Red Wings Name DeKeyser, Staal as Alternate Captains

The Red Wings announced on Wednesday that defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Marc Staal will serve as the team’s alternate captains for the coming season.

They join returning captain Dylan Larkin, who will wear the C for Detroit for his second season.

The pair take over for Frans Nielsen and Luke Glendening.  Nielsen was bought out by the team over the summer and Glendening departed as a free agent for the Dallas Stars.

As I wrote on Sunday, DeKeyser and Staal wore the A for all three of their preseason games and were two of four players that appeared to be in the running to get the alternate captain designations for the 2021-22 campaign.  The other two players were Sam Gagner and Robby Fabbri.

It will mark the first time in over forty years that two defensemen have been assigned letters for the Red Wings.

Red Wings Alternate Captaincy Watch

With the Red Wings’ exhibition schedule wrapping up in Buffalo today, we may not yet know what their opening night roster will look like but we do have some data to work with towards guessing who the team’s new alternate captains might be.

With the offseason departures of Luke Glendening and Frans Nielsen, both of Detroit’s alternate captain slots opened up.  The expectation was that the team wouldn’t announce replacements until opening night against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday but it would be a surprise if someone who didn’t wear an A all preseason were handed one to start the regular season.

Nine players dressed as alternates at least once over the Wings’ eight preseason games: Adam Erne, Filip Hronek, Vladislav Namestnikov, Robby Fabbri, Sam Gagner, Nick Leddy, Danny DeKeyser, Marc Staal, and Troy Stetcher.

There doesn’t appear to have been any kind of rotation among those players, where some wore the A for home games and other for road games.  As such, I think we can limit the potential new alternates to players who wore a letter for every preseason game in which they appeared.

That removes Leddy, Hronek, Stetcher, Erne, and Namestnikov from the list.

Fabbri wore the A for all three exhibition contests in which he appeared, as did Staal and DeKeyser.  Gagner was an alternate in all four of his games played.

I think this shows that Detroit’s new alternate captains will be some combination of those four players.

I’m already on the record as thinking that Gagner and DeKeyser will be the new alternates and I hadn’t considered Fabbri at all but I admit that I kind of love the idea of number 14 wearing the A for Detroit again, for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else.

Red Wings to Buy Out Nielsen

Per CapFriendly, the Detroit Red Wings have opted to use their second buyout window to buy out the final year of forward Frans Nielsen‘s contract.

The Wings have no use for Nielsen going forward, so to that extent is makes sense to just cut him loose now. That said, the team isn’t exactly hurting for cap space, so I’m not sure what the benefit is to spreading the cost of a buyout over two seasons rather than just burying him in Grand Rapids and eating the cap hit all in one year.

Of course, it could be just that I’m a lot more willing to dump guys in GR than Steve Yzerman is. I would have done that with Nielsen and with Justin Abdelkader last summer (at least for one more year). It seems like Yzerman might be doing the “honorable” thing and not forcing veterans to ride the bus in the AHL.

Either way, Nielsen is gone at little future cost to the Wings, with a roster spot cleared up.

This also means that, combined with the departure of Luke Glendening as a free agent, both of the alternate captains from Dylan Larkin‘s first year wearing the C for Detroit are gone.  My guess is that Sam Gagner and Danny DeKeyser will each wear an A next season.

Red Wings Extend Gagner for One Year

Just before NHL free agency opened on Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of veteran center Sam Gagner to a one-year contract extension.

Financial terms were not announced but the deal is reportedly worth $850,000.

Of the Red Wings’ three pending unrestricted free agent veteran forwards, Gagner was the one who made the most sense to me to re-sign.

Luke Glendening seems likely to sign a contract for more money and/or more term than I think the Wings should pay.  Bobby Ryan may be in the same situation, with an added negative of being a winger when the Red Wings seemingly needed to focus on center depth.

Post Trade Deadline Thoughts

I started mentally putting this post together just as today’s NHL trade deadline passed but held off on actually writing it for a little bit, knowing how trades often aren’t announced until well after the actual deadline.

That was somewhat fortuitous, given that the Red Wings’ biggest deadline deal wasn’t officially announced until 45 minutes post-deadline, when the team confirmed that Anthony Mantha had been traded to the Washington Capitals for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first-round pick this year, and a second-round pick next year.

As I said in my write-up of the deal, I can’t stand Panik.  I hope he’s made available in the expansion draft and, for some reason, the Kraken take him and his contract.  But I’m curious about Vrana in a top-line role with this team.  I also think the Wings’ rebuild probably won’t work with third and fourth round picks alone so getting the first and second from Washington is important.

Detroit’s previous deals were to send Jon Merrill to the Montreal Canadiens, Patrik Nemeth to the Colorado Avalanche, and to help facilitate the Columbus Blue Jackets’ trade of David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  These were all players on expiring contracts or just salary cap space and, while fourth and fifth rounders aren’t sexy (and, as I said, probably aren’t enough on their own to facilitate a rebuild), they’re essentially free picks and you take those every time.

It’s the deals that didn’t happen that bother me about this deadline, as they have with every deadline since the Red Wings became sellers.

For years we’ve been told to just wait for some of Detroit’s players to hit the final year of their contracts and we’d see them flipped at the deadline.  Mike Green, Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson.  Of them, only Green netted anything, and that was on his second expiring contract with Detroit after everyone passed the first time around due to him being injured.

This year was supposed to be the year for flipping vets for picks.  Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill, Patrik Nemeth, Marc Staal, Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Jonathan Bernier.  All on expiring deals.  But then, like Green before him, Ryan got hurt.  Like Howard, no market developed for Bernier.  Merrill and Nemeth were moved but no one called on the league’s leading faceoff man in Glendening, playoff performer Helm, or versatile veteran Gagner.

As I said in 2019, “I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.”  If there wasn’t a trade to be made, then there wasn’t a trade to be made, and that’s that.  But as I also said then, “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.”

The Red Wings sold Mantha because he was the only piece anyone wanted, much like when they moved Tomas Tatar in 2018.  Both the Mantha and Tatar deals were good deals but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to look at the big picture and think it wasn’t enough.

Especially when, back in the final years of the Red Wings’ playoff streak, a Glendening or Helm or Gagner or Staal is exactly the kind of player then-GM Ken Holland would have paid a hefty price to acquire for a postseason push.  Is Staal really that different from Marek Zidlicky or Gagner that different from Erik Cole?  Squinting a little, are Glendening or Helm that far off from the David Legwand the Red Wings acquired (rather than the one he had been for years up to that point)?

Nine years ago, Paul freakin’ Gaustad fetched a first-rounder when he was sent from the Sabres to the Predators.  Now no one wants Glendening.  And you know what?  That’s smart.  Gaustad never was worth that much and Glendening isn’t, either.  But it’s hard to see buyers giving up that much when the Red Wings were buyers but now that the Wings are sellers, the market has changed.

Blame the flat cap, blame Detroit just not having good enough players to sell.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t make it easy to see.

Red Wings Acquire Fourth-Round Pick in Three Team Trade

The Detroit Red Wings acquired a fourth-round pick in a three team trade on Saturday, acting as a middle-man to retain salary on behalf of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Detroit effectively gave up Brian Lashoff and $1 million of salary cap space for Tampa Bay’s fourth-rounder in 2021.

However, even that is somewhat overstated, as Lashoff was immediately re-assigned by the Lightning back to the Grand Rapids Griffins.  As such, he remains with the Detroit organization but cannot be called up to the Red Wings.

This is Detroit’s second retained-salary transaction in as many days.  They retained half of Patrik Nemeth‘s salary when trading him to the Colorado Avalanche.

Given that teams can only have three players with retained salary on the books, this seems to limit the Red Wings’ options heading into the trade deadline, as they’ll only be able to do that once more.

I think this means that there isn’t much of a market for Detroit’s trade chips, as the Red Wings would almost certainly need to retain salary to move Jonathan Bernier, Marc Staal, or maybe even Luke Glendening.

Red Wings Announce Larkin as Captain

The long-expected announcement of Dylan Larkin as the next captain of the Detroit Red Wings came Wednesday morning.

The Red Wings had been without a captain since Henrik Zetterberg was forced to stop playing due to a back injury at the start of the 2018-19 season.  The two season gap is the longest the Red Wings had gone without a named captain in their history.

Via press release, the team confirmed that Luke Glendening and Frans Nielsen will be Larkin’s alternates.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle

On the Red Wings 2020-21 Lineup

The 2020-21 season is, at best, about 12 weeks away.  With Detroit GM Steve Yzerman‘s signings over the last couple days, though, we can get a look at what the Red Wings’ lineup might look like.

I’ve touched on this as players were signed but want to pull it all together and take a full look at it here.

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip ZadinaVladislav NamestnikovRobby Fabbri
Dmytro TimashovSam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

Danny DeKeyserFilip Hronek
Patrik NemethTroy Stecher
Marc StaalJon Merrill
Alex Biega

Jonathan Bernier
Thomas Greiss

I think that lineup is an upgrade over the one they iced on opening night a year ago.  The question is, how much better?  Playoff contention better?  Or just “not the worst team in the league by far” better?  Probably somewhere in between.

There are a few players missing here, which could be a problem.

Evgeny Svechnikov doesn’t have a roster spot.  Given that he’s on a one-year deal and isn’t waiver exempt anymore, he kind of needs one and a final chance to prove himself.

Maybe Filip Zadina stays in Czechia and Bobby Ryan moves up a line and Svechnikov slots in where Ryan was.  Maybe Tyler Bertuzzi goes to arbitration and that opens up a new buyout window for the Wings, and Frans Nielsen gets bought out, opening up a spot for Svechnikov.  There’s been interest in Luke Glendening in the past; maybe the Wings move on that sooner rather than later, Helm or Filppula move to centering the fourth line, and Svechnikov slots in there.

Similarly, there’s not a spot on defense for Moritz Seider, Gustav Lindstrom, or Dennis Cholowski.  I don’t see how Seider and Lindstrom aren’t in Europe for the duration of the season but that doesn’t help Cholowski.  If the AHL actually has a season, I think we’ll see Cholowski with the Griffins, getting a lot of minutes.  If the AHL can’t go, we’ll have to see how the NHL adapts before guessing what happens with Cholowski.

Of course, depending on what the NHL schedule looks like, the trade deadline could come around the end of the season for the European leagues, so Detroit could sell at the deadline and then fill their roster spots with players coming back over.  There are a lot of questions to answer with how the season will work, first.


Update, October 12, 11:30 AM: There is an option with regards to Nielsen that I failed to note above.  The Red Wings don’t need to clear his cap space or his spot on the 50-man Reserve List; he could just be waived and assigned to the Griffins (or somewhere else).  With buyouts on the brain, somehow I missed that.

They’d be paying him a lot of money to play in the AHL but it might serve a dual purpose.  Depending on what happens with the AHL season and the various European leagues, the Red Wings might have players who would otherwise be filling roster spots in GR instead playing overseas.  By sending Nielsen down, they’d get the Griffins a body that they’d otherwise have to sign.


Jersey Geek Guessing Game Recap

Every player the Red Wings acquired via free agency previously wore a number that is currently assigned to a Detroit player or prospect.  Here are my guesses as to how each player’s number will work out with the Wings.

Bobby Ryan has worn #9 for much of his career, aside from #6 for a few years in Ottawa when #9 was taken and #54 as a rookie in Anaheim (and in some international tournaments).  Of course, #9 is retired in Detroit and #6 is out of circulation.  He said he’d like #17 because he was a Brett Hull fan, or #12,  but #17 belongs to Filip Hronek and #12 is retired as well.  My guess is that Ryan either pries #17 from Hronek (perhaps Hronek switches to the #79 he wore in his youth) or he goes back to #54.  Longshot option: He gets Hull’s number but it’s not the #17 he wore in Detroit, rather the #16 he wore elsewhere, with the Red Wings deciding it’s time to stop keeping it out of circulation.

Jon Merrill wore #15 for three years with the Vegas Golden Knights and #7 for much of his time prior to that with the New Jersey Devils.  Dmytro Timashov currently has #15 and #7 is retired.  I could see Timashov switching to the #88 he wore before coming to the NHL, which would open up #15 for Merrill, or I could see Merrill wearing the #24 he wore at Michigan, taking it from prospect Antti Tuomisto.

Thomas Greiss has worn #1 for his entire NHL career but it’s retired in Detroit.  It’s hard to tell if there’s a different number he prefers.  By keeping #30 and #33 out of circulation, the Red Wings make it hard to work with traditional goalie numbers.  I’m guessing they’ll hold off on assigning #35 for a bit but if they don’t, Greiss could take that.  They could make #30 available again and give him that.  They could take numbers from any of the goalie prospects.  He could go non-traditional with #60 or #80 or something.  If they don’t do any of those things, I’m guessing #29 goes to Greiss.

Troy Stecher wore #51 for his whole Vancouver Canucks career but Valtteri Filppula has that in Detroit.  Stecher wore #2 for his college career at North Dakota and, while that’s currently assigned to Joe Hicketts in Detroit, Hicketts’ path to the Red Wings seems to be gone, so the team could let Stecher take his number.  I could also see Stecher taking Jonathan Ericsson‘s #52, if the team allows it, or something like #42.

Vladislav Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career.  Joe Veleno has it in Detroit but he’s not in Detroit right now.  Will the Red Wings make one of their top prospects give up his number to someone who’s on a short-term deal?  If so, there’s an easy answer.  If not, I’d love to see him take his uncle Vyacheslav Kozlov‘s #13, but it’ll probably be something like #95 or #98.  Or #60 if Greiss doesn’t go that route.

Red Wings Sign Forward Namestnikov

The Detroit Red Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov on Sunday, continuing the rebuild of their roster.

Namestnikov is a familiar face for Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, who drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for Tampa Bay.

Financial terms were, of course, not officially announced, but the deal reportedly carries a $2 million salary cap hit, with annual amounts of $1.5 million and $2.5 million.  Like Thomas Greiss‘ deal, more money is in the second year.  Whether as escrow protection for the player or expansion draft protection for the team, we’re seeing that become more common this year.

Namestnikov gives the Red Wings another option at second-line center, should Robby Fabbri not work out there.  Theoretically, the team could roll lines looking something like this:

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip Zadina – Vladislav Namestnikov – Robby Fabbri
Dmytro Timashov – Sam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

That’s a completely rebuilt middle six since the start of last season, done entirely on the cheap.  They’re not world-beaters by any means but that’s not a bad accomplishment for Yzerman.  Perhaps most importantly, that’s a lineup where you can clearly see a top nine and then a fourth line, rather than a top line and then a bunch of other players slotted in wherever they can.

The problem is that this leaves no room for Evgeny Svechnikov, who is basically on a “last chance” one-year deal and would have to clear waivers to be reassigned elsewhere.  Maybe this means the Wings let Zadina stay overseas for another year.  Maybe it means they dump a contract.  I don’t know.

Jersey number geek notes: Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career, save for a stint as #65 as a rookie. Will the Red Wings let him take #90 from Joe Veleno? If not, I bet Namestnikov goes with something like #60 or #95. It certainly blocks Bobby Ryan from following in the footsteps of Mike Modano and Stephen Weiss, though, and turning his #9 into #90.  Outside chance?  Namestnikov wears #13 in honor of his uncle, Vyacheslav Kozlov.