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.

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

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.

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 Bring Back Gagner on One Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings re-signed center Sam Gagner to a one year deal on Saturday.

The deal is reportedly worth $850,000 because of course financial terms were not officially announced.

I love this deal if only for the dollar amount.  Do I want a 31-year-old taking away spots from the kids in the Wings’ system?  No.  But at $850,000, Gagner can be buried in Grand Rapids (or whatever the farm system looks like whenever the next season happens) if Michael Rasmussen or Joe Veleno or whoever wins a roster spot (or if Frans Nielsen suddenly returns to form somehow).  If not, he slots in cheaply and can maybe be flipped for a fifth-rounder at the trade deadline.

Random thought: As the 2020 offseason hasn’t started yet, had Gagner’s previous contract actually expired?  That’s usually how I differentiate between someone re-signing (signing with Detroit after their contract expired, having spent time as a free agent) or signing a contract extension (new contract with more years ready to kick in after the expiration of their existing deal, avoiding free agency).


The Wings also announced the signing of Griffins forward Turner Elson to a one year deal reportedly worth $725,000 at the NHL level and $115,000 in the AHL.

That one’s slightly interesting because Elson was making $700,000 at the NHL level under his previous two year deal (not that he actually played any NHL games under that contract) but $100,000 for the first year and $175,000 for the second year in the AHL.  The original deal was signed in February of 2019 so that first year would have been pro-rated but, however you slice it, he just signed for an NHL raise and an AHL pay cut.

Red Wings Send Athanasiou to Edmonton

With just under two hours left before the NHL’s trade deadline on Monday, the Detroit Red Wings traded winger Andreas Athanasiou to the Edmonton Oilers, along with Ryan Kuffner, for Sam Gagner and two second round picks.

I know there are a lot of people pointing at Athanasiou and saying “What could you expect for a slumping forward who doesn’t play defense?”  And there’s truth to that.

But what I said last night and what I’ve said year after year is that I’m tired of this team not being able to make strong sales at the deadline.  This is going to be the Red Wings’ big move and it brings back two second round picks, probably in the 45th to 55th overall range.

Are there good players available in that range?  Of course.  Yzerman plucked Nikita Kucherov from there in 2011.  But it’s much less of a sure thing.  And, given Detroit’s draft history rather than Yzerman’s, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to pick in a position with a little more confidence than they will be picking.  Because in that same 2011 second round, Detroit had three picks before Yzerman grabbed Kucherov, and the Red Wings came away with Tomas Jurco, Xavier Ouellet, and Ryan Sproul.

In short, I know that two second round picks aren’t a bad return for Athanasiou, but as a fan of the Red Wings, I’ve been burned on the whole idea of picking a bunch of times in the second or third round enough that I don’t trust it.

All that said, two seconds was the price Detroit set, and Edmonton matched it, so I can’t really say the Wings’ got screwed if that was the deal they were always looking for.

As for the rest of the trade…  Kuffner I don’t care about and Gagner is a warm body coming back the other way, clearing some cap space for Edmonton.

Red Wings Rally for 3-2 OT Win over Oilers

The Detroit Red Wings went into the third period down 2-0 but rallied for a 3-2 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.

Pavel Datsyuk won the game for the Red Wings with 1:21 left in the overtime period. Datsyuk took a pass from Johan Franzen in the neutral zone and raced into the Edmonton zone, faking around defender Jeff Petry and snapping a shot past netminder Devan Dubnyk.

Taylor Hall had opened the scoring at 3:34 of the first period, picking up the puck at the Detroit blue line and cutting to the middle, splitting the Red Wings’ defense through the slot and snapping a shot under Howard to make it 1-0.

Edmonton went up 2-0 with 3:42 left in the second period on a goal by Sam Gagner. After Hall tied up Jonathan Ericsson behind the Detroit net, Nail Yakupov picked up the puck and cut in from the left wing boards, around Niklas Kronwall, and shoveled a shot on Howard from the slot. Gagner was there to bang home the rebound.

Valtteri Filppula cut the Edmonton lead in half at 4:27 of the third. Henrik Zetterberg won a battle along the boards in the left corner and Filppula came in to pick up the puck. Filppula cut through the left faceoff circle on the backhand and flung a shot on net, through a screen by Damien Brunner and past goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Detroit tied things up with 5:53 remaining in the third on their second road power play goal of the season. Niklas Kronwall threw a shot on net from the blue line and Dubnyk kicked it aside. Defender Jeff Petry turned to knock it away but ended up putting it in behind his own goalie.

Howard finished the night with 30 saves on 32 shots while Dubnyk stopped 25 of 28 Detroit chances.

Detroit went one-for-five on the power play. Edmonton was scoreless with three power play attempts.

The Red Wings are back in action on Saturday in Vancouver as they close out their Western Canadian road trip.


Ian White, Kent Huskins and Patrick Eaves were healthy scratches for the Red Wings… Kyle Quincey left the game late in the third after taking a puck to the face. He will not travel with the team to Vancouver.

Wings’ Streak Reaches 18 with Win over Oilers

The Detroit Red Wings stretched their franchise-record home winning streak to eighteen games Wednesday night with a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

It was the first game of the streak not won by goaltender Jimmy Howard, who’s out of the lineup with a broken index finger. Joey MacDonald earned the victory in net for the Red Wings, stopping 15 of the 17 shots he faced.

The Red Wings needed a third-period charge to finish off the Oilers. After Detroit took a 2-0 lead, Edmonton rallied before the Wings scored twice more to finish things off.

Johan Franzen opened the game’s scoring with 6:42 left in the first period with a rare power play goal. Ian White fired a shot from the middle of the ice, just inside the blue line. Franzen tipped it at the top of the crease, redirecting it past Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

Cory Emmerton made it 2-0 at 2:45 of the second period, driving to the net to lift a backhander past Khabibulin when the rebound of a Justin Abdelkader chance squirted free.

Sam Gagner continued his torrid scoring pace for the Oilers, getting them on the board with 8:52 left in the middle period. With Jakub Kindl heading to the bench to be replaced by White and Jonathan Ericsson trying to fight Edmonton’s Ben Eager, Gagner was left all alone to take an outlet pass and break in on MacDonald, faking around his poke-check to score his seventh goal in four games.

Gagner tied things up on an Oiler power play at 8:23 of the third, putting the rebound of a Magnus Paajarvi chance past MacDonald.

The Red Wings would regain the lead 2:23 later. Justin Abdelkader’s chance from the left circle slipped through Khabibulin’s pads and came to a stop in the crease. Drew Miller drove to the net and found it before anyone else could, knocking it in to make it 3-2.

Henrik Zetterberg wrapped up the game’s scoring with 5:16 remaining, snapping a shot from down low in the left circle over Khabibulin’s blocker.

Khabibulin finished the night with 26 saves on 30 shots against.

Each team scored once on the power play. The Oilers had seven tries with the extra attacker, including 1:14 of five-on-three in the first period. Detroit had four power play tries.

The Red Wings continue their six-game homestand on Friday when they host the Anaheim Ducks.


Detroit forward Danny Cleary left the game after the second period. The team announced after the game that he will have his knee drained and is expected to miss up to a week… Jan Mursak and Mike Commodore were the healthy scratches for the Red Wings.

Postgame: Oilers @ Red Wings – 2/8

After the Oilers got their first goal tonight, I was a little worried it was all downhill from there. It was such a mess of a goal, I could see it deflating the Red Wings and leading to a loss.

When Edmonton tied things up in the third, that fear seemed to have been warranted. Detroit got caught coasting a bit. The tying goal was on the power play but the Wings hadn’t done much before it to make it seem like they wanted this one. No killer instinct.

They managed to turn it back on, though. Drew Miller‘s goal was just hard work, driving to the net for a loose puck (much like Cory Emmerton‘s earlier in the game). Henrik Zetterberg‘s goal was the kind we expect to see from him, he was given a part of the net and he hit what was given to him. Perhaps more importantly, they shut the Oilers down, holding onto that lead.

Things I liked to see tonight:
All of the Detroit goals. Cop out answer but each was very nice in its own way. I already mentioned the last three goals, even Franzen’s tip from in front is something that hasn’t been going in for the Wings lately. And let’s be honest, even Sam Gagner‘s breakway was a pretty goal – it would have been fun to see if it weren’t scored on Detroit.

Jonathan Ericsson‘s play – for the most part. Aside from one play, Ericsson had a really solid night. Sadly, I’ll get to that one play below.

Joey MacDonald didn’t see a lot of shots but he’s making saves when he needs to. Not bad for a third-stringer when your starter is hurt and your backup has no confidence.

Things I didn’t like:
Justin Abdelkader got his ass kicked in the early fight.

The first Edmonton goal. Yeah, I mentioned it as being pretty, but it never should have happened. I debated about this during the game with @onthewings and @wingingitmotown and I think there’s plenty of blame to go around on this one but it mostly falls in one spot.

First off, I feel like MacDonald committed too early. That said, it was a breakaway at that point so I can’t fault him much. How did Gagner get that open? A mess at the Detroit bench. Jakub Kindl and Ericsson both went for a change. Kindl got off the ice but Ian White didn’t get on quickly. Meanwhile Ericsson challenged Ben Eager to a fight (which didn’t happen) after Eager hit Danny Cleary. The way I see it, White might have been able to prevent the breakaway but probably not. Ericsson could have either gotten off the ice or stayed in the play and broken things up. He did neither, so he gets most of the blame from me.

The last thing I didn’t like? The goalie interference call on Tomas Holmstrom. While it’s a chance to show off the new DH.N Multimedia Archive, I just see it as a horrible call.

To end on a high note… Eighteen consecutive wins at home. That’s a nice little run there.