Red Wings Leave Mrazek Exposed for Expansion Draft

There were few surprises when the Red Wings’ expansion draft protection list was (eventually) released this morning, but the one that did come down was a big one, as the team opted to protect goalie Jimmy Howard rather than Petr Mrazek.

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

I’ve been ranting about this on Twitter all morning, so obviously I think this is the wrong move.  Let me touch on a couple other things first, though.

I half-expected Niklas Kronwall to be protected, even though his contract and injury history make him pretty much unclaimable, so seeing him available is good.  Similarly, the Red Wings could have left Andreas Athanasiou unprotected to protect Darren Helm but didn’t.  So there were some good choices here.

Let’s come back to the goalies, though.

Yesterday the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames made waves with the Coyotes sending veteran goalie Mike Smith to the Flames for a pick and a prospect.  At the time, I wondered how Ken Holland couldn’t have gotten a deal done to send Jimmy Howard to Calgary instead, as the Wings certainly could have asked for less, with the cleared cap space being the real acquisition for Detroit.  After all, Smith is two years older than Howard, signed for more money, and had worse stats than Howard last season.

One response was that Smith is seen as more durable than Howard.  While that’s possible, it’d be somewhat ridiculous, as Howard missed significant time last season but Smith missed half the year in 2015-16.

Another idea was that Calgary GM Brad Treliving specifically wanted Smith, as he was with the Coyotes when they signed him.  That’s always possible, but I find it hard to believe that familiarity was worth the higher price paid for Smith than the Wings would have to have asked for Howard.  Either Treliving did a disservice to the Flames by overpaying for a goalie or Ken Holland did a disservice to the Red Wings by not negotiating hard enough to trade Howard.

I’m also focusing on Howard here because we know the Flames traded for Smith and Howard is more like Smith than Mrazek is.  We have no idea what kind of deal it would have taken to move Mrazek to Calgary but we can guess what kind of deal would have gotten Howard there.

If Howard gets dealt yesterday, Mrazek gets protected today, and concerns about losing a goalie for nothing are gone.

I think it could have been avoided, but regardless the reason, the Red Wings hit yesterday’s deadline with two NHL goalies on their roster and could only protect one.

With that out of the way, some thoughts on protecting Howard over Mrazek…

There’s a lot of chatter that neither will be selected because there are better goalies available.  If that’s the case, I would think you try to slide Howard through because at 33 and with a $5.29 million cap hit and coming off an injury-filled season, it’s less likely that he gets claimed, just in case.

If there’s a deal in place to “guide” the Golden Knights towards picking a certain player, it doesn’t matter who you have unprotected.  That said, Ken Holland said he wasn’t going to do that.  Kenny has lied to us before, though.

Ignoring both of those, the reason to leave Mrazek unprotected is because you don’t care if you lose him.  For a team in the Red Wings’ position, that’s a mistake.  This team needs to get younger and cheaper, even if that means worse (which I think it arguable).  Shed bad contracts and look to the future.  You do that by protecting Mrazek, not Howard.

Protecting Howard over Mrazek feels like sacrificing youth for another playoff push.  It feels like the tie goes to the veteran.  It feels like the “Red Wings Way” that led to the end of the playoff streak and no long playoff runs in nearly a decade.

Red Wings Call Up Tomas Nosek from Griffins

The Detroit Red Wings used an emergency call-up to recall Tomas Nosek from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

In advance of the Wings’ Saturday matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press revealed that Mitch Callahan is injured and another forward may be unable to play, necessitating the emergency call-up of Nosek.  Should that forward be able to play, Nosek will rejoin the Griffins for their game in Chicago tonight.

I’m curious whether the mystery forward is Luke Glendening, who sat out Thursday’s win over the Arizona Coyotes.  Glendening seemed like an odd choice for a healthy scratch at the time and, unlike when Anthony Mantha was a healthy scratch, there was virtually no press on it.

If the Wings need another grinding forward, I’d rather see it be Tyler Bertuzzi, but I’m not against Nosek getting a look.  Nosek is waiver-eligible next season so it’s good to figure out a bit more about him at the NHL level before then.

One thing I find interesting is that the Red Wings specifically noted this as an emergency recall, which they did not do when Brian Lashoff was called up on Thursday and then immediately sent down when whichever defenseman was questionable ended up being able to play.

Looking at the 2017-18 Red Wings

With the trade deadline having passed, we can start to get a look at the contracts the Red Wings will likely carry into next season, and from that see what the team might look like.

The bad news: It’s a lot like this one.

The only unrestricted free agents in the Wings’ lineup right now are Drew Miller and Mitch Callahan.  Assuming they don’t return (or end up in GR, where Callahan was recalled from yesterday), Detroit’s roster is as follows:

Forwards
Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen
Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul

Goaltenders
Jared Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek

That’s 11 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies.  It’s a $67.7 million cap hit, not counting new contracts for restricted free agents Tomas Tatar and Xavier Ouellet.  It’s a pretty full roster.

So where does that leave the Red Wings as far as options for getting better?

With all of the picks they grabbed at the trade deadline, there’s the draft, but unless they manage to win the draft lottery I don’t think you can expect anyone Detroit selects this summer to be NHL-ready next fall.

The Wings could call up players from the Grand Rapids Griffins to rebuild from within.  Maybe they give Matt Lorito a chance or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That’s what a truly rebuilding team would probably do.

There are trades, which Ken Holland has spoken a little bit about over the last couple days.  That said, Holland’s plan late last summer was to trade the team’s forward depth for defensive talent and those deals weren’t there.  The market will be different this summer and the expansion draft may impact things as well but if the Wings’ history is any indicator, this path can’t be relied on.

Finally, there’s Detroit’s tried-and-true method: Free agency.  Go back to that list of players, though, and pick the one(s) you see being exiled from the lineup in favor of a newcomer.  Unless the Wings are willing to bench a player like Luke Glendening or Riley Sheahan, there’s only one spot on the roster for adding players.

As I said, there is the expansion draft to make things interesting.  If I’m Ken Holland, I hope for Vegas to claim Jimmy Howard, freeing up cap space and solving the goalie logjam.  That doesn’t open a spot anywhere that they’d want to sign a free agent, though.

Holland is going to have to get creative.  Maybe that means trading a player like Sheahan to the Golden Knights in return for them agreeing to claim Howard, which would given them cap space and an extra roster spot to add forward help.

Without that creativity, though, we’re already looking at next year’s lineup, and we know that’s not good enough.

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.

Red Wings Bring in Horcoff, Bring Back Cleary

A month ago I suggested that, as long as they were already bringing back Daniel Cleary, the Red Wings might also bring in Cleary’s good friend Shawn Horcoff.

I didn’t expect they would do it like this.

On Friday Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported that Horcoff would retire as a player and join the Red Wings as their new Director of Player Development.  Matheson noted that Jiri Fischer, up until now the only person to serve in that role for the Detroit organization, would be “moving to another position in the organization.”

The Red Wings confirmed the move several hours later.  As reported by MLive’s Ansar Khan, Fischer will move into a player evaluation role.

“Jiri Fischer came to me this summer and said he loves the job but wanted the opportunity to grow as an executive and would like to get into the player evaluation side of the industry,” Holland said.

Holland also took the opportunity to reveal that Cleary will attend Detroit’s training camp on a pro-try out.

Earlier this week, Winging it in Motown published a piece about why bringing Cleary in on a PTO might not be a horrible idea.  While the NHL has since announced that veteran roster requirements will be relaxed in the aftermath of the World Cup of Hockey, I still think their argument is valid.

More importantly, I think a PTO for Cleary is a step towards sanity for Ken Holland.  Last year, Cleary was given a one-year NHL deal but still had to battle for a roster spot in training camp – a battle he lost before being waived and sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins.  That deal was similar to deals with Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader and Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl and Luke Glendening.  It was a contract based on hope for a player.  It was Holland saying, “Here’s your deal, now go out there and earn it.”

With a PTO, Cleary has to earn his spot before getting a contract.  It’s a smart move.

For the record, I expect Cleary to be signed to an AHL deal upon the conclusion of the preseason.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Red Wings Sign Glendening to Four-Year Extension

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday the signing of forward Luke Glendening to a four-year contract extension.

Glendening still has one year left on his current contract, carrying a $628,333 salary cap hit.

Of course, no financial terms were announced, because team policy is to leak that information to only certain people, so they can tell the rest of the world.

This deal annoys me.  Keep locking up bottom-six forwards long-term, Kenny.  The replaceable guys.  As much as I hate the Steve Ott signing, these are the people you can grab every year if your guy walks.  There is no reason to give four years to Luke Glendening.  None.

Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter, says the new deal carries a cap hit of $1.8 million.  I hate it now.


Update, 11:45 AM: Michael Petrella, formerly of The Production Line, had this to add…

The timing of this extension is particularly bad because it means that the Red Wings are virtually required to protect Glendening in the expansion draft.  Were he going to be a free agent next summer, they could have left him unprotected and used his spot on someone else.

Of course, there’s the cynical thought that the Wings could leave him unprotected knowing that they paid him too much and Las Vegas won’t want to pick up that contract.  I don’t think Ken Holland thinks that way, though.

Red Wings Rally for Win over Canadiens

The Detroit Red Wings scored twice in the third period Thursday night, rallying for a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

With the game tied 1-1, former Detroit draft pick Tomas Fleischmann snapped a shot from the inside edge of the left faceoff circle past Red Wings’ netminder Petr Mrazek at 4:30 of the third, giving the Canadiens their first lead of the game.

With 7:32 left in regulation and Detroit on a power play, Justin Abdelkader redirected a pass by Henrik Zetterberg past Dustin Tokarski from the edge of the crease with his skate, tying things back up.

Darren Helm‘s second of the night just 1:11 later was the eventual game-winner. Off a turnover by Greg Pateryn, Pavel Datsyuk kicked the puck to Helm, who cut across the goal mouth and flung a shot past Tokarski for a 3-2 lead.

Despite late pressure, the Canadiens would be unable to force overtime.

Detroit had opened the game’s scoring on Helm’s first goal of the game with 8:42 left in the second. Racing to the net, Helm gloved down a chip pass from Luke Glendening and put a quick shot behind Tokarski for the early lead.

Sven Andrighetto evened it up 2:03 later. Charles Hudon fired a heavy shot that Mrazek didn’t get all of and as the puck dropped in behind the Detroit goalie, Andrighetto was there to knock it into the net.

Mrazek finished the night with 23 saves on 25 shots while Tokarski, making his first start of the season, stopped 26 of 29.

The Red Wings are back in action Friday night when they visit the New Jersey Devils.

Pulkkinen Scores in OT to Lift Red Wings over Blues

Detroit forward Teemu Pulkkinen scored with just 18.8 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Red Wings a 4-3 win over the host St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.

Pulkkinen scored on a blast past St. Louis netminder Jake Allen from the top of the right faceoff circle with Detroit on a power play.

The Blues forced overtime on a goal with 2:10 left in regulation. Henrik Zetterberg failed to get the puck deep on a dump-in and the Red Wings were caught on a line change, with Vladimir Tarasenko breaking down the right wing. Tarasenko cut to the front of the net and snapped a shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

Pavel Datsyuk‘s first goal of the season opened the scoring with 9:56 left in the first period. Brad Richards sent a pass from behind the goal to Datsyuk out front to put past Allen for the 1-0 lead.

Just over three minutes later, Kyle Brodziak snapped a shot from the right wing past Howard to tie things up. Jori Lehtera put the Blues in front 1:40 after that, tipping a Jay Bouwmeester shot past Howard for a 2-1 lead.

Luke Glendening fought off a check to even things up before the end of the period, banging a chance past Allen from the slot with 1:29 left.

At 8:42 of the second, Dylan Larkin restored Detroit’s lead when a Zetterberg shot deflected off his arm and in to make it 3-2.

Howard finished the night with 30 saves on 33 shots while Allen stopped 28 of 32 chances against.

Each team had two power play opportunities with Pulkkinen’s goal the only one scored with the man-advantage.

The Red Wings are now off until Wednesday when they host the Boston Bruins.

Pregame: Sharks @ Red Wings – 11/13

Pavel Datsyuk returns to the Detroit lineup tonight as the Red Wings host the San Jose Sharks. Datsyuk has missed all 15 games this season recovering from offseason ankle surgery. He’ll slot in on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and – fresh off his seven year contract extension – Justin Abdelkader. The full forward lines are as follows:

Abdelkader – Zetterberg – Datsyuk
Tomas TatarDylan LarkinGustav Nyquist
Riley SheahanAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Drew MillerLuke GlendeningDarren Helm

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal for the Red Wings against Martin Jones.

Stupid stat of the day: This is Detroit’s ninth Friday the 13th game all-time. The Red Wings are 4-3-1 in the previous eight.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.