Red Wings Defenseman Kronwall Retires

Longtime Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall announced his retirement on Tuesday.

Via a video posted to the Red Wings’ social media accounts, Kronwall stated, “They say every journey has to come to an end.  Well, my journey as a player for the Detroit Red Wings ends here.”

Drafted by Detroit in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Kronwall spent his entire 953-game career with the Red Wings.  He specifically called attention to that in his announcement, thanking the Red Wings’ organization “for believing in me and giving me a chance to stay with the same organization throughout my whole career.  That’s something I always put a big price tag on and I can’t in words express how grateful I am for giving me that opportunity to keep myself and my family around.”

Reportedly the Columbus Blue Jackets had inquired into acquiring Kronwall as a trade deadline rental last season but then-Detroit General Manager Ken Holland didn’t even ask Kronwall if he would be interested, allowing him to close out his career with the team that drafted him.

Kronwall will move into a position in the team’s front office, as Advisor to the General Manager.

On the State of the Logjam

It feels like every offseason we talk about the logjam on the Red Wings’ blueline.  With Libor Sulak bolting the Griffins for the KHL on Tuesday and Jake Chelios doing the same last week, now’s a good time to take a look at where things stand in the Detroit organization.

Last season, the Red Wings came out of camp with the following 14 defensemen spread out between Detroit and Grand Rapids, excluding players signed to AHL deals:

Jake Chelios
Dennis Cholowski
Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser
Jonathan Ericsson
Mike Green
Joe Hicketts
Filip Hronek
Nick Jensen
Niklas Kronwall
Brian Lashoff
Dylan McIlrath
Vili Saarijarvi
Libor Sulak

There were also part-time defenseman Luke Witkowski and signed-but-assigned-to-Europe Gustav Lindstrom but I’m ignoring them for the purposes of this.

With everyone healthy, it made for a nice, even split of seven defensemen each for the Red Wings and the Griffins.  For most of the season, though, not everyone was healthy, leading to everyone on that list with the exception of Saarijarvi playing at least one game in Detroit.

As an aside, it drives me slightly nuts that the Red Wings brought up Chelios – who had no future in the organization even then – late in the season, rather than giving Saarijarvi a look.  In meaningless games, there’s no harm in giving an actual prospect minutes, even if you’re concerned he’s not quite ready.  McIlrath could be swapped for Chelios in this argument as well.

By the end of the season, Jensen was gone but Madison Bowey had joined the group, keeping the numbers the same.

Since then we’ve seen the addition of Finnish free agent Oliwer Kaski and the departures of Chelios and Sulak.  Not much of a difference.  What else could we see this summer?

The big name is Kronwall, whose contract is up this summer.  Ken Holland had stated that, should Kronwall want to return, there would be a spot for him.  Holland is in Edmonton and this is Steve Yzerman‘s team now, so does that offer still stand?  It feels like buzz about Kronwall returning for one more season has died down in the last several weeks.  Is that meaningful or is it just the nature of the news cycle?  My gut feeling is that Kronwall is done.

Hicketts is also something of a question mark.  He’s a restricted free agent so he has limited options but it’s possible he bolts for Europe, seeing few options in the Detroit organization.  I wouldn’t call it likely, though.

Then there are trade options.  Early “What Will Yzerman Do as GM?” stories pushed the possibility of trading Jonathan Ericsson or Trevor Daley before the start of the season.  While I’d like to see that, I think they have more value at the trade deadline and Yzerman will hold onto them until then.

On the flip side, there’s the question of whether or not Lindstrom will come over this season, adding a body back to the mix.  Gut feeling again…  I’m going to say he spends another season in Europe.  That could change if Ericsson or Daley are moved in the summer.

So coming out of camp next fall, that gives the Red Wings and Griffins something like the following:

Bowey
Cholowski
Daley
DeKeyser
Ericsson
Green
Hicketts
Hronek
Kaski
Lashoff
McIlrath
Saarijarvi

That’s still 12 names, so the logjam isn’t gone but there might be some room to work.

Let’s say Detroit starts with Bowey, Cholowski, Daley, DeKeyser, Ericsson, Green, and Hronek.  Bowey could be buried in GR but he can also be your seventh defenseman so we’ll assume he and Cholowski split time.

That puts Hicketts, Kaski, Lashoff, McIlrath, and Saarijarvi in Grand Rapids.  Maybe Kaski has a great camp and swaps out for Bowey…  Whatever.

The thing to see here is that, while the roster is still pretty packed, minutes in Grand Rapids have become available.  The ascension of Hronek and Cholowski, combined with the departures of Chelios and Sulak, means that Saarijarvi and Kaski (again, assuming he’s in GR) could have the opportunity for a decent amount of playing time to prove that they’re ready, which will be important if Daley, Ericsson, and/or Green are moved at the trade deadline.

Of course, it’s still early in the summer.  The Red Wings could make another Chelios-like signing to put a body (or bodies) in Grand Rapids, making those minutes harder to find.  Jared MacIssac could make the jump from juniors over the summer.  As of right now, though, there has been some movement on the logjam.

On Ken Holland Joining the Oilers

As I write this, former Red Wings’  General Manager and short-time Senior VP Ken Holland is being announced as the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers.

This news does not come as a surprise, having been broken over the weekend and rumored since Holland graciously stepped aside and allowed the Red Wings to hire Steve Yzerman in the role that used to be his.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Holland will be remembered in Detroit.  About what his legacy is.  About how we, as fans, should make sure we remember the good times.

Yes, Holland is due credit for his role in Detroit’s Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008 (and other accomplishments along the way).  He should also be accountable for Justin Abdelkader‘s contract and the trades for Kyle Quincey, David Legwand, and Erik Cole.  Don’t pick and choose the good or the bad, remember it all.

So I guess that’s my take on his departure.  Holland did great things for the Red Wings organization.  He also flamed out at the end and got fired for it, no matter how they worded it.  And now he’s going to an Edmonton team where a lot of the problems he’ll face are similar to the ones he’s leaving Yzerman with.

It’s not existential.  It’s not dramatic.  Holland was the face of the Red Wings’ business and that’s all this is: business.

Yzerman to Replace Holland as Red Wings GM

The Stevening is here: The Detroit Red Wings have announced a press conference to name former captain Steve Yzerman as the team’s general manager.

With Yzerman taking over as GM, Holland will be booted upstairs to a senior vice president role.  That said, it might be a temporary move.

Holland has long been rumored to be in the running for the GM role with expansion Seattle, and they had previously said they wanted to get someone in place this summer, so the timeline for that does fit.

I’ve said before, and I Tweeted it again this morning, that my concern with Yzeman coming in as GM is that he’s already a god in Detroit.  He seemingly has nothing left to accomplish.  I don’t want to see his legacy damaged if the Wings are still a lottery team in five years and he’s forced out.

Part of that fear is based on expectations for Yzerman and what he actually has the ability to do.

This is going to be Ken Holland’s team for a long time.  Holland will, at least until he’s named GM in Seattle, remain with the organization.  AGM Ryan Martin will remain.  Kris Draper will remain.  This is, for the most part, Yzerman stepping into a management team that already exists.  How much impact can he have in that environment?

Similarly, at least for the 2019-20 season, the Red Wings roster is relatively locked in.  The bad contracts to Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm aren’t going anywhere.  The best move this summer, no matter who the GM is, is to stand pat.

So the earliest Yzerman will be in a position to really shape this team will be at the trade deadline next February.  Even then, it will mostly be selling pending free agents like Mike Green, Trevor Daley, and Jonathan Ericsson.  In all likelihood, those potential trades bring back draft picks, which means the first players acquired via moves Yzerman makes won’t be known until the 2020 Entry Draft, over a year into his tenure as GM.

Maybe he’ll surprise me.  I don’t see it, though.

Post Trade-Deadline Thoughts

I tried to sum up my thoughts on what turned out to be the final Red Wings’ trade of this season’s deadline in my post about the trade of Gustav Nyquist to the San Jose Sharks, but I think there’s more to it than that.

I absolutely get playing the percentages.  I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.  It’s just that this team isn’t very good right now, it isn’t very fun to watch, and even their rebuild strategy is boring.

So, yeah, good deal, I’m just not going to get excited about it.

When Ken Holland spoke to the media after the trade deadline passed, he highlighted that there wasn’t a market for goalies, so he couldn’t move Jimmy Howard.  He wasn’t going to ask Niklas Kronwall to move out of respect for the veteran.  No one asked about Thomas Vanek and no one was willing to pay for Luke Glendening.

The general consensus reflects that.  The Red Wings did the best they could with what they had.

I think that’s the part that’s depressing to me.  Not that the Wings were sellers.  Not that the team is in a rebuild.  That they’re sellers with not much to sell, so they can’t get big pieces back for the rebuild.

Maybe Glendening on a cheaper contract or Darren Helm on a shorter one would have been moved but that’s not what the Wings have.  The trade deadline is hard to swallow because the team as constructed is not good and can’t even be sold for scrap.

Next year it might be different, with Mike Green and Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson all on expiring deals.  But that’s all we have as Wings fans now.  Wait for bad contracts to be burned off.  Watch what little the team can sell be moved for second and third round draft picks.  Hope that one of those picks hits.

Red Wings Deal Nyquist to Sharks

With under fifteen hours until the NHL’s trade deadline, Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger report via Twitter that the Red Wings have traded forward Gustav Nyquist to the San Jose Sharks.

The Red Wings later confirmed the deal.

The condition on the 2020 third-round pick is that it becomes a second-rounder if the Sharks make the Stanley Cup Finals this season or if Nyquist re-signs with San Jose this summer.  Additionally, the Red Wings are retaining 30% of Nyquist’s salary this season.

My thoughts…

The salary retention is nothing so I’m not worried about that.  The Wings have the cap space for the rest of the season, they might as well use it.

The conditions on the 2020 pick I like, simply because usually you’d see one or the other and Ken Holland got both put in there.  I’m not sure I see these Sharks making the Finals and I’m not sure I see them re-signing Nyquist so it probably doesn’t matter, though.

Overall, though?  Based on other forward deals, it’s hard to argue that Nyquist should have gone for more.  That said, I’m kind of tired of Detroit’s strategy being to collect 100 second and third rounders and hoping to hit on some of them.

I absolutely get playing the percentages.  I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.  It’s just that this team isn’t very good right now, it isn’t very fun to watch, and even their rebuild strategy is boring.

So, yeah, good deal, I’m just not going to get excited about it.

Red Wings Deal Jensen to Caps for Bowey, Second-Round Pick

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger via Twitter, the Red Wings have traded defenseman Nick Jensen to the Washington Capitals along with a fifth-round pick for defenseman Madison Bowey and a second-round pick.

I admit that I don’t know much about Bowey, aside from him being a 23-year-old defenseman.  His million-dollar salary cap hit comes in higher than Jensen’s but the Wings have the room to make that work.

I like that Ken Holland was able to get a player who has some NHL experience but it still younger and might have some upside.  That said, another defenseman coming back the other way for Jensen doesn’t help the blueline logjam in Detroit.

It’s possible that Bowey is just a body coming back to clear a roster spot for Washington.  His salary can almost be buried in Grand Rapids.  That, to me, is less than ideal as the organizational logjam already extends to the Griffins.  His deal is a one-way deal, though, so that doesn’t seem likely.

That said, the second-round pick in 2020 is worth it, to me.  I like that Holland got the second rounder and I like that he pushed it out to 2020.  Already having ten picks in 2019 (though one of their three fifth rounders heads to Washington in this deal), I’d rather see the Wings stock up for the next draft out.  Especially if it was the choice between a higher pick in 2020 than in 2019 (which I have no evidence of it being, it’s just been suggested in the past.).

However Bowey plays out, I like the deal.  The Wings get younger and get a decent pick.

Yzerman Steps Down as Tampa GM

Okay, I wasn’t going to even post about this as it’s only Red Wings news if you immediately jump into rumor-mongering, but if you interpret the tea leaves in just the right way, it’s very big news for Detroit.  So here we go…

Of course, if Yzerman is leaving Tampa then he has to be coming to Detroit, right? And HSJ confirms this for us.

But that wording is… Peculiar. So let’s go back to Joe Smith on that take.

Okay, that’s a little bit more clear.

What we know is that Yzerman is stepping down as GM of the Lightning.  We know he has a house and family in Detroit.  It sounds like he’s coming back to that house.

It sounds like he’s going to spend the remaining year of his contract as an adviser to the Lightning.  Which he can do from Michigan, of course.

In the meantime, Detroit has GM Ken Holland signed for two more seasons.  He could always be fired or moved into another position and just get paid to go away, so that contract doesn’t mean too much.  It is worth noting, though, that Holland refused to step aside and allow Yzerman to take over his role back in 2010, leading to Yzerman leaving for Tampa.

Aside from the rumors that have existed since Yzerman first left the Wings that he would one day return to lead the team again, we have no evidence that

The big question for me is timing.  I can understand Yzerman leaving the Lightning.  I can even understand him leaving the Lightning for the Red Wings.  I can’t understand why the eve of training camp is when he would choose to do it.

Then there’s this…

I was already concerned that this isn’t a professional move and that his return to Detroit is for personal reasons.  Pure conjecture on my part.  But that the GM community is surprised by this might lend credence to the idea.

The press conference announcing the move is at 4:00 PM today, so maybe we’ll know more then.

Thoughts on Day One of Free Agency: 2018 Edition

I actually said most of what I wanted to say about the Red Wings’ efforts on the first day of the 2018 free agency period earlier in the day, but I want to highlight a bit of an unintentional rant on Twitter.

I feel like that rant could have come from any offseason since about 2013.

Every spring when the Wings go their separate ways, we hear from Ken Holland about how they’re going to give “the kids” a shot in the fall.  Every summer the team goes out and fills their open roster spots with veterans.  Then we hear that all the kids have to do is beat out the veterans.

Michael Rasmussen was the Wings’ best player in the preseason last year and didn’t even get his nine-game look during the regular season.  He was sent straight back to juniors.  I’m not saying he was definitely ready for the NHL, I’m just saying he earned a look that he didn’t get because there wasn’t a spot for him.

So lets look at the Wings’ roster.  These were their lines heading into the final game of last season, per Winging it in Motown:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Darren Helm
David Booth – Frans Nielsen – Justin Abdelkader
Luke WitkowskiAndreas AthanasiouMartin Frk

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – Xavier Ouellet
Niklas Kronwall – Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard
Jared Coreau

Okay, now lets look at it with the players who have departed the Wings removed:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Darren Helm
<open> – Frans Nielsen – Justin Abdelkader
Luke Witkowski – Andreas Athanasiou – Martin Frk

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – <open>
Niklas Kronwall – Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard
<open>

So that’s one open spot up front, one on the blueline, and the backup goalie job.  And who did the Red Wings sign (or re-sign) today?  A forward, a defenseman, and a goalie.

That leaves the lines looking like this:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik Zetterberg – Gustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Darren Helm
Thomas Vanek – Frans Nielsen – Justin Abdelkader
Luke Witkowski – Andreas Athanasiou – Martin Frk

Jonathan Ericsson – Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – Mike Green
Niklas Kronwall – Nick Jensen

Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Bernier

That’s a full lineup.  I don’t think it’s their best possible lineup, though.  Let’s assume that Frk and Jensen are either gone or in the press box.  We’ll do the same for Witkowski, even though I highly doubt he’s going anywhere.

Tyler Bertuzzi – Henrik Zetterberg – Gustav Nyquist
Anthony Mantha – Dylan Larkin – Filip Zadina
Thomas Vanek – Frans Nielsen – Michael Rasmussen
Darren Helm – Andreas Athanasiou – Justin Abdelkader

Jonathan Ericsson – Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser – Mike Green
Niklas Kronwall – Filip Hronek

Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Bernier

That’s getting a little better.  But where is Joe HickettsDennis CholowskiEvgeny Svechnikov?

Also, that only removes the players who I deemed most expendable from the Wings’ roster.  What if Svechnikov outplays Nyquist or Vanek this fall?  What if Cholowski is better than Ericsson or DeKeyser?  Do we really see any of those vets sitting in favor of the kids?  Of course not.

So Detroit’s lineup is relatively set.  At best, one of the kids is going to make the Wings’ blueline, because it makes no sense for them to be up as the seventh defenseman.  I’ll say it’s Hronek.  What does that mean for the Griffins?

Here are the defensemen who were dressed for the Griffins’ season-ending loss to the Manitoba Moose in Game Five of their first-round series:

Joe Hicketts
Robbie Russo
Filip Hronek
Brian Lashoff
Dan Renouf
Dylan McIlrath

Since then, the Wings have sent Russo to the Arizona Coyotes and let Renouf walk.  We’re also assuming Hronek makes the Detroit lineup, so that’s three open spots.

Well, it was three open spots.  Detroit signed Jake Chelios, today, so we’re back down to two spots for Vili Saarijarvi, Libor Sulak, and Dennis Cholowski.  Or the Griffins could just roll seven defensemen, as they reluctantly did for part of last season, all the while admitting it was less than ideal.

The bottom line is if the Red Wings actually want to have spots available for Svechnikov or David Pope or Dominic Turgeon or Saarijarvi or Cholowski, they’re going to have to move players out of the way.

Ken Holland has never proven able or willing to do this.  He’s proven content to wait for injuries, which haven’t always happened.  He wouldn’t have to hope for that without some of today’s signings.

Red Wings Announce Bylsma as Assistant Coach

The Red Wings made official on Friday something that had been rumored for weeks: The hiring of former Penguins and Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma as head coach.

It seemed somewhat inevitable once the Red Wings cut ties with John Torchetti that Grand Haven-native Bylsma would come to Detroit if he couldn’t land a head coaching gig.

I like the move.  That’s partially because every time the Wings’ coaching staff has an opening I worry that they’ll just bring in a former Red Wing who doesn’t have any coaching experience.  It’s also because this gives Detroit a clear backup plan if the team struggles under Jeff Blashill this season.

Coaching isn’t like goaltending, where you might bring in a veteran to backup a struggling younger player to light a fire under him.  Blashill isn’t going to become a better coach just because Bylsma is waiting in the wings (though he might by learning from Bylsma, which is a whole other thing).  But if the Red Wings don’t turn things around and if management decides it’s time to move on from Blasill, Bylsma isn’t a bad option to turn to when that comes.