On Blashill and Other Season-Ending Thoughts

The Red Wings ended their season on Friday night in New Jersey and entered the offseason with a slate of decisions to make about the direction of the team. It took under a day for General Manager Steve Yzerman to make the first one.

Jeff Blashill will not return as the team’s head coach.

The move comes in the form of the team cleaning house behind the bench. Assistant coach Doug Houda and goalie coach Jeff Salajko will also not return.  It is believed – coach contracts are rarely made as public as player contracts – that none of the three were explicitly fired; instead their contracts were not renewed.

Assistant coach Alex Tanguay remains with the team.  The 2021-22 campaign was his first in Detroit.

Blashill, as The Athletic’s Max Bultman notes, never had much to work with as far as player personnel goes, taking the team over from Mike Babcock as the Red Wings entered their current rebuild.  There seems to be the thought that he’ll end up coaching back in the NHL sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, there’s already buzz that he could take over the Ferris State program in 2023.

For the Red Wings, though, answering the question of whether or not Blashill would return has just raised another; that of who will replace him.

I won’t pretend to have insight into what Yzerman might be thinking regarding that (turn to Bultman again for some options Yzerman might be considering).  My hope – and my expectation given Yzerman’s history – is that we won’t see someone from the NHL coaching carousel brought in.  No John Tortorella or Paul Maurice or Dave Tippett.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m equal parts curious and terrified of the idea of bringing Sergei Fedorov over from CSKA Moscow of the KHL, with all the baggage that would entail. I’d been on the Roger Ronnberg bandwagon for a while but I’m not so sure about that anymore.

Whoever the new coach is, another big question for the summer is how similar the team he takes over looks to the one Blashill leaves behind.

Thomas Greiss is expected to depart as a free agent this summer, opening up the backup slot with the Red Wings.  Is the late-season signing of Magnus Hellberg, who made his Detroit debut in the season finale, a sign that he has the inside track on replacing him?  Hellberg himself is an unrestricted free agent, so he might not even return.  If Calvin Pickard leaves the organization and Victor Brattstrom returns to Europe, Alex Nedeljkovic would be the only returning goalie from Detroit or Grand Rapids, so upheaval is coming there.

On defense, it’s hard to see Danny DeKeyser – waived and unclaimed during the season – returning next year.  Mid-season waiver claim Olli Juolevi was largely ineffective in his time in Detroit and – as a pending restricted free agent – may not be given a qualifying offer, becoming unrestricted.  Jake Walman was good for the Wings after being acquired in the Nick Leddy deadline day trade and can reasonably be expected to return as a restricted free agent.

The biggest question mark of the current blueliners is Marc Staal.  Along with DeKeyser, he was named an alternate captain to start the season and the team appreciates his veteran leadership.  Though he’s not the player he once was, his performance didn’t drop as much as DeKeyser’s did, so there may be interest in bringing him back.

If Staal and Walman return, the Detroit blueline would be made up of Moritz Seider, Filip Hronek, Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Lindstrom, Staal, and Walman.  Simon Edvinsson, the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, could claim a spot out of training camp.

Even with the addition of Edvinsson, it’s hard to see that defense corps being much of an improvement over what the Red Wings had this year, so there may be appetite to let Staal (and/or Walman) walk to clear roster spots for upgrades brought in via free agency.

Up front there’s a similar situation.  Ten of the 12 forward spots are accounted for by returning players.  One of those is restricted free agent Filip ZadinaJonatan Berggren, who set a new Grand Rapids Griffins rookie scoring record this season, can also be expected to take up a spot.  That’s 12 just by letting pending restricted free agent Mitchell Stephens and unrestricted free agents Sam Gagner, Turner Elson, and Carter Rowney walk.

Like Staal, the team has appreciated Gagner’s veteran hand and may want him back next year.  Pushing Givani Smith into the 13th forward slot wouldn’t be the end of the world but it again means that there’s little room to add upgrades via free agency.

The Red Wings are getting into a dangerous spot in their rebuild.  To take advantage of the prime of Dylan Larkin‘s career, they will need to add pieces now.  Trotting out the same basic lineup behind a new head coach won’t do it (though having both Robby Fabbri and Jakub Vrana healthy at the same time would be a benefit).

If they can’t do that, realistically, this rebuild is going to take at least another three or four years and they should be looking at selling Larkin or Tyler Bertuzzi or Vrana for assets that will make them competitive when Seider and Lucas Raymond are in their primes.  It might be a hard pill for Wings fans to swallow but it makes sense.

Wings Announce Initial 2021-22 Roster

The Detroit Red Wings announced their initial roster for the 2021-22 NHL season on Monday, making their final cuts by sending Riley Barber, Taro Hirose, and Joe Veleno to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The team also announced the termination Bobby Ryan‘s pro try-out, removing him from their roster.

As had been previously announced, Detroit is opening the season with 13 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies.

The most notable item in the team’s initial 23-man roster might be the inclusion of 2020 first-round draft pick Lucas Raymond, who practiced with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi on the team’s top line in preparation for the Red Wings’ season opener on Thursday.

While Ryan and Raymond may not have been fighting for the same roster spot, the fact that Raymond made the team while Ryan didn’t does seem to be a change for the Red Wings.  Under previous general manager Ken Holland, “the tie goes to the veteran” was a common refrain.  Current GM Steve Yzerman could have made room for Ryan at the expense of a number of younger players and the fact that he didn’t may show that veteran status won’t always be the tiebreaker going forward.

In addition to Raymond, 2019 first-round pick Moritz Seider will start the season in Detroit, though this was expected after his breakout campaign in the SHL last season.

One of the Red Wings’ young prospects who had been expected to challenge for a roster spot didn’t make it, with Veleno having been sent to Grand Rapids.  There’s an argument that Veleno could have been picked over Mitchell Stephens or Carter Rowney for a spot on the Wings’ fourth line and but one could also say he’s better suited playing top-line minutes with the Griffins than fourth-line minutes in Detroit.

It’s also important to note that, while this is Detroit’s initial roster, required to be set by 5:00 PM today, there is plenty of time between now and Thursday’s opener for things to change.  Notably, Adam Erne, Givani Smith, and Michael Rasmussen are all nursing injuries.  With only 13 forwards on the roster, a call-up will be necessary if more than one of them is unable to play.

2021 Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings announced their 2021 training camp roster on Wednesday and, following the Tuesday announcement of Bobby Ryan joining the team on a PTO, there were no surprises on the roster itself.

Which means I get to move on to my favorite annual tradition: Analyzing jersey number changes.

Between returning players from last year’s roster, incoming players who had already had their numbers announced, and players whose numbers were revealed by Detroit’s prospects tournament roster, there weren’t a lot of surprises left.

The biggest surprise is probably Taro Hirose switching from #67 to #25.  He’d previously switched to #67 after debuting wearing #53, specifically requesting a number with a seven in it, so switching to a number without a seven was unexpected, to me.

Additionally, Hirose’s switch makes Mitchell Stephens having picked #22 interesting.  Stephens had worn #67 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and seemingly wore it whenever his preferred #27 wasn’t available.  With #27 taken by Michael Rasmussen in Detroit and #67 vacated by Hirose, I’m surprised that Stephens went with #22 instead.

Two players making their returns to the Detroit organization also have some slightly-surprising numbers.

Luke Witkowski will wear #20 in Detroit’s camp after having worn #28 in his first stint with the Wings.  I’d wondered if Gustav Lindstrom would give up #28 but he keeps it, and Witkowski’s usual alternate number #82 went to summer free agent signing Jordan Oesterle.

Dan Renouf had previously worn #77 in Detroit but that number is now assigned to Oscar Plandowski.  In camp, he’d also worn the #20 taken by Witkowski, leaving him switching to the #21 made available by Dennis Cholowski‘s departure.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
15 Jakub Vrana
22 Mitchell Stephens
23 Lucas Raymond
24 Pius Suter
25 Taro Hirose
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Carter Rowney
42 Kyle Criscuolo
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
50 Dominik Shine
51 Hayden Verbeek
52 Jonatan Berggren
54 Bobby Ryan
56 Pasquale Zito
57 Turner Elson
58 Cameron Butler
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
61 T-Bone Codd
62 Cooper Walker
63 Jon Martin
64 Luke Toporowski
67 Dennis Yan
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
74 Cross Hanas
76 Tyler Spezia
78 Patrick Curry
79 Kirill Tyutyayev
89 Sam Gagner
90 Joe Veleno
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Nick Leddy
3 Jared McIsaac
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Luke Witkowski
21 Dan Renouf
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
44 Donovan Sebrango
47 Wyatt Newpower
49 Seth Barton
53 Moritz Seider
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stetcher
77 Oscar Plandowski
82 Jordan Oesterle
83 Mason Ward
84 Alex Cotton
86 Adam Brubacher
87 Ryan Murphy

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
31 Calvin Pickard
33 Sebastian Cossa
34 Victor Brattstrom
36 Kaden Fulcher
39 Alex Nedeljkovic
60 Jan Bednar

Red Wings Sign Pair of Depth Defensemen

The Red Wings are signing a pair of depth defensemen: Jordan Oesterle from the Arizona Coyotes and Ryan Murphy from the American Hockey League’s Henderson Silver Knights.

Oesterle, a Dearborn Heights native and Western Michigan University product, effectively replaces Alex Biega in the Detroit system while Murphy, signed to a two-way deal, can be expected to spend most of his time with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

This effectively locks in Detroit’s blueline for the coming season as follows:

Filip HronekDanny DeKeyser
Moritz SeiderNick Leddy
Troy Stetcher – Marc Staal
Gustav Lindstrom
Oesterle

Murphy helps fill gaps in a Griffins’ defensive corps that could be decimated by free agent departures.  Captain Brian Lashoff and veteran presence Dylan McIlrath are both free agents and longtime Griffin Joe Hicketts just signed with the Minnesota Wild.

Red Wings Re-Up Staal on One Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Sunday the signing of defenseman Marc Staal to a one-year contract extension.

Staal had been a pending unrestricted free agent.  He was originally acquired last offseason in a salary dump move from the New York Rangers.

The deal is reportedly worth $2 million and includes a full no movement clause.

There were probably better defensemen that the Wings could have chased down in free agency but, since the end of the season, word from the organization has been that they wanted to bring Staal back.  Clearly the interest was mutual.

I don’t love the deal.  I’d rather have seen that cap space spent on another salary dump from another team.  That said, there are only so many of those available.  Also, $2 million is an absolutely fine number for Staal.  If he’s open to it (because of the no movement clause), the Wings can retain half of his salary and move him on to a contender at the deadline pretty easily.

It does mean that Detroit’s blueline is pretty set at this point.

Filip HronekDanny DeKeyser
Moritz SeiderNick Leddy
Troy Stetcher – Staal
Gustav Lindstrom

Those aren’t meant to be true pairings, just an idea of how spots could play out.  The point is that Staal is a $2 million third-pairing guy and that’s not horrible, even if I don’t entirely love it either.

Wings Select Defenseman Edvinsson, Goalie Cossa in First Round of Draft

The Detroit Red Wings made two selections in the opening round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, adding defenseman Simon Edvinsson and goalie Sebastian Cossa to their slate of prospects.

The Red Wings took Edvinsson with the the sixth overall pick in the draft, where they had been projected to take center Mason McTavish.  McTavish went third overall to the Anaheim Ducks, however, and Edvinsson – projected to have been picked third by some – dropped to Detroit.

Later in the round, Detroit executed a trade with the Dallas Stars to move up from 23rd overall to 15th overall, sending the 48th and 138th overall picks to Dallas to complete the transaction.  The move enabled the Red Wings to pick the goalie, Cossa.

I had been really high on McTavish and was certain he was Detroit’s pick – if he made it to #6.  He didn’t.  With McTavish, as well as Michigan’s Kent Johnson, off the board by the time Detroit got to pick, I’m not surprised that they went with the big Swedish defenseman Edvinsson.

I don’t dislike the pick in a vacuum, it’s just that the Red Wings seemed to already have a bit of high-level defense in the pipeline, with Moritz Seider, William Wallinder, and Antti Tuomisto.  Their most glaring need was at center, but the two top centers were gone.  It left Detroit kind of in no-mans-land.

With Cossa at #15, the Wings got a player I really liked, but I’m not sure I would have traded up to get him.  Had he still been available at #23, I would have taken Cossa in an instant.  That said, the Wings had draft capital to burn.

The second rounder they gave up was acquired from the New York Rangers in the Marc Staal deal and the fifth rounder was originally Ottawa’s, acquired from Montreal for Jon Merrill, and the Red Wings still have their own picks in each of those rounds.  I’ve lamented the Wings’ having quantity but not quality when it comes to draft picks and, in making this deal, they converted quantity to quality.

So with the picks, Detroit improves on their already impressive slate of blueline prospects and gets a seemingly-legitimate goalie of the future in case Thursday’s trade for Alex Nedeljkovic doesn’t pan out (or is only a short-term fix).  They still need to find a center and improve their forward depth in general at some point.  If I were the Wings, I’d be hoping Aatu Raty continues his slide and is available at #38.

Wings to Pick Sixth after Draft Lottery

The Detroit Red Wings will pick sixth overall for the third time in the last four NHL Entry Drafts.

The Wings neither dropped down nor moved up as the league conducted its annual Draft Lottery on Wednesday.  They slotted into the sixth spot by virtue of their fifth-to-last place finish in the league’s standings, having been bumped down one more spot by the expansion Seattle Kraken.

In the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Detroit selected Filip Zadina at sixth overall.  One year later, they picked Moritz Seider at that spot.

Detroit will also have a second selection in the opening round, owning the Washington Capitals’ pick via the Anthony Mantha trade.  That pick will be either 23rd or 24th overall.  If the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricans in their Division Final playoff series, the pick will be 23rd, otherwise it will be 24th.

Red Wings Jersey Number Dominoes

I’ve noted before that I’m a jersey number geek.  Part of that includes a desire to see players get to wear “their” numbers.

Often a player is assigned a number in his first camp with no input.  Sometimes high picks get to choose: For Detroit, Moritz Seider got his favored #53, Filip Zadina got #11, and Joe Veleno got #90.  On the other hand, Michael Rasmussen was assigned #27, Dennis Cholowski was given #21, and Dylan Larkin never could have had his #19, bouncing from #25 to #71.

Awhile ago I was wondering what it would take to get the most players to “their” numbers and realized that the first domino that needed to fall was Justin Abdelkader.  Had he changed to #89 – as I was told he was going to do early in his career – it would have caused a conflict with Sam Gagner upon Gagner’s acquisition.  Now that Abdelkader has been bought out, though, it – theoretically – opens up #8 to start a series of dominoes falling.

As I write this, the second day of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is taking forever, so I’m going to follow those dominoes a bit.

With #8 open, Anthony Mantha could claim the number he wore through juniors and with the Grand Rapids Griffins.  This would make #39 available for Dylan Larkin, with Larkin having worn it with the USNTDP when #19 wasn’t available.

That leaves #71 for Filip Hronek, who wore that number with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.  Hronek could also go with the #79 that he wore in the Czech Republic, regardless of changes by Mantha and Larkin, which would leave #17 available.  That number goes to Tyler Bertuzzi. who wore it with the Guelph Storm of the OHL.

A second chain reaction starts with Dmytro Timashov taking the #88 he wore in the QMJHL.  This leaves #15 available for Rasmussen as he claims the number he wore for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.

With Rasmussen switched, #27 is available for Dennis Cholowski, who wore it at St. Cloud State and both of his WHL stops.  Christoffer Ehn then takes the #21 made available by Cholowski’s switch, as Ehn wore that number with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, though he seems set to not be with the team much longer anyway.  Ehn also wore #26 in Sweden but we’ll save that for Lucas Raymond.

All of this could happen, but it probably won’t.  For a jersey number geek, though, it’s fun to look at.

Red Wings Acquire Staal, Second Round Pick from Rangers

The Detroit Red Wings received defenseman Marc Staal and a 2021 second round pick from the New York Rangers on Saturday in return for future considerations.

I love this deal.  The Wings get a second-rounder to bail the Rangers out of cap trouble.  As I tweeted earlier, Staal only having a year left on his deal is probably why the Wings “only” got a second rounder, but because his deal is expiring it’ll be easier to flip him for even more assets (not that I expect much of a haul there) at the next trade deadline.

The only problem as I see it is that this gives the Red Wings eight defensemen under contract right now who I would want (or otherwise expect) to see in the Detroit lineup on opening night.  That’s Staal, Danny DeKeyser, Patrik Nemeth, Alex Beiga, Filip Hronek, Moritz Seider, Dennis Cholowski, and Gustav Lindstrom.  Plus Madison Bowey as an unsigned restricted free agent.

That’s an easy fix, though.  I’d like to see Lindstrom up but he could go back to GR (assuming the AHL is playing) easily, as could a returning Bowey.  That’d give Detroit seven defensemen without their big-name kids getting buried.

Of course, that assumes Staal even stays on the Red Wings’ roster.  They could buy him out and spread the smaller cap hit over two seasons.  In that case, they’d have the space to do another deal like this.

Between the Staal and the Gagner and Elson deals, it’s been a busy day for Steve Yzerman.

An Early Look at the Red Wings’ 2020-21 Roster

The Red Wings have hit the 2020 All-Star Break without a lot to show for their current campaign, so let’s go ahead and look at the next one.

Of the team’s current roster when healthy (in other words, I’m not counting some recent call-ups from Grand Rapids), just 11 players are signed for next season.  Eight players on the current roster are restricted free agents and five more are unrestricted free agents (plus a handful of RFAs currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins).

Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman would be well-served to try to get something for the five UFAs at the NHL’s trade deadline next month, which is both obvious and easier said than done.

Alex Biega and Jonathan Ericsson both cleared waivers at different points this season while Trevor Daley, Mike Green, and Jimmy Howard have been shells of their former selves this season.  That doesn’t mean that none of them will be dealt (Daley, it was reported today, has specifically asked for a trade to a contender), just the return is unlikely to be substantial.

As such, regardless of what happens at the deadline, I think it’s safe to look at 2020-21 as if these five will not return and will not otherwise impact the roster going forward.

The restricted free agents are harder to gauge.  Tyler Bertuzzi, Robby Fabbri, and Anthony Mantha have seemingly played their way into new contracts, so I’ll count them as returning.

Meanwhile Adam Erne, Brendan Perlini, and Madison Bowey (who, like Ericsson and Biega, cleared waivers earlier this year) have not taken the hoped-for step forward this season.  On the first-pass look at this roster, I’ll assume none of them return, either via trade or by not giving them qualifying offers.

Christoffer Ehn hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, but with the Wings’ abundance of overpaid veteran fourth-liners, he might be expendable.

Andreas Athanasiou is the big question mark.  After last season, he seemed to have established himself, only to have regressed this year.  Due to his potential, he seems a likely trade piece, but it would be a case of Yzerman selling low, in which case he might prefer not to sell at all.

This leaves the Red Wings’ lineup looking (roughly) like so:

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha
Fabbri – Filppula – Zadina
Helm – Nielsen – _____
_____ – Glendening – Abdelkader

Hronek – DeKeyser
Nemeth – _____
_____ – _____

Bernier
_____

Before looping back to those remaining RFAs, we’ll first look to Grand Rapids for anyone ready to step up.

I would be shocked if Dennis Cholowski doesn’t get yet another shot to start the season in Detroit given the open roster spots on the blue line, especially with him having made it back to Detroit earlier this week with Green injured.  I also think the Red Wings would like for Moritz Seider to make the jump but I think they’re prepared to not rush him.  I’m going to reserve two spots for “the kids” with the expectation that Cholowski and/or Seider could be swapped out for someone else currently in the organization at any point in the season.

Up front, maybe Evgeny Svechnikov gets a shot, assuming he’s not traded between now and then and brought back as an RFA.  There isn’t anyone obvious ready to step in like there is on defense.  Likewise, there are no goalies in waiting.  The draft could change this dramatically, though.

Since we’ve already mentioned Svechnikov, lets circle back to those RFAs.  We could see a battle between Svechnikov, Perlini, and Erne.  That would fill the two forward slots and provide a spare.

On defense there’s room for Bowey.  Do the Wings like him enough to bring him back?  I’m not sure on that one but I think they’re not going to walk away from a cheap RFA in this situation.  Which also applies up front, actually.  Especially one they’ve proven they’re not afraid to waive and send to GR if need be.

That reason is the same one I think Ehn will be back in the organization next year.

So we’re back to Athanasiou.  The trend with him seems to have the Red Wings flipping him (perhaps with something else) for a goalie, such as the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev.  I don’t know how much I go for that specific deal, but there’s an open spot in goal and on defense so I’m going to assume that Athanasiou gets moved for either a goalie or a defenseman, with the other spot being filled by a free agent signing.

That gives us an opening night lineup that looks as follows:

Bertuzzi – Larkin – Mantha
Fabbri – Filppula – Zadina
Helm – Nielsen – Svechnikov
Erne – Glendening – Abdelkader
Perlini – Ehn

Hronek – DeKeyser
Nemeth – Seider
Cholowski – Defenseman TBD
Bowey

Bernier
Goalie TBD

The good news is that, under this plan, the Red Wings mostly replenish their roster from within.  I’d like to see a roster spot for Smith given his play in his call-ups this season but I’m willing to wait for Darren Helm‘s contract to expire (or him to be dealt at the 2021 deadline) for that to happen.

The bad news is that this team still isn’t very good.  We could hope that it wouldn’t be as abysmal of a season as the team is having now, of course, but the biggest thing to look forward to would be the trade deadline, with Filppula, Helm, Glendening, Nemeth, and Bernier all on expiring contracts.

You could supplement the roster with free agent signings, and there is room for a couple of those.  Lets say an Athanasiou trade brings back a goalie and the Wings go all out to sign Torey Krug for the remaining blue line spot…  That’s a full roster that looks a lot like the current lineup, and Krug isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  Any other players added via the draft or free agency take the roster spot of an existing player.

Of course, the Red Wings were willing to let Eric Comrie go after two starts earlier this year, maybe they’ve seen enough of Perlini or Svechnikov or Erne to make the decision to cut them loose, or at least risk losing them via waivers.  We’ll have to wait to see if that’s the case.

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