Wings Continue Depth Signings as Free Agency Opens

After announcing the signings of backup goalie Jonathan Bernier and forward Thomas Vanek as soon as free agency opened on Sunday and confirming a one year deal with third-string goalie Harri Sateri shortly after, the Red Wings announced a slate of deals aimed at providing further depth to the franchise.

A little reaction from Tony Androckitis of Inside AHL Hockey

Undoubtedly they’re good moves for the Griffins.  Terry and Megan make up for the likely departures of two of Matt Lorito, Ben Street, and Eric Tangradi.  Chelios is an upgrade over the departing Dan Renouf, who wasn’t given a qualifying offer by the Red Wings.

That said, I praised letting Renouf go because it helped clear out the organization’s logjam on the blue line.  Unless Chelios is bound for Toledo, his signing seems like a bad sign for Vili Saarijarvi and Dennis Cholowski and Libor Sulak, all of whom would be battling for playing time with the Griffins (unless Cholowski manages to leapfrog Filip Hronek and go straight to Detroit, but that still doesn’t open up a roster spot anywhere).

So, yeah, these might be good deals for the Griffins, but they feel like bad ones for the Red Wings.

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.

Red Wings Call Up Nosek, Lashoff

The Red Wings announced a slate of roster moves this morning as they head into back-to-back games this weekend while dealing with injuries to Justin Abdelkader and Brendan Smith.

To make room for Nosek and Lashoff, they shuffled Abdelkader and Andreas Athanasiou around on various forms of injured reserve.

My initial thought is that the Red Wings will try to see if Niklas Kronwall can go for both games, which is why Lashoff got the call instead of Robbie Russo.  I mean, if the call-up is actually going to get minutes, don’t you want the guy who has a future in the organization getting a look?  Call up Russo or Nick Jensen and see what they can do.  If the guy is expected to just sit in the press box, go ahead and call up Lashoff, and if he ends up being needed then you already know what he’s capable of.

I’m curious whether Nosek will actually play, and where he’ll play.  If he’s on the third line, I guess I’m okay with it.  I’ve already said that I wanted to see Evgeny Svechnikov and that Matt Lorito would be an interesting option.  I just don’t want to see the Wings do the whole “call up a grinder, drop him on the fourth line, and pull Drew Miller or Steve Ott up to the third line” thing they’ve traditionally done.  Scratching Nosek and bringing back the OMG line also works, I suppose.

On Wings/Panthers, Growing Pains, and Abdelkader

So the Red Wings had a good period and a couple periods where they pretty much clung to life.  They got solid goaltending.  They didn’t dominate, nor were they dominated.

That’s last night’s game, but how many games from this season could it describe?  The games this season are pretty indistinguishable from each other.

And, honestly, that’s about what I expected coming into this season.  This was never going to be a fun season to watch.  That doesn’t mean good things aren’t happening.

Ryan Sproul made an ill-advised dump-in in overtime last night that turned into an Aleksander Barkov breakaway and game-winning goal.  It’s a rookie mistake.  But it also means a rookie was in position to make that mistake.  Sproul is finally getting a chance to show what he can do and, yeah, he’s made some mistakes, but he’s also found a home on the power play.

They’re injured now, but Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi have shown that they can play at the NHL level.  This is what I’ve been waiting for, the kids to get a chance.  No, they’re not tearing up the league, but we’re finally seeing what they can do so we can evaluate from there.

I wrote this season off from the beginning.  It’s boring and it’s a lot of losing.  But good is coming of it.

And it’s looking like another prospect is going to get a chance, with Justin Abdelkader out 2-4 weeks with a sprained MCL.  I originally said I wanted Evgeny Svechnikov to get the call but I’m kind of curious about Matt Lorito, who’s not a traditional prospect but leads the Griffins in scoring.

What I don’t want to see is the Red Wings call up no one and just slide Drew Miller back into the lineup.  There’s a top-six (or top-nine, depending on how the lines are jumbled) spot open, don’t push a fourth-liner up into it.

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.

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.