalie Petr Mrazek to a two-year contract.

That’s a $4 million AAV, which is a solid deal for the Red Wings except for the fact that they have Jimmy Howard carrying a $5,291,666 cap hit as a backup.

With the deal, the Red Wings managed to avoid arbitration, something the team takes pride in.  It would have been their first “real” arbitration hearing (the hearing for Jiri Hudler in 2009 was a formality as he’d already bolted for the KHL) in two decades.

Mrazek will still be a restricted free agent when the deal ends, giving him time to prove himself as a starter and the Red Wings time to dump Howard.

On the Sum of the Parts

Something about this year’s Detroit Red Wings team and what they accomplished will never really add up.

This Red Wings team was not constructed to make a long playoff run. I’m not certain that they were constructed to make the playoffs at all.

This is a team that lost Nicklas Lidstrom and Jiri Hudler and replaced them with Carlo Colaiacovo and Mikael Samuelsson. That added Jordin Tootoo to an already bottom-heavy forward unit.

This is a team that, midway through the season, had Justin Abdelkader dragging down Pavel Datsyuk on the top line.

You look at the team, you see the gaping holes in the lineup. You see rookie mistakes all season. You see an inability to close out even the worst teams. And yet they ended up one win from the Western Conference Finals.

Things that seemingly shouldn’t have worked did.

Abdelkader and Datsyuk ended up clicking, with Abdelkader looking like he belonged on the top line.

Colaiacovo outplayed Ian White, a top-two defender in 2011-12, to get the sixth defenseman’s spot after Danny DeKeyser (himself acquired midseason) went down to injury.

Tootoo and Samuelsson (and Todd Bertuzzi) were outplayed by rookies like Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson and left out of the lineup.

I’ve said my piece on the Red Wings’ organization’s preparation (or lack thereof) for the playoff run. The team had holes that should have been addressed. For the final weeks of the season, however, the individual players elevated their respective games to overcome that.

The sum of the parts was briefly greater than the whole.

I don’t think we can count on that going forward. The holes are still there. But for a few short weeks, it was kind of awesome to see what these players could do.

TGTW: Wings Lead NHL After Week Five

The Games That Weren’t is one of many projects simulating the games lost by the NHL lockout. In the absence of actual games to write about, I’ll be checking in periodically on the fictional Red Wings’ season.

After finshing their first four-game Western Canadian road trip since the return of the Winnipeg Jets with a 3-1 record, the Detroit Red Wings returned home this week for rematches with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames and a visit from the Minnesota Wild.

On Tuesday, Jordan Eberle scored twice to lead the Oilers past the Wings to sweep their home-and-home series. Eberle opened the game’s scoring at 4:25 of the first. Kyle Quincey‘s third goal of the season tied things back up on the power play at 2:36 of the second, but Eberle put the Oilers back out in front with 24 seconds left in the middle frame. Also in the second period, Edmonton defensemen Jeff Petry left the game after taking an elbow to the face from Johan Franzen, for which Franzen was ejected.

Edmonton’s Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves on 34 shots to get the win while Detroit’s Jimmy Howard made 16 saves on 18 shots against.

The Red Wings rebounded on Friday with a 4-1 win over the Flames, in a game in which all goal-scorers played for Detroit last season. Jiri Hudler scored the game’s opening goal just 1:48 into the first period. Todd Bertuzzi tied things up with 5:26 left in the period and the Red Wings never looked back. Pavel Datsyuk put Detroit in front at 8:43 of the second and Valtteri Filppula extended his team scoring lead with 4:55 left in that period. Ian White added his first goal of the season with ten seconds remaining in regulation on the power play to finish off the win.

Howard made 21 saves on 22 shots while Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 21 of 25 chances. Todd Bertuzzi left the game with concussion-like symptoms after being boarded by Lee Stempniak late in the third.

With Bertuzzi injured, Cory Emmerton made his first appearance of the season the next night against the Wild, a 4-0 win for Detroit. Henrik Zetterberg opened the scoring with 5:31 left in the first period and Mikael Samuelsson made it 2-0 at 9:08 of the third. Samuelsson and Filppula added goals in the final minute to round out the scoring.

Minnesota free agent signings Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, who both spurned contract offers from Detroit over the summer, finished the night -2. Howard made 20 saves in his third shutout of the season. Niklas Backstrom of the Wild made 26 saves on 30 shots.

After five weeks, the Red Wings sit tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals atop the NHL standings. Filppula leads all NHL scorers with 23 points, two more than Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin. Howard is tied for the league lead in shutouts (three) and wins (10) and second in goals-against average (1.72).

Next week the Red Wings host the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils, then visit the Wild.

Free Agency 2012: Day 2

The Red Wings opened free agency on Sunday with four signings but on Monday it was all about who was leaving the team.  Jiri Hudler and Chris Conner are both now former Red Wings, with Hudler heading on to the Calgary Flames and Conner going to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Neither’s departure is a surprise.  Conner was looking for a place where he might be able to latch on full-time (and as I said yesterday, Detroit already has too many forwards) and Hudler was essentially replaced by Detroit’s signing of Mikael Samuelsson.

I honestly don’t think the $4 million per year for for years that Calgary ponied up for Hudler is awful, but it’s still too much.  I joked on Twitter today that Hudler and the Flames are a perfect dysfunctional fit so it’ll be interesting to see how that works out.

It’s tough for the Wings organization to lose Conner but you can’t blame the guy for leaving.  I expect the same from most of the veterans the Wings have had in Grand Rapids.

With no decisions (at least none made public) from Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Wings are in a holding pattern on the buying front.  I think they’re going to miss out on Parise but I’m not certain about Suter.

Suter’s the one they need, there’s no one else like him available.  If Parise goes elsewhere, the Wings will look at Alexander Semin, but Semin is smart enough to know to wait until Parise signs to get his own bidding war.

Free Agency 2012: Day 1

“Trust, but verify.”

One of my co-workers loves that phrase.  So did Ronald Reagan.  Vladimir Lenin liked its Russian form.

It comes to mind because of my reaction to today’s news that the Red Wings had signed Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo as free agents.  I’m not the only one who had the same kind of reaction.

Neither player has been a favorite of late among Wings fans, so to see both of them suddenly on our team (in Samuelsson’s case, again), signed in a matter of minutes, was a shock.

I trust Ken Holland to make the right moves for the team.  That said, I don’t blindly believe everything he does is perfect.  I question these moves and I want to see how they’ll work out.

Trust, but verify.

Logically, I know that Tootoo was a pain for the Wings to play against, so having that on “our” side is a good thing.  The Wings haven’t had someone like him in quite awhile.

That said, because the Wings hadn’t had someone like that, they were able to (most of the time) play like they were above what Tootoo brings to the table.  Maybe they need to lower themselves to that level, maybe being above that is what they’ve been missing, but it leaves a bad taste.

Logically, I know that Samuelsson is a cheap replacement for Jiri Hudler, who’s bound to get $4 million or more from a team like the Canucks or Capitals or Sabres.  He plays a similar game for significantly less money.

That said, it wasn’t that long ago that he basically had his house for sale before the season ended in Detroit.  We still make jokes about how often he’d miss the net on drives from the point.  While he replaces Hudler, it kind of seems like a role that didn’t need to be replaced.

Lost in all of that are the signings of Jonas Gustavsson and Damien Brunner.  Brunner was a known – announced a week ago but not official until today.  Gustavsson’s deal I initially questioned but only for the financial side and the reality is that $1.5 million for a backup goalie isn’t that bad.

And no news on the big fronts, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.  Depending on who you believe, any number of teams – Detroit included – are the frontrunners for either or both of those two.

Regardless of what happens with the big-names, it’s hard to ignore the math facing the Wings’ lineup right now.  There are simply too many forwards to fit into the lineup next year.

Assuming that Hudler is gone (as it seems that he is), Tomas Holmstrom doesn’t return, Brunner makes the lineup and Justin Abdelkader is re-signed as a restricted free agent, the team has fifteen forwards.  That’s with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and a handful of others sent back to Grand Rapids, which (at least in Nyquist’s case) should not happen.

It sure looks to me (and to TPL and WIIM) like a trade is in the works.  I won’t speculate on who it could be for but I do want to look at who could be going the other way.

Abdelkader is an unsigned RFA, probably due around $2 million, which just happens to be how much the Wings brought Tootoo in for.  Given that they play similar games, it sure seems like Abdelkader was just made expendible, even if he’s the hometown kid.

Todd Bertuzzi isn’t going anywhere, he’s got a no-trade clause.  Same for Danny Cleary (and Pavel Datsyuk if you think the Wings would deal him).

Patrick Eaves could be moved but lost nearly a season to post-concussion syndrome so good luck finding a taker.

Cory Emmerton was used a lot as the fourth line center last year but that’s a replaceable position.  That said, because he’s replaceable it should mean he wouldn’t bring much in trade.

Valtteri Filppula has been labeled a future leader of the team but has an acceptable contract, is relatively young and scores a little bit.

Johan Franzen has a contract that should make it nearly impossible to move him if the Wings even wanted to.  Darren Helm also won’t be moved as he just signed his contract.

Drew Miller and Jan Mursak are in the same boat as Emmerton.  Solid bottom-six guys who are ultimately replaceable, which devalues them.

Samuelsson and Tootoo just signed (and Samuelsson got a no-trade clause) so they’re staying put.  Henrik Zetterberg is the next captain so he’s going nowhere.

Ignoring prospects (counting Nyquist and Tatar among them), that means that Abdelkader (or at least his rights) and Filppula are the Wings’ most movable, valuable forwards.

I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the start of the season but looking at that roster crunch, I have a hard time thinking that all of those guys are going to be wearing the Winged Wheel come October.  This was just the first official day of NHL summer.  We’ve got a lot coming up.

On Free Agent Splashes

With about fourteen hours before NHL free agency opens up, Hockeytown anxiously awaits what Red Wings’ general manager Ken Holland will do to address the holes in the team’s lineup.

Holland has gone on the record saying that he’s looking for a defenseman to help offset the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, possibly a top-six forward (especially if Jiri Hudler bolts) and possibly a goaltender (either to back up Jimmy Howard in Detroit or to take Joey MacDonald‘s spot in Grand Rapids, with MacDonald as Howard’s backup).

There is an expectation that the Red Wings will make a “splash” given those holes to fill and approximately $20 million of cap space to use.  The primary targets are expected to be Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter and New Jersey forward Zach Parise.

Here’s what terrifies me:  Considering who Detroit has already lost this summer, would signing Suter even be a splash?

That move seems more like signing Brian Rafalski when Mathieu Schneider left the team, or Curtis Joseph to replace Dominik Hasek when he retired the first time.

As much as we talk about the Red Wings being big spenders, aside from Marian Hossa in 2009, those are the kind of moves they’ve made since the last lockout.  Their big signings are still somewhat lateral overall.

To make a splash, the Wings can do no less than sign both Suter and Parise.  I’d love to see it but I’m less and less convinced that it’s possible,

I’ve decided to lower my expectations.  There’s no replacing Lidstrom and it’s hard to replace Stuart, but it’s impossible to do that by promoting from within given the Red Wings’ current blueline.  That means that Suter is a must.

Parise?  I hope so but it’s not enough without Suter.  I’d rather Suter and Alex Semin or Shane Doan than Parise without Suter.

Of course, 24 hours from now I might be saying something else entirely.  We’ll see what Holland does for us.

Red Wings Eliminated with Loss to Predators

The Detroit Red Wings were eliminated from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Friday night with a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators.

The loss in Game Five of the first-round matchup between the teams is the earliest exit for the Red Wings since 2003, when they were swept in the opening round by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

Nashville’s game-winning goal came just 13 seconds into the third period. The Red Wings won the period’s opening faceoff but Brad Stuart‘s attempted pass into the neutral zone became a turnover, with Alexander Radulov gaining the Detroit zone and working the puck to Gabriel Bourque. The Detroit defense collapsed on Bourque and blocked his attempted shot but the puck came right to the trailing David Legwand, who snapped a shot past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard to make it 2-1.

The Red Wings would be unable to even things up, barely sustaining any pressure in the Nashville zone for the remainder of the game.

The Predators had opened the game’s scoring with 3:50 left in the first period. Legwand picked off Kyle Quincey‘s attempted pass to Jonathan Ericsson along the boards behind the Detroit net and sent the puck out to Radulov all alone in front of the goal for a shot past Howard.

Jiri Hudler tied things back up with 6:15 left in the second period, poking the puck under Nashville netminder after Valtteri Filppula threw it to the net.

Rinne finished the night with 21 saves on 22 shots against. Howard made 23 saves on 25 shots.

Neither team scored a power play goal. The Red Wings had two tries with the extra attacker and the Predators had three.

The series was the first of the season to end.

Hockeytown Shifts Gears To Watch Worlds: Americans Discover Yearly Hockey Tournament

Five games into the post season (one game short of my playoff tickets) and the Detroit Red Wings have done the unthinkable.

Started their golf season early – just not as early as the Leafs, Blue Jackets, etc.

The Detroit Red Wings have become the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs; which means no more hockey for Detroit fans to enjoy (well other than if the Flyers beat the Penguins).

All of the Detroit stars and done, gone, no more hockey until the fall right. Well maybe, but adds are that is not true either.

You see there is this “little” known hockey tournaments every year (well not on Winter Olympic years) called the IIHF World Championship; and guess what. NHL players are allowed to play.

HOLY CRAP.

Now that the Red Wings have been eliminated early there is a chance that some of them will be asked to join their native country in the tournament that is taking place split between Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland.

Currently none of the Red Wings have agreed to join their teams; however, other than for injury reasons I am sure a few may. Especially the Swedes and the Finn.

Team Sweden has gained Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Fabian Brunnstrom and Tomas Holmstrom to their potential player pool. I know Nicklas Lidstrom is a Swede, he was captain for Tre Kronor in the Vancouver Olympics; but The Perfect Human is still injured and I do not see him joining the team.

Event co-host Finland now has Valtteri Filppula available. Last year Finland won gold without Filppula; however with Mikko Koivu‘s injury during the NHL regular season and the loss of goaltender Niklas Backstrom to surgery Filppula is probably already receiving calls.

Russia has been lackluster in the international tournaments as of late and could use the help of Pavel Datsyuk; however, injury may keep the Magician off the ice.

Justin Abdelkader, Chris Conner, Doug Janik, Drew Miller, Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin have become available for Team USA. With the horrible finish in last years tournament the USA needs a strong push this time around and hopefully Miller, Howard and Abdelkader can have a better ending to their season by helping out the national team.

Hockey Canada… Detroit gives to you Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Riley Sheahan, Garnet Exelby, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith, Corey Emmerton, Brad Stuart, and Ian White… if you shall choose.

To the Czech Republic Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl would be good additions to your team.

Tomas Tatar has seen two season end thus far but could still be a big part for Slovakia.

And Slovenia The Red Wings have given you Jan Mursak.

Now Detroit fans and National Team fans sit and wait to see who will be joining as the Red Wings clear out their lockers and scatter for what is the longest off-season they have had since before winning the cup in 2008.

Red Wings Face Elimination After Game Four Loss to Predators

The Detroit Red Wings are one loss from elimination from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs after dropping Game Four of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series with the Nashville Predators, 3-1.

The Predators now lead the series 3-1 as it heads back to Nashville for Game Five.

The Red Wings dominated the scoreless first two periods of the game, carrying a 28-11 shooting advantage into the third. It would be Nashville, however, that opened the game’s scoring.

Just 1:55 into the period, Gabriel Bourque was left along in front of Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard to take a feed from Alexander Radulov and snap a shot into the back of the net. The goal came shortly after the Predators thought they had made it 1-0 but an apparent goal was called off on an “intent to blow” play.

The Red Wings would even things up at 3:14. Niklas Kronwall‘s rocket from the blue line was tipped in front of the net by Jiri Hudler, with the deflection rising over Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne for a power play goal.

At 6:25, the Predators regained the lead when three Red Wings followed Martin Erat into the corner and Howard shifted right to track the play. This left Patrick Holmqvist and Kevin Klein wide open in front, and Erat fed Klein for an easy shot into the vacated net.

The Predators finished off the scoring with 39 seconds left in regulation. With Nashville on a power play, Danny Cleary attempted to carry the puck out from behind his own goal and start a rush. At the side of the crease, David Legwand poked the puck off his stick and it slipped through Howard, ending Detroit’s chance at a comeback.

Each team had a power play goal on the night, with the Red Wings having seven power plays to Nashville’s three.

Howard made 14 saves on 17 shots against while Rinne stopped 40 of 41 chances.

Game Five of the series will be on Friday.