Zetterberg Officially Done Playing

Detroit general manager Ken Holland announced today that team captain Henrik Zetterberg‘s  back condition will keep him from returning to play.  His career is over and he will ride out the final three years of his contract on long-term injured reserve.

The announcement does not come as a surprise, with each update on Zetterberg’s condition over the summer getting progressively worse.

While the team will be without its leader, Zetterberg going on LTIR does solve their salary cap situation.  Additionally, the team could look to move his contract (or that of Johan Franzen, also “LTIRetired”) to a team that needs to get to the salary cap floor.

The Red Wings are not expected to replace Zetterberg as captain this season, instead rolling with three alternate captains.  Dylan Larkin will likely wear the third A alongside Justin Abdelkader and Niklas Kronwall.

Red Wings Sign Larkin to Five-Year Deal

The Red Wings announced on Friday the signing of restricted free agent forward Dylan Larkin to a five-year deal.

Per idiotic team policy, the financial terms of the contract were not announced, but The Athletic’s Craig Custance almost immediately reported the deal to be worth $6.1 million annually.

Larkin will be an unrestricted free agent when the contract ends.

With the signing, the Red Wings have 22 players on their roster for next season and $82,772,044 against the salary cap, which is set at $79,500,000.  While Johan Franzen going on LTIR will save them almost $4 million, those numbers include only six defensemen on the roster, leaving the Red Wings in a bit of a cap crunch, especially if Michael Rasmussen and Filip Zadina are expected to compete for roster spots.

Even assuming that Martin Frk and Luke Witkowski are treated as expendable and are replaced on the roster by Rasmussen and Zadina, the Red Wings end up about $44,000 over the cap without resolving their blueline depth issues.

Shifting Witkowski to defense and sending Frk to Grand Rapids could possibly open a spot for either Rasmussen or Zadina but then Joe Hicketts and Filip Hronek are shut out of a spot in Detroit.

Bottom line?  If any of “the kids” are going to make the Red Wings’ opening night roster, more moves are coming, with Henrik Zetterberg‘s health likely to play a large part in that.

Long Term Injured Reserve, Marian Hossa, and Niklas Kronwall

The Chicago Blackhawks announced over the summer that forward Marian Hossa would not play this season due to a skin condition.  Specific details have not been released, but the general understanding is that he essentially developed an allergy to his equipment, an ailment that was somewhat common in decades past.

The result is that Hossa develops an uncomfortable – possibly even painful – rash from wearing his hockey gear.  With medications increasingly unhelpful, the only way to avoid it is to stop wearing the equipment, which means not playing.

The NHL has investigated the situation and, per a report by The Athletic, has ruled that the Blackhawks can place Hossa on long-term injured reserve, giving them salary cap relief while Hossa is out.

Given that Hossa’s contract was one of the original back-diving deals and that this year just happens to be one of the ones that it looks like he was never supposed to play anyway, the timing is convenient.  That said, I don’t care about that.  I’m curious about how this applies to other LTIR cases.

Hossa is still physically able to play hockey.  It’s “just” uncomfortable.  Similarly, Johan Franzen may be physically able to play hockey, it would just be incredibly stupid for him to do so after having suffered such horrible repeated head injuries.

As such, it’s clear that LTIRetirement doesn’t mean that you can’t play hockey anymore, just that it’s not worth it to do so.  Exactly how far does that stretch?

About his oft-injured left knee, Niklas Kronwall said in 2016, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be pain-free, but hopefully, I’ll be able to be out there in a position where it doesn’t bite as much.”  Surgery is an option but it would effectively end his career.

Kronwall continues to play because he can and, seemingly, because he wants to.  Is it worth it for him to do so, to play through the pain, as Hossa would have to?  If the answer is no, why wouldn’t the NHL’s ruling on Hossa (and Franzen) apply to him, giving the Red Wings an out from their cap situation?

Or what if the team decides he’s no longer healthy enough to help them, even if Kronwall wants to keep playing?  That seems to be the situation Joffrey Lupul and the Toronto Maple Leafs are in.  The Hossa ruling seems to allow for that as well, though the league is investigating Lupul’s case as well.

If this is an option, I’d be using it today.  Obviously the Red Wings aren’t, but the way I read it, we could see it come up in the future.

Red Wings Injury Updates

The Detroit Red Wings made a handful of announcements regarding injuries on Monday.  Any time you make a handful of injury announcements is a problem.

On the positive side of things, Tomas Jurco was re-called from his rehabilitation stint with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he had a goal and an assist – along with six penalty minutes – in two games played.  He wore #13 in Grand Rapids with his old #28 having been taken by Matt Lorito this season.

Jurco will have a chance to slide into the Detroit lineup immediately in part due to an injury to Tyler Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi left Saturday’s matchup with the Montreal Canadiens with a high ankle sprain after a hit by Alexei Emelin.  He’s expected to miss three- to five- weeks.

Meanwhile, defenseman Brendan Smith is expected to miss four weeks after a knee-on-knee collision with Phillip Danault.

Both Bertuzzi and Smith were placed on the seven-day disabled list while Jurco came off long-term injured reserve.  As of today, the Red Wings have seven players on various forms of IR: Andreas Athanasiou, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Joe Vitale, Alexey Marchenko, Jimmy Howard, Bertuzzi, and Smith, though neither Franzen or Vitale are expected to play this season.

The team will go with six defensemen for now, with no call-up planned to replace Smith.

Over the weekend, the Red Wings called up goalie Jared Coreau after Jimmy Howard left Friday’s win over the New Jersey Devils with a groin injury.

On Hope and Excitement, and Lack Thereof

I’m not excited for the start of the Red Wings season.

I’m not saying that I won’t watch the opener tomorrow or I won’t be at the Joe for the home opener on Monday.  I just wouldn’t feel an absence in my life if those games weren’t happening.

I’m also not saying that I don’t care what happens with the team.  Quite the opposite.

At the end of last season, even with the Wings bowing out so early in the playoffs, there was hope.  General Manager Ken Holland spoke about giving opportunity to the team’s prospects, about revamping the defense, about ways to make the team better.

In June Pavel Datsyuk left but Holland managed to unload his contract.  It came at a high cost but was necessary given what the team was trying to do.  There was still hope.  I still had hope

As free agency approached, the Red Wings had money to spend and roster spots to fill, as well as prospects like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi and Tomas Nosek ready to challenge for a role.

Then the Wings brought back Drew Miller, the penalty-killing specialist who missed most of the season with a pair of injuries.

Then the Wings brought back bottom-six forward Darren Helm on a five year deal.

On July 1st, the Red Wings signed Frans Nielsen to replace Datsyuk and Thomas Vanek to replace the soon-to-retire Brad Richards and Steve Ott…  For some reason.

Suddenly those open roster spots were filled and the hole in the team’s defense hadn’t been addressed.  Holland reassured us that the glut of forwards gave him pieces to use in trade for a defender.

Training camp approached and there was no trade.  News broke that Jacob Trouba, Michigan-native and right-shooting defenseman, exactly what the Wings were coveting, was demanding a trade.  But those pieces that Holland had assembled wouldn’t be enough.  So there was no fix for the blueline and there was no battle for forward spots.  Athanasiou beat out Teemu Pulkkinen – waived off to Minnesota – but it was for the 13th forward spot, relegated to the press box.

This season’s roster is last season’s roster.  From opening night to the end of the season to today, Johan Franzen became Pavel Datsyuk who is now Frans Nielsen.  Brad Richards became Thomas Vanek.  Landon Ferraro was replaced by Darren Helm – re-signed due to a need for speed.  Drew Miller became Joakim Andersson who became Drew Miller again.  Teemu Pulkkinen became Andreas Athanasiou who became Steve Ott – despite that supposed need for speed.  Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey became Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.

The team that backed into the playoffs and only made it there because they got help from the Ottawa Senators on the last day of the season is much the same as the team that begins this season.

I expect this team to miss the playoffs.  I expected that this would be a losing season last May.  But in May, I had hope that this losing season would feature learning experiences for the next generation of Red Wings.  Instead, they’re going to lose with the same guys that lost last year.

So I’ll watch and I’ll root for the Wings, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  I’m not getting excited.

Red Wings Re-up Pulkkinen

The Red Wings announced the signing of restricted free agent forward Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year contract extension today…  Sort of.

They later “corrected” the “typo.”

As per club policy, no useful information was announced.  So we’re waiting on that.

Pulkkinen is expected to miss the start of the season after off-season shoulder surgery.

The Red Wings now have 18 forwards signed for next season.  Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale will likely spend the entire year on LTIR while Pulkkinen will start the season there.  That’s still 15 players for 14 spots, meaning, one of Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha likely starts the season in Grand Rapids.  That’s not including Tyler Bertuzzi or Martin Frk or any of the other young guys that are supposedly going to fight for a roster spot next year.

Of course, there’s always the mythical “forwards for defense” trade that could clear up that logjam.

UPDATE: HSJ tells us that the deal is for $812,500.

On the Red Wings’ Next Alternate Captain

With Pavel Datsyuk having departed, the Red Wings are left with an open spot among their contingent of captains.  I brought this up on Twitter a month ago and WiiM did a post on it a couple weeks ago.  I went back through the team’s recent history to see if anything can be gleaned from it to show us who might be picked.

The 2015-16 season was unique for the Red Wings in that captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternates Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall were the only players to wear letters for the team all year.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opportunity – both Datsyuk and Kronwall missed significant time due to injury – it means that there were 34 games where Detroit didn’t even bother sewing an “A” on anyone else’s sweater.

Captains are the only players who can speak to on-ice officials but the Red Wings’ going with fewer than the allowed number of captains shows how unimportant that rule.  Of note: Teams may have no more than three lettered players on the roster but there is nothing saying that they have to have that number.

We have to go back to the 2015 season to find replacement captains used by the Red Wings.  Despite ten games with only two captains dressed, seven players still managed to wear a letter throughout the year.  The injured Johan Franzen wore it for ten games, Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary each wore it for three, and Darren Helm wore it for one.

If he were healthy, I think Franzen would get the A, but he’ll never play again.  Cleary may very well return to the organization and get a letter in Grand Rapids, but I think he can be ruled out in Detroit.  That leaves Ericsson and the recently-re-signed Helm.

Going back one more season to 2014 adds no new names to the list, as the now-retired Daniel Alfredsson was the most-frequent extra alternate, wearing an A for 36 games to Franzen’s 31 and Cleary’s 8.  Five games were spent with only two captains.

The lockout-shortened 2013 – Zetterberg’s first as captain – featured three games with only two captains but no replacement alternates.  It was also the first season since the 2007-08 campaign, when Datsyuk was given an A along with Zetterberg and Kris Draper, that the team had only three captains.

Even with four captains on the books in 2012, Tomas Holmstrom wore the A for eight games.  The team dressed three captains for every game.

Going back further, we see the names of long-departed defensemen Brian Rafalski and Chris Chelios…  Clearly players who won’t be options now.

In the last seven years there have been ten players to wear the C or A with the Red Wings.  Two of them – Zetterberg and Kronwall – still do.  Only two of the remaining eight are still with the team: Ericsson and Helm.

At three games to one, Ericsson has more experience wearing the letter than Helm.  Maybe that gives him an edge.

So can anything be pulled from these numbers?  I think the only thing they show is that it’s time for someone new.  The old standbys are gone.

While newcomers Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott have all worn letters elsewhere in their career – Nielsen had an A with the Islanders last season while Vanek and Ott co-captained the Sabres back in the 2013-14 season – the Red Wings haven’t given the alternate captaincy directly to a newcomer since trading for Brendan Shanahan in 1996.

By my count, the Wings haven’t had two defenseman with letters since before the Steve Yzerman era, which would seemingly rule out Ericsson or any of the other blueliners, so long as Kronwall wears the A.

Jeff Blashill is not Jacques Demers.  I don’t think Dylan Larkin gets the available letter by virtue of being the team’s best player.

I think – almost from lack of better options – that we’ll see Justin Abdelkader get the A.

Of course, that could change if the mythical “trade for a top defenseman” ever emerges.  We’ll see.

Postgame: Stars @ Red Wings – 11/8

I didn’t think that the Red Wings played well enough today to win. Apparently my eye test fails, though, as I’ve been told Detroit actually topped the Dallas Stars in score-adjusted 5v5 Corsi.

In the end, that’s really all I have to say about the game because so much was overshadowed by events of the third period.

With about 13 minutes left in the third period, Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard took an unintentional knee to the head from Dallas forward Jason Spezza. Howard struggled to stand as play continued. When the puck was finally frozen, he seemed to argue with the referee about why play wasn’t stopped. He was then checked out by the Red Wings’ training staff and exited the game.

This in a league that says it’s worried about head trauma.

Five minutes later, Jonathan Ericsson was hit in the head by Ales Hemsky. There would have been no penalty on the play had Ericsson not retaliated. Ericsson was given two minutes for roughing. Hemsky received no penalty.

This in a league that says it’s worried about head trauma.

In the game’s final minutes, Howard returned to the Red Wings’ bench. The team later revealed that he was fine and that he wasn’t checked for a concussion.

This in a league that says it’s worried about head trauma. This in a league where there are supposedly spotters in the arena looking for players who may have suffered head trauma. This on a team where Johan Franzen has played in a grand total of two games in the last ten months because he thought he was back from a concussion and then started experiencing symptoms again.

What is clear from the third period today is that the league is not concerned about head trauma. The Red Wings are not concerned about head trauma. And the players are not going to stop trying to play through head trauma.

Pregame: Hurricanes @ Red Wings – 10/27

Back home from their Western Canadian road trip, the Red Wings host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Less than a month into the season, it will be the third and final matchup between the two teams. The Red Wings won their first meeting in Raleigh while the Hurricanes claimed the meeting in Detroit.

The Red Wings will remain significantly shorthanded, as they were in Vancouver on Saturday. Blueliner Mike Green will be out two to three weeks with an upper-body injury and defenseman Kyle Quincey is out for at least a week undergoing concussion protocol. Brad Richards also remains on injured reserve with a back injury, in addition to Johan Franzen (concussion) and Pavel Datsyuk (ankle).

Detroit makes one lineup change up front, with Tomas Jurco replacing Landon Ferraro on the fourth line.

Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD+.

Pregame: Hurricanes @ Red Wings – 10/16

For the second weekend in a row, the Red Wings are looking at back-to-back games featuring a matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes. This time the Wings are hosting the Canes in the first game of the set.

Detroit will roll the same lineup as they used to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1 on Tuesday night. Forward Johan Franzen has been placed on short-term IR with the return of his concussion-like symptoms. Luke Glendening, after sitting out Thursday’s practice, is good to go. Neither Darren Helm nor Danny DeKeyser are ready to make their first appearance of the season, though both are possible for Saturday in Montreal.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal, marking the first time in the young season that the Red Wings go with the same goalie for consecutive games. Petr Mrazek will get consecutive starts in Montreal and Edmonton.

Stupid stat of the day: This marks the fifth time since 2000 that the Red Wings have faced the same team twice in the first four games of the season. It’s just the second time that it was not part of back-to-backs. The first was last year against Boston.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.