Thoughts on Day One of Free Agency

Sigh.  Okay, I guess we’re doing this.

Day One of the 2017 Free Agent Season is in the books (or at least as far as the Red Wings are considered).  Detroit general manager Ken Holland called it “a great day for the Red Wings.”  Lets take a look at what the team did and didn’t do.

Trevor Daley

The big – and most-expected – signing for Detroit was veteran defenseman Trevor Daley.  It’s a three-year deal for $9.5 million with a no-trade clause that scales back in the third year.

I don’t love it.  I wish the Wings were just going with the kids for a bit and seeing where it takes them.  That said, I don’t hate it, either.  By all accounts, Daley will be a great mentor for some of those kids and, assuming Mike Green is dealt at the deadline next year, the lost roster spot will only be for half a season.  The contract is much better than I was expecting.

It says something when a resounding “meh” is the most you can say for the best signing of the day.

Luke Witkowski

The other deal the Wings closed immediately upon the opening of free agency was to bring in Tampa Bay defenseman Luke Witkowski.

This is the guy who broke Anthony Mantha‘s hand in a stupid fight near the end of the season.  I see no reason to bring a guy like him in.

The deal is for $750,000, which can be completely buried in the AHL.  But we said that about Steve Ott‘s deal at this time last summer and he saw zero minutes in Grand Rapids so don’t count on it.

If the Wings were looking for a big, tough, young defenseman, they had Dylan McIlrath in Grand Rapids already.  If they wanted that from a forward, where they supposedly are ready to shift Witkowski, then they had Tyler Bertuzzi.  This signing was completely unnecessary.

I feel like this is also part of a “grass is greener” issue with the Wings’ front office.  Too many times of late they’ve brought in someone else’s marginal player rather than give their own marginal player a shot.  Which is funny because if someone lasts long enough to become a veteran in the Detroit system, Holland will bring them back repeatedly.  See Darren Helm, Daniel Cleary, Kyle Quincey.

Tom McCollum

Speaking of bringing someone back, the Wings traded for goalie Tom McCollum, one year after letting him walk from the Griffins as a free agent.  I guess this makes McCollum and Matej Machovsky the tandem in Grand Rapids after the Wings find a way to unload Petr Mrazek.

Turner Elson

In another Grand Rapids move, the Wings signed Turner Elson out of the Colorado organization.  He’s a center, so I suppose he somewhat makes up for the loss of Tomas Nosek to the Vegas Golden Knights via expansion.  Or he makes up for any of the other minor leaguers getting shuffled around this summer…

Kyle Criscuolo

… such as the Griffins losing Kyle Criscuolo to the Sabres.  It’s always tough to see big pieces of a championship team depart.  He had an AHL-only deal with Grand Rapids and now he gets a two-way deal with Buffalo so he’s moving up in the world.

Mitch Callahan

Moving up or moving home is Mitch Callahan.  He signed with the Edmonton Oilers and will either get the shot with them that he never really got in Detroit or will get to play closer to home, as the Oilers’ AHL affiliate is the Bakersfield Condors, who play just a couple hours from Callahan’s hometown of Wittier, CA.

Eddie Pasquale

Joining Callahan in the Edmonton organization is goalie Eddie Pasquale, who spent only a season with the Griffins.  As mentioned above, the Griffins seem to have their tandem set, but that’s a lot of turnover at goaltender through the organization.

Matt Caito

The Griffins also lost Matt Caito to the Iowa Wild.  Caito spent most of the season with ECHL Toledo so I don’t think we can call this a big loss.


So the Wings got the defenseman they wanted but who might not be able to help them much at a price that was acceptable.  They added a guy they definitely didn’t need, and they swapped some players around at the AHL level.

Are they better than they were yesterday?  Probably.  Are they good enough to make the playoffs?  Probably not.  And the Griffins are probably worse than they were when they won the Calder Cup.

The Alternate Wings All-Stars

I was talking expansion draft with Michael Petrella, of the now-defunct Production Line blog, yesterday and we got on the topic of draft picks that the Red Wings have traded away.

Many of those picks were used to select players that were never heard from again but some were used to grab some guys who the Wings probably wish they could have gotten.

I went back through the last twenty years of traded Red Wings draft picks – players who could have landed in Detroit – and I give you the Alternate Wings All-Stars.

Forwards

Patrick Sharp
With 277 goals and 322 assists in 869 career NHL games, Sharp is easily the most productive player selected with a traded Detroit draft pick in the last twenty years.  Sharp was picked in the third round, 95th overall, by the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Wings traded that pick to Nashville on June 24, 2000, for a 4th-round pick in the 2000 Entry Draft, which they used to select Stefan Liv at 102nd overall.  The Predators later flipped the pick to Philadelphia for defenseman Mark Eaton.

Alexei Ponikarovsky
Ponikarovsky was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fourth round of the 1998 Entry Draft, 87th overall, with the pick the Leafs acquired from Detroit on March 24, 1998, in return for Jamie Macoun.  Macoun would with a Cup with Detroit that spring and play one more season with them before retiring.  Ponikarovski would go on to score 139 goals and 184 assists in a 12-year NHL career spent mostly with Toronto.

Mike Comrie
Coming out of the University of Michigan, Comrie was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the third round, 91st overall, of the 1999 Entry Draft.  The Oilers got that pick from the Nashville Predators in return for defenseman Craig Millar.  Nashville got it on July 14, 1998, as part of the package that returned Doug Brown to the Red Wings after the Predators claimed him in the expansion draft.  In a 589-game NHL career split across six teams, Comrie would score 168 goals and add 197 assists.

Defensemen

Mike Green
Now a Red Wing via free agency, Detroit gave up the chance to pick Green when they sent their first-round pick in the 2004 Entry Draft (29th overall) to the Washington Capitals in the deal for Robert Lang.  Green went on to score 113 goals and 247 assists in ten years with the Capitals, driving their power play.  He’s added 21 goals and 50 assists in two seasons since coming to Detroit.

Steve McCarthy
Never a flashy player, McCarthy nonetheless appeared in 302 career NHL games over a nine-season career split between the Chicago Blackhawks, Vancouver Canucks, and Atlanta Thrashers.  McCarthy came into the league via Detroit’s first-round pick in the 1999 Entry Draft, 23rd overall.  That pick was acquired by the Blackhawks along with a first-rounder in 2001 and Anders Eriksson for Chris Chelios on March 23, 1999.  Chelios would play 578 games with the Red Wings over ten seasons.

Honorable Mention – Jakub Chychrun
Chychrun, a top prospect heading into the 2016 Entry Draft, slid down to Detroit’s spot at 16th overall before the Red Wings traded that pick and Pavel Datsyuk‘s salary cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes for the 20th and 53rd overall picks.  If he lives up to expectations, he could easily replace McCarthy on this list.

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilevskiy
Newly-annointed starter for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Vasilevskiy has appeared in 90 NHL games, compiling a 2.60 GAA and a .915 save percentage.  The Lighting acquired him with the first-round draft pick in the 2012 Entry Draft (19th overall) that they got from Detroit in return for Kyle Quincey.

Kyle Quincey All-Stars Stay at Seven

Emergency call-up Ben Street did not play for the Red Wings in Montreal last night.  The mystery forward Street was called up to replace (probably Frans Nielsen) was able to play and Street was sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins.  With that, Street’s chance to become the eighth member of the Kyle Quincey All-Stars passed, at least for now.

As I Tweeted yesterday, the Kyle Quincey All-Stars is my name for the players who have played for both the Red Wings and the onetime-bitter-rival Colorado Avalanche.

Quincey is perhaps the most famous of the set, starting his career in Detroit before going to the Los Angeles Kings via waivers in 2008, then moving on to Colorado via trade in 2009.  In 2012 the Red Wings brought him back via the Tampa Bay Lightning, averting what would have been the first trade between the two teams.

The first member of the group was the infamous Uwe Krupp.  Signed as a free agent by the Red Wings from the Avalanche in 1998, Krupp played just 22 games of the 1998-99 season before suffering a back injury that (after being re-injured) kept him out until the 2001-02 season, when he played eight more games.

Todd Gill was the first player to go from Detroit to Colorado.  After parts of three seasons with the Red Wings, he signed with the Avalanche in 2001.

With just four games played in Colorado and eight in Detroit, Anders Myrvold is the shortest-tenured member of the group.  He broke into the NHL with the Avalanche during their inaugural season of 1995-96, then bounced around quite a bit before coming to the Red Wings’ organization for the 2003-04 campaign.

Brad May played 64 games for the Avalanche across parts of two seasons before being traded to Anaheim in 2007 for a goalie who never played in Colorado.  Anaheim traded him to Toronto in January 2009 for future considerations, then the Red Wings signed him as a free agent at the start of the 2009-10 season and he played 40 games with the team before being sent down to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

May was followed by fellow Number 24 Ruslan Salei.  After parts of three seasons with Colorado, Salei signed a one-year deal with Detroit for the 2010-11 season and played 75 games before fatefully signing with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv of the KHL.

Brad Stuart is the most recent addition to the group.  With the Red Wings for parts of five seasons, including a Stanley Cup in his first year, Stuart returned to the San Jose Sharks in 2012 for family reasons.  After two years there, the Sharks dealt him to Colorado, where he played just 61 games across two seasons.

Of course, there’s a whole subset of players who were property of one of the teams but never actually played a game for them.  The Darryl Bootlands and Tomas Fleischmanns.  For now, Street remains in that group.

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 Jersey Number Updates

The Red Wings revealed a set of new jersey numbers via Twitter earlier today.

Steve Ott had previously Tweeted he would take the #29 that had briefly been assigned to Dylan Sadowy and was worn by Landon Ferraro before he was waived and claimed by the Boston Bruins.

With it available, it comes as no surprise that Frans Nielsen takes the #51 he wore with the New York Islanders.

As Tomas Jurco has the #26 he usually wears, I’d expected Thomas Vanek to take the #27 made available by the departure of Kyle Quincey.  Instead he flips the number and takes #62.  He’ll be the first Red Wing to ever wear that number.

I’d thought that Alexey Marchenko might see a new number this year to represent his solidified roster spot.  While I thought he’d get the #4 formerly worn by Jakub Kindl, instead he went the opposite direction and took the #53 he’s been wearing internationally.

The #4 ended up going to Teemu Pulkkinen, switching from #56.  I’m on the record as disliking forwards wearing numbers that low.  He becomes the first forward to wear #4 for the Red Wings since Colin Campbell in 1985.

Just Don’t Screw It Up

Ever since Steven Stamkos decided to stay in Tampa Bay without even giving Detroit general manager Ken Holland the chance to make a pitch to him, I can only think one thing.

“Just don’t screw it up.”

The lone superstar is off the board and I can’t shake the feeling that the Red Wings are going to do something stupid when free agency opens on Friday at noon.

Unable to get a first line center, they’ll throw money at a fourth-line winger.  Having lost the ability to sign a player in his mid-twenties to a long-term deal, they’ll give six years to someone on the wrong side of thirty.

At this point, the longest contract Ken Holland should be offering is three years.  Much like he did when signing Mike Green last summer, he’ll probably have to overpay, but a short term mitigates that.

I think we’ll see some long-term deals for guys like Kyle Okposo and Franz Nielsen, though.  There’s too shallow of a pool of talent available and too many teams wading through it.

If that’s the case, the Wings should just stay out.  No one available is going to put them over the top.  This team needs too much work to tie up future resources on any of the players they could get tomorrow.

That includes signing their own guys.  Don’t overpay to bring back Darren Helm just because you couldn’t find anyone else.  Don’t throw money at Kyle Quincey because – once again – there was no other move to make on defense.

I don’t expect this, though.  I expect Holland to sign bottom-six guys who he’ll say can play up into the top six, except on this team they’ll be required to.  I hope I’m wrong.

Trade Deadline Thoughts

The National Hockey League’s 2016 trade deadline came and went on Monday with the Red Wings refraining from making a move. For the most part, I’m okay with that.

Saturday’s trade of Jakub Kindl to the Florida Panthers for a sixth-round draft pick was a great move. GM Ken Holland unloaded the salary of a player who would probably never play for the Red Wings again and actually got an asset in return.

Kindl became expendable with the emergence of Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet, both of whom had passed Kindl on the Red Wings’ depth chart and both of whom will have to clear waivers to be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins next season.

Assuming Kyle Quincey is not re-signed this summer, there will be room on the Detroit roster in 2016-17 for both Marchenko and Ouellet – but not Nick Jensen, who has yet to get a real look at the NHL level (he was a healthy scratch during his call-up earlier this season).

So the Kindl move makes sense on several levels. From there the Red Wings could decide to either load up for a playoff run, as they traditionally do, sell off any additional parts, which they rarely do, or stand pat.

Unless an exceptional deal to add a piece came along, I’d have liked to see them deal away Brendan Smith. His name came up as a player who would be available at the deadline, often compared to Kris Russell. With Russell fetching Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock, and a conditional second round pick, I’m really curious as to what Holland turned down for Smith, assuming anyone called. Smith has seemingly been demoted to being the Red Wings’ seventh defenseman and $2.25 million is too much to pay for someone who’s in the pressbox most nights.

I’m sure Holland thinks he can keep Smith for the run to the playoffs and then deal him at the draft but I’m not sure the market will be as favorable then.

I didn’t want to see the Red Wings load up without an exceptional deal because, frankly, this team is too many missing pieces from being a Stanley Cup contender. It’s possible they ride Petr Mrazek to an extended playoff run but without that, they’re not going to go far. It would have taken something like a trade for Eric Staal, combined with Staal returning to his early-career form, to be enough. Looking at the players traded on Monday, none of the, would have been enough on his own.

Red Wings Waive Kindl

The Detroit Red Wings waived defenseman Jakub Kindl on Saturday.

With Kyle Quincey returning from injury for Detroit’s Sunday matchup with the Anaheim Ducks, the Red Wings’ roster would have had been at eight defenseman, a position general manager Ken Holland said the team would not accommodate.

Alternatively, the Red Wings could have returned Alexey Marchenko to the Griffins. Marchenko would not require waivers but has seemingly passed both Kindl and Brendan Smith on the team’s depth chart.

Kindl will have until noon on Sunday to be claimed by another team. Should he clear waivers, he will be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Kindl, 28, was Detroit’s first-round draft pick (19th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In 23 games this season, he has 2 goals and three assists in a third-pairing role.

Defenseman Quincey to Have Surgery

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland announced that defenseman Kyle Quincey will have surgery on his ankle this weekend.

He is expected to miss six weeks recovering from the procedure.

Quincey, 30, played in the Red Wings’ first seven games of the season before taking a hit to the head from Calgary’s Sam Bennett. He hasn’t been on the ice since October 23. While he passed concussion protocol, his ankle issue became severe enough that surgery is required.

In May, Quincey had surgery on his left ankle to remove bone spurs. A similar issue was discovered with his right ankle during training camp but he had been playing through it.

With Quincey out, defenseman Alexey Marchenko is likely to remain with the Red Wings, though the team may choose to give Xavier Ouellet and/or Nick Jensen a look as well.

Pregame: Stars @ Red Wings – 11/8

The Red Wings get one player back and possibly lose another on Sunday as they host the Western Conference leading Dallas Stars.

Defenseman Mike Green will make his return from injury, presumably replacing Alexey Marchenko in the lineup. Up front, with Landon Ferraro (among others) banged up, Andreas Athanasiou has been called up to make his NHL debut.

Kyle Quincey (ankle) was placed on injured reserve to make room for Athanasiou on the roster.

The mid-afternoon start means no morning skate for Detroit. Head coach Jeff Blashill said that the team’s roster would be determined after pre-game warmups. Jimmy Howard is the presumed starting goalie.

Stupid stat of the day: Since the 2005 NHL lockout, the Red Wings are 6-3-1 in games played at Joe Louis Arena starting at 3:00 PM.

Game time is 3:00 PM on FSD.