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.

On Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection

Four years after being released in Sweden, Nicklas Lidstrom‘s biography is getting a bit of a makeover and an English release. Originally titled Lidstrom: Captain Fantastic, the update carries the name Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection.

Disclaimer: Not being Swedish-speaking, I never read the original. As such, I can’t speak to how much the actual content changed between the Swedish and English releases. While the increased page count (roughly 200 in the original compared to 278 [plus some pages of photos] in the new edition) would imply significant new content, it could also be due to a formatting change or the addition of an appendix including Lidstrom’s stats and records. The new book’s final chapter does reference events that occurred after the original’s release, so at least some of the content is new.

I’ve stated in the past that I like biographies that give a different view to the stories we already know. In the Internet Age, with events reported on from seemingly every angle in real-time, that gets harder and harder to do. Lidstrom’s biography is no different on that front. This being a second release makes it even more difficult, as the chapter discussing his injury during the 2009 Western Conference Finals might have been shocking had it not been revealed four years ago.

What makes Lidstrom’s biography unique is what made Lidstrom himself unique: consistency. Every chapter carries the same thread forward, showing how Lidstrom worked like a machine at every level of his career.

A chapter about his youth playing days? Here’s a quote from a coach describing how he was different even then. His rookie year in the NHL? Here’s Brad McCrimmon saying virtually the same thing. His international career? Here’s Peter Forsberg. His NHL breakout? Wayne Gretzky. His ascension to the captaincy? Steve Yzerman. The end of his career? Drew Doughty.

At every level of his career it would appear that the biggest names on the stage recognized just how unique Lidstrom was. Reading those players gushing over Lidstrom is a big part of what makes this book fun.

My personal favorite story from the book would be the one that’s also the most painful to me as a fan, as Lidstrom describes how much it hurt to lose Game Seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. To see that it still haunts Lidstrom shows his humanity as a contrast to the machine-like performance he’s so famous for.

One final note: The book’s cover carries a bit of a lie.

I read that as “Nicklas Lidstrom with Gunnar Nordstrom and Bob Duff.” An autobiography with help from a couple professional writers. Which would be acceptable; I don’t think anyone would have been surprised if Lidstrom had narrated his story and allowed the writers to shape it as necessary.

The problem the book is in the third person. I don’t know how much was written by Nordstrom and how much came from Duff but – aside from the photo captions – it would appear none of it was written by Lidstrom himself. As such, it’s not so much “with” Nordstrom and Duff as it is “by” them. That might be a small thing but I do think it’s worth noting.

Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection is scheduled for release next week, on October 1, 2019.

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?

2019 Free Agency Thoughts: Day One

I noted my thoughts about each of the Red Wings free agent signings yesterday as they were announced.  Since then, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has spoken and explained some of his plan.

I’m not sure I buy it, so I’m going to revisit those thoughts a bit.

Calvin Pickard

Yzerman confirmed that Pickard is bound for Grand Rapids, not competing with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit, as was suggested when rumors of the deal broke on Sunday.  That makes significantly more sense.

My only concern is how Pickard (along with Curtis McElhinney) was claimed on waivers at the start of last season, leaving the Toronto Marlies without any goalies.  That said, veteran goalies make it through waivers every year, it’s last year that was the outlier.  I think it’s safe to blame my concern on recency bias.

Patrik Nemeth

I honestly don’t know much about Nemeth.  At first glance he seems like a good fit for the Red Wings.  Yzerman specifically mentioned that he could play with either Mike Green or Filip Hronek.  I imagine that whichever of those two doesn’t pair up with Nemeth gets Danny DeKeyser and, while not great by any means, that could be a solid top four.

The problem is the ever-present logjam.  Assuming a third pair of Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson with Madison Bowey as the seventh defenseman, that means there’s no room for Dennis Cholowski or Oliwer Kaski or anyone who might surprise in training camp.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying that it’ll be okay because there will be injuries, which was the case to start the season last year.  In all likelihood, yes, players will get hurt.  If you are counting on that, though, you have to count on someone getting hurt badly enough that they go on injured reserve, otherwise their roster spot isn’t cleared and no one can be called up to fill in.  So to get significant time for anyone outside that top seven, you have to hope for significant time lost due to injury to someone, which doesn’t sit well with me.

By the end of the season things might be different.  Ericsson and Daley and Green could all be gone.  Of course, there’s most of a season to play between now and the trade deadline and the last time the Wings expected to see a veteran defenseman moved in February, he got hurt and ended up signing an extension.

Valtteri Filppula

Oh, here’s the big one.  Yzerman says that Filppula was brought back to give the Red Wings depth at center, allowing them to shift Andreas Athanasiou back to his natural position at wing.

Obviously the organization thinks Athanasiou’s try-out as second-line center to end last season didn’t go well enough.  That’s fine.  I don’t think it was enough time to tell but I’m willing to accept their conclusion.  The issue is that I don’t accept that Valtteri Filppula is a second-line center.

The Wings now have a top line center in Dylan Larkin and bottom-six centers in Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening, Christoffer Ehn, and Jacob de la RoseDarren Helm can fill in at center and Yzerman mentioned Justin Abdelkader as well, which I think would be awful.  Helm and Abdelkader can be ignored anyway, though, because that’s six centers for three lines, none of which is the second line.

If the choice is between playing Athanasiou out of position and seeing how it goes or playing Filppula up a line, I’d pick Athanasiou.

I have nothing against Filppula as a third line center.  If Yzerman were to find a way to move Nielsen and slot Filppula in there, I’d be all for it.  Especially with Filppula coming in cheaper than Nielsen.  But that’s not the move that’s happening.

Red Wings Pick Defenseman Seider Sixth Overall

I was a little busy yesterday and didn’t get a chance to post my thoughts on the Red Wings’ selection of Moritz Seider at sixth overall.

Given the forward names that were being thrown around, and given that the Red Wings have picked near the top of the draft so rarely in recent history, it’s kind of hard to see them go off the board there. It’s clear that, despite the forwards that were available, they were focused on Seider and were going to pick him. It sounds like they would have preferred to get him at #35 but didn’t think he’s still be there, tried to trade down but couldn’t find a deal, so they picked him in the slot they had.

I see it as kind of the other shoe dropping after the Wings were focused on defensemen last season and then Filip Zadina fell to them. At some point, no matter who’s available, you have to address organizational needs. It could have been Quinn Hughes last year instad of Zadina and then Trevor Zegras this year instead of Seider.

Given how the first round fell out, getting their guy on defense early might prove to be wise. If Arthur Kaliyev, for example, falls to #35 and the Wings pick him, I’d be pretty okay with those first two picks.

That said, this kind of shows the problem with the Red Wings rebuild strategy – stocking up on second round picks. They haven’t had the assets to get extra first-rounders and that left them in a position last night where they had to take their guy early.

I’m not familiar enough with Seider to know if focusing in on him – as opposed to another defenseman – made sense. The pick feels off to me but, in his first draft with Detroit, I’m willing to give Steve Yzerman the benefit of the doubt.

Now we just have to see how the rest of the draft plays out.

On the State of the Logjam

It feels like every offseason we talk about the logjam on the Red Wings’ blueline.  With Libor Sulak bolting the Griffins for the KHL on Tuesday and Jake Chelios doing the same last week, now’s a good time to take a look at where things stand in the Detroit organization.

Last season, the Red Wings came out of camp with the following 14 defensemen spread out between Detroit and Grand Rapids, excluding players signed to AHL deals:

Jake Chelios
Dennis Cholowski
Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser
Jonathan Ericsson
Mike Green
Joe Hicketts
Filip Hronek
Nick Jensen
Niklas Kronwall
Brian Lashoff
Dylan McIlrath
Vili Saarijarvi
Libor Sulak

There were also part-time defenseman Luke Witkowski and signed-but-assigned-to-Europe Gustav Lindstrom but I’m ignoring them for the purposes of this.

With everyone healthy, it made for a nice, even split of seven defensemen each for the Red Wings and the Griffins.  For most of the season, though, not everyone was healthy, leading to everyone on that list with the exception of Saarijarvi playing at least one game in Detroit.

As an aside, it drives me slightly nuts that the Red Wings brought up Chelios – who had no future in the organization even then – late in the season, rather than giving Saarijarvi a look.  In meaningless games, there’s no harm in giving an actual prospect minutes, even if you’re concerned he’s not quite ready.  McIlrath could be swapped for Chelios in this argument as well.

By the end of the season, Jensen was gone but Madison Bowey had joined the group, keeping the numbers the same.

Since then we’ve seen the addition of Finnish free agent Oliwer Kaski and the departures of Chelios and Sulak.  Not much of a difference.  What else could we see this summer?

The big name is Kronwall, whose contract is up this summer.  Ken Holland had stated that, should Kronwall want to return, there would be a spot for him.  Holland is in Edmonton and this is Steve Yzerman‘s team now, so does that offer still stand?  It feels like buzz about Kronwall returning for one more season has died down in the last several weeks.  Is that meaningful or is it just the nature of the news cycle?  My gut feeling is that Kronwall is done.

Hicketts is also something of a question mark.  He’s a restricted free agent so he has limited options but it’s possible he bolts for Europe, seeing few options in the Detroit organization.  I wouldn’t call it likely, though.

Then there are trade options.  Early “What Will Yzerman Do as GM?” stories pushed the possibility of trading Jonathan Ericsson or Trevor Daley before the start of the season.  While I’d like to see that, I think they have more value at the trade deadline and Yzerman will hold onto them until then.

On the flip side, there’s the question of whether or not Lindstrom will come over this season, adding a body back to the mix.  Gut feeling again…  I’m going to say he spends another season in Europe.  That could change if Ericsson or Daley are moved in the summer.

So coming out of camp next fall, that gives the Red Wings and Griffins something like the following:

Bowey
Cholowski
Daley
DeKeyser
Ericsson
Green
Hicketts
Hronek
Kaski
Lashoff
McIlrath
Saarijarvi

That’s still 12 names, so the logjam isn’t gone but there might be some room to work.

Let’s say Detroit starts with Bowey, Cholowski, Daley, DeKeyser, Ericsson, Green, and Hronek.  Bowey could be buried in GR but he can also be your seventh defenseman so we’ll assume he and Cholowski split time.

That puts Hicketts, Kaski, Lashoff, McIlrath, and Saarijarvi in Grand Rapids.  Maybe Kaski has a great camp and swaps out for Bowey…  Whatever.

The thing to see here is that, while the roster is still pretty packed, minutes in Grand Rapids have become available.  The ascension of Hronek and Cholowski, combined with the departures of Chelios and Sulak, means that Saarijarvi and Kaski (again, assuming he’s in GR) could have the opportunity for a decent amount of playing time to prove that they’re ready, which will be important if Daley, Ericsson, and/or Green are moved at the trade deadline.

Of course, it’s still early in the summer.  The Red Wings could make another Chelios-like signing to put a body (or bodies) in Grand Rapids, making those minutes harder to find.  Jared MacIssac could make the jump from juniors over the summer.  As of right now, though, there has been some movement on the logjam.