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 TimashovSam 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.

Free Agency Day One Recap

It’s probably safe to say that Day One of NHL free agency is done and the site was down for a big part of the day so let’s do a recap.

Ryan and Merrill

The Red Wings started their day by signing forward Bobby Ryan to a one-year, $1 million deal.  As I said at the time, I love it.  Is it possible that Ryan ends up injured and/or worthless?  Absolutely.  At $1 million for one year, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

The one funny thing about the Ryan deal is that, in an interview after signing, Ryan said he might want to wear #17 because it was Brett Hull‘s number in Detroit, apparently unaware that it belongs to Filip Hronek now.

As far as Merrill goes, well, everyone expected a hometown defenseman to be signing with Detroit today, right?  The Merrill signing signals to me that the Wings expect some of their young guys to not be available this season.  Mortiz Seider in Sweden, for example.  They need veteran guys to fill in for a season in the meantime.  Merrill can burn minutes on this team cheaply.

Talbot, Markstrom, Turris and Shattenkirk

Coming into the day, the Red Wings were linked to both Cam Talbot and Jacob Markstrom to fill their gap in goal.  I would have liked Talbot in Detroit but he got three years for $11 million from Minnesota.  I actually don’t dislike that cap hit but wouldn’t have wanted to give three years.

Markstrom was never going to sign that cheaply so I was glad to see him go to Calgary just to get him off the board, just in case Steve Yzerman did something ridiculous.  I think the six-year, $36 million he got from the Flames is ridiculous, too, but I don’t have to care what they pay.

Kyle Turris was linked to Detroit if for no reason other than his chemistry with Anthony Mantha playing for Team Canada.  He seemed like a prime candidate to want to sign with a contender for cheap, though, and that’s pretty much what he did, going to the Oilers for two years and $3.3 million.  Not a bad deal and I’d have been happy to see him sign it in Detroit, but the Wings aren’t a contender.

In the middle of the day, news broke seemingly out of the blue that the Wings were in on defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.  Just as quickly, he signed a three-year, $11.7 million deal with the Ducks.  So much for that.

Depth Signings

The Wings’s last move of the day was around 5:00 PM with a trio of AHL-level deals, bringing back forward Kyle Criscuolo, a former Griffin from the 2017 Calder Cup run, and adding goalie Kevin Boyle and forward Riley Barber.

If the AHL actually has a season, the Griffins will need bodies.  Even more so if some of the Wings’ kids are in Europe to start the year.  I’ve got no complaints about any of these moves.

The one thing I find interesting is that Detroit brought in a minor-league goalie even with Cal Pickard, Filip Larsson, and Kaden Fulcher all signed, plus Pat Nagle on an AHL deal.  I don’t think it means that Pickard has been tabbed as Jonathan Bernier‘s backup in Detroit but it could.

Torey Krug

The big late-night news was Torey Krug signing with the St. Louis Blues for $45.5 million over seven years.  For months we’ve heard about the possibility of him coming to Detroit but that was from a lot of people ignoring his exit interviews with the Bruins.  He made it clear that his top priority was getting paid, not coming back to his hometown team, and he got his money.

Tyler Johnson

To close out the night was a weird rumor from Frank Seravalli:

So the theory behind this is that Lightning tried to trade Johnson as a salary dump but he has a no-trade clause and would have used it to block a move to any team who could take his salary.  Unable to trade him, the Lightning instead waive him, which he can’t block.  Nominally, it’s for the purposes of a buyout, in which case they’d be on the hook for part of his cap hit but not all of it, so it’s a small win.

But what if a team, such as Detroit, claimed him?  His full cap hit would be gone from Tampa and Johnson would have no recourse to stop the transaction.  And if Tampa then just happened to complete a deal with the Red Wings to send something of value in to Detroit in return for peanuts, well, that’s a totally separate thing, certainly not a handshake deal to send Johnson (and his salary) to the Red Wings, circumventing Johnson’s no-trade clause.

That’s a lot of conspiracy theory talk for me, and I like sports conspiracy theories.  I can’t see Yzerman going for a move that would likely be subject to a grievance if there was any chance of it being perceived as less than legal.

That said…  I want the Wings to take bad cap dollars on to gain other assets but Johnson’s deal is really bad.  Four more seasons at $5 million per year for a guy whose numbers dropped off dramatically during the Bolts’ Cup run.  That side deal would have to be extremely impressive to make that move.

What’s Left?

As free agency moves on, the Red Wings still need a goalie, probably at least one defenseman, and maybe some forwards.  I’d hold off and save some of those roster slots for potential salary dump deals but that’s just me.

In goal, Thomas Greiss is still on the board, and he’d probably be my top choice.  As I write this, Corey Crawford signed with New Jersey for less than $2 million per season, which seems to be a sign that goalie contract numbers are getting back to sane after Markstrom’s ridiculous deal.

I wonder about Tyson Barrie on defense.  Coming off a relatively bad season in Toronto, a “show me” deal could work.  I still think I’d prefer a trade candidate, though.

Red Wings to Buy Out Abdelkader

Detroit General Manager Steve Yzerman made a surprise move in the hours leading up to the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, waiving alternate captain Justin Abdelkader for the purposes of a buyout.

Per CapFriendly, the buyout will cost the Red Wings $1,805,556 in salary cap space this season, $2,305,556 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, and then $1,055,556 through the 2025-26 campaign.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the team would do this, given the length that the buyout would remain on the books.  Especially with Stephen Weiss still having one year left on his buyout.  I thought that, given that the team was not expected to be a cap team for the next couple seasons, they’d rather ride out a couple more years of Abdelkader being overpaid.

This could mean that Yzerman has another salary dump deal like the Marc Staal trade lined up and needed to limit Abdelkader’s salary now, rather than waiting to do it.  With an immediate buyout, the Red Wings save $2.4 million towards the coming season’s cap.


I’ve always joked that I’m contractually obligated to speak up on Abdelkader’s behalf.  He gave DH.N an interview back in 2005, during his freshman year at MSU, when players speaking with bloggers was relatively unheard of.  I kind of snuck into the party with the Stanley Cup in 2008 at his parents’ house.

That said, this is the right deal for the Wings, especially if they made it in order to clear space for another salary dump deal.  I’d have rather seen them cut someone like Frans Nielsen loose but Abdelkader maxes out the buyout value, so it makes sense.

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.

Red Wings Bring Back Forward Fabbri

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of pending restricted free agent forward Robby Fabbri to a two-year contract extension.

Of course, financial terms were not officially announced, but Craig Custance of The Athletic reports that the new contact carries a $2.95 million salary cap hit.

With Fabbri signing, two of Detroit’s ten pending RFAs are set to return, as Evgeny Svechnikov signed a one-year deal earlier this month.

Fabbri was acquired by Detroit from the St. Louis Blues for center Jacob de la Rose on November 6, the biggest “win” of GM Steve Yzerman‘s first season with the Red Wings.  He went on to score 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points, good for fourth on the team over the season.

I think the $2.95 million AAV is solid for the Red Wings.  It won’t hurt too much for too long if it turns out Fabbri’s first season with the club was an outlier and it helps set a baseline for Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, though they may be looking at longer-term deals which will be framed differently anyway.

Red Wings Lose Comrie to Jets via Waivers

Less than three weeks after acquiring him via trade, the Detroit Red Wings lost goalie Eric Comrie to the Winnipeg Jets via waivers.

The Jets are the team that originally drafted Comrie before losing him to the Arizona Coyotes via waivers to start the season.

As I Tweeted yesterday, this move feels wrong to me.  If waiving Comrie was about clearing a roster spot for Jimmy Howard to return from injury, that could have just as easily been accomplished by sending Christoffer Ehn to Grand Rapids.

The argument against that seems to be that this team needs more than one spare at forward or defense due to injury and illness.  I’d counter that the Wings will also need insurance in goal with Howard coming back from injury.

Mostly, though, it seems like waste of resources.  Yes, Vili Saarijarvi, who was traded for Comrie, probably had no future with the Red Wings.  He was still an asset, though, who could have been traded for someone who did have a future.  The two starts and one relief appearance made by Comrie could have been taken care of by Calvin Pickard and cost Detroit nothing.

Finally, there’s this:


Update, 12/20/2019: I’ve gotten some replies to the above Tweet scoffing at the idea of judging Steve Yzerman for such a low-risk move and want to address that further.

As I noted above, Vili Saarijarvi probably had no future in Detroit.  I don’t like how that came to be, I liked Saarijarvi back when he was with the Flint Firebirds, but there were simply too many prospects who had passed him on the Detroit depth chart so his lack of future was undeniable.  As such, trading him for something makes sense.

My problem with how this all went down is three-fold.

First off, why trade for a goalie at all if Howard’s injury was only going to keep him out for three weeks?  That’s what Calvin Pickard is for.  I’m sure the argument could be made that, with Filip Larsson struggling, the Griffins needed Pickard, but that’s the nature of being a farm team.

Secondly, Max Bultman of The Athletic notes today that Jeff Blashill had issues with Comrie’s rebound control.

“That’s an area that I know that he’s got to get better at, and I thought he struggled a little bit in Winnipeg that way, too,” Blashill said.

If rebound control is such an issue for Comrie – an issue bad enough that the Red Wings felt comfortable losing him on waivers – why didn’t their pro scouts note that before the trade?  If this is a dealbreaker now, why wasn’t it three weeks ago?

Finally, two games is just an absurdly small sample size to judge Comrie on.  A player who is in his third organization of the season, joining a team that’s the worst in the league with a god-awful goal differential, has two bad starts?  Yeah, I can see how that would happen.

But maybe it was some kind of 3D chess for Steve Yzerman to turn a low-value defenseman into a goalie rental for three weeks.  Maybe it was, in fact, necessary to rent a goalie for three weeks.  I just don’t see it.

Red Wings Deal Kaski to Hurricanes

The Detroit Red Wings swapped AHL defensemen with the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, sending out Oliwer Kaski in return for Kyle Wood.

Kaski was Best Defenseman and MVP of the Finnish Liiga last season, signing with the Red Wings over the summer.  He had five points with the Grand Rapids Griffins this season, playing in only 19 games due to the blueline logjam throughout the Detroit organization.

Wood was an AHL All-Star with the Tuscon Roadrunners in 2016-17.  This season he scored five points in 14 games with the Charlotte Checkers.

Kaski was technically a Steve Yzerman signing but he agreed to come to Detroit under Ken Holland.  My gut feeling is that he wanted out, as he didn’t come to North America to be an AHL team’s seventh defenseman.  That said, he had to have seen what the Detroit blueline logjam looked like when he signed, so I don’t know.

Given Wood’s inability to stick with Arizona, San Jose, or Carolina, it doesn’t seem like he has much value.  This seems like a Detroit loss, which only makes me think more that the deal was made at Kaski’s request.

Red Wings Continue Roster Shuffle, Acquire Fabbri from Blues for de la Rose

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman continued to shuffle his team’s roster on Wednesday night, swapping forward Jacob de la Rose to the St. Louis Blues for Robby Fabbri.

Fabbri is the second player drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft that Yzerman has acquired in the last two weeks, after bringing in Brendan Perlini from the Chicago Blackhawks.

The way I see it, de la Rose maxed out as a fourth liner and the Red Wings have enough of those.  Additionally, de la Rose was acquired for “free” via waivers last year, making it easier to part with him.

Like Perlini (and Adam Erne before him), Fabbri is someone who Yzerman likely thinks could use a change of scenery and a different role.  I’m not sure how much I agree with that but, at such a relatively cheap cost, I’m on board with the throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks approach.

Fabbri marks the third player the Red Wings have acquired since the start of the season, having previously traded for defenseman Alex Biega and Perlini.  Additionally, the team parted ways with longtime defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, sending him through waivers to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Red Wings Waive Ericsson, Shuffle Roster

Slightly surprising news today, as the Red Wings have placed Jonathan Ericsson on waivers.

As I noted via Twitter, I’d expected Ericsson to somehow never recover from his injury and just ride out the season on IR, then retire this summer.

At his age and coming off of injury, any other team claiming Ericsson is unlikely.  That said, it doesn’t mean that he’s bound for Grand Rapids at noon tomorrow, as the team also made a series of other moves.

With Ericsson coming off of IR, Alex Biega was sent down to the Griffins.  Biega had cleared waivers while he was still with the Canucks organization so he didn’t need to be waived again.

Forward Adam Erne went on IR retroactive to October 18, with the team using that roster spot to call up Evgeny Svechnikov from the Grand Rapids.

The Erne/Svechnikov moves are a pretty simple one-for-one swap.  With Erne out, the Red Wings want to get Svechnikov up.

Biega being sent to Grand Rapids clears a spot for Ericsson to come back.  I was under the impression that a player on waivers did not count against the roster limit unless he played in a game while on waivers, which could be wrong but I swear Detroit did it with Drew Miller at one point.

If my impression is right, it means that Biega only needed to be sent down if there was a chance that Ericsson would play tonight against Vancouver.  If the Wings are in need of a defenseman, it could have just been Biega playing.  This implies that either my impression is wrong or something else is happening.

Assuming that Ericsson does not play tonight and clears waivers tomorrow, Biega being in Grand Rapids already will have cleared a roster spot for Ericsson to stay in Detroit, which could be that “something.”  Ericsson clearing waivers gives the Red Wings some flexibility in setting their roster but it doesn’t mean he has to be sent down.

Biega being with the Griffins puts them in a roster crunch, with Oliwer Kaski and Vili Sarrijarvi already rotating in and out of the third defensive pair.  As such, keeping him there does not seem to be a valid long-term plan.

My gut feeling is that, if Ericsson clears waiver and if he is assigned to Grand Rapids, he could choose to retire rather than report.  This might be the best solution for everyone involved, as Ericsson would avoid riding the bus in the AHL to close out his career while the Red Wings wouldn’t be hit by salary cap recapture penalties as Ericsson is in the last year of his contract.  Additionally, the Wings could then call Biega back up, taking care of some of the blueline logjam throughout the organization.

I admit, though, that scenario doesn’t seem like the “Red Wings Way.”  We’ll have to wait to see how new GM Steve Yzerman plays this.

Thoughts on the Captaincy

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill announced today that the team would go a second consecutive season without naming a captain.

The move comes contrary to rumors that flew all summer about Detroit star Dylan Larkin being named as the successor to Henrik Zetterberg, whose playing career is over due to back issues but will remain under contract with the club for two more seasons.  While Larkin may indeed be the Red Wings next captain, that won’t happen this season.

While a new captain will not be named defensive specialist Luke Glendening was added to the rotation of alternate captains (alongside Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, and Frans Nielsen), giving the Red Wings four players wearing the A.

The captaincy is something that is very tradition-heavy in the NHL.  Steve Yzerman‘s retired jersey banner includes the C in recognition of his tenure as Detroit’s captain.  Joe Sakic’s does as well, as the Avalanche have never had an original thought.

It was a big deal when the Vancouver Canucks named goalie Roberto Luongo as their captain in 2008, skirting NHL rules to do so.  Similarly, it was something of a shock when, just five years ago, the San Jose Sharks stripped Joe Thornton of their captaincy.

Now, it seems that some of the gravitas behind the captaincy is gone.

Per the NHL rulebook, only players with letters are allowed to talk to the referees.  That rule is ignored on a nightly basis.  If any player can talk to the refs, there’s no in-game reason to designate one as captain.

The Red Wings showed how unnecessary on-ice captains are during the 2015-16 season.  For 34 games that year they dressed two or fewer captains due to injury, opting not to name replacements on a game-by-game basis, knowing there was no need to.  A season earlier they did that ten times, while also using four alternate-alternate captains.

Compare the current decade to the 1990s.

From 1990-91 to 1999-2000, there were six instances of a team going an entire season without a captain.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning.

There will be as many cases of teams going captain-less this season, same as last season.  There will be 25 instances of teams not naming a captain between 2010-11 and 2019-20.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Teams are instead opting to name a “leadership group,” as the Golden Knights called it in 2017 and the Canucks did in 2018 and the Red Wings have seemingly done this year.

It may just be that the captaincy doesn’t carry the importance it used to.  If a letter isn’t required on the ice, and if leaders make themselves known in the dressing room regardless of whether or not they’re a captain, then why name one at all?