On the Red Wings 2020-21 Lineup

The 2020-21 season is, at best, about 12 weeks away.  With Detroit GM Steve Yzerman‘s signings over the last couple days, though, we can get a look at what the Red Wings’ lineup might look like.

I’ve touched on this as players were signed but want to pull it all together and take a full look at it here.

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip ZadinaVladislav NamestnikovRobby Fabbri
Dmytro TimashovSam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

Danny DeKeyserFilip Hronek
Patrik NemethTroy Stecher
Marc StaalJon Merrill
Alex Biega

Jonathan Bernier
Thomas Greiss

I think that lineup is an upgrade over the one they iced on opening night a year ago.  The question is, how much better?  Playoff contention better?  Or just “not the worst team in the league by far” better?  Probably somewhere in between.

There are a few players missing here, which could be a problem.

Evgeny Svechnikov doesn’t have a roster spot.  Given that he’s on a one-year deal and isn’t waiver exempt anymore, he kind of needs one and a final chance to prove himself.

Maybe Filip Zadina stays in Czechia and Bobby Ryan moves up a line and Svechnikov slots in where Ryan was.  Maybe Tyler Bertuzzi goes to arbitration and that opens up a new buyout window for the Wings, and Frans Nielsen gets bought out, opening up a spot for Svechnikov.  There’s been interest in Luke Glendening in the past; maybe the Wings move on that sooner rather than later, Helm or Filppula move to centering the fourth line, and Svechnikov slots in there.

Similarly, there’s not a spot on defense for Moritz Seider, Gustav Lindstrom, or Dennis Cholowski.  I don’t see how Seider and Lindstrom aren’t in Europe for the duration of the season but that doesn’t help Cholowski.  If the AHL actually has a season, I think we’ll see Cholowski with the Griffins, getting a lot of minutes.  If the AHL can’t go, we’ll have to see how the NHL adapts before guessing what happens with Cholowski.

Of course, depending on what the NHL schedule looks like, the trade deadline could come around the end of the season for the European leagues, so Detroit could sell at the deadline and then fill their roster spots with players coming back over.  There are a lot of questions to answer with how the season will work, first.


Update, October 12, 11:30 AM: There is an option with regards to Nielsen that I failed to note above.  The Red Wings don’t need to clear his cap space or his spot on the 50-man Reserve List; he could just be waived and assigned to the Griffins (or somewhere else).  With buyouts on the brain, somehow I missed that.

They’d be paying him a lot of money to play in the AHL but it might serve a dual purpose.  Depending on what happens with the AHL season and the various European leagues, the Red Wings might have players who would otherwise be filling roster spots in GR instead playing overseas.  By sending Nielsen down, they’d get the Griffins a body that they’d otherwise have to sign.


Jersey Geek Guessing Game Recap

Every player the Red Wings acquired via free agency previously wore a number that is currently assigned to a Detroit player or prospect.  Here are my guesses as to how each player’s number will work out with the Wings.

Bobby Ryan has worn #9 for much of his career, aside from #6 for a few years in Ottawa when #9 was taken and #54 as a rookie in Anaheim (and in some international tournaments).  Of course, #9 is retired in Detroit and #6 is out of circulation.  He said he’d like #17 because he was a Brett Hull fan, or #12,  but #17 belongs to Filip Hronek and #12 is retired as well.  My guess is that Ryan either pries #17 from Hronek (perhaps Hronek switches to the #79 he wore in his youth) or he goes back to #54.  Longshot option: He gets Hull’s number but it’s not the #17 he wore in Detroit, rather the #16 he wore elsewhere, with the Red Wings deciding it’s time to stop keeping it out of circulation.

Jon Merrill wore #15 for three years with the Vegas Golden Knights and #7 for much of his time prior to that with the New Jersey Devils.  Dmytro Timashov currently has #15 and #7 is retired.  I could see Timashov switching to the #88 he wore before coming to the NHL, which would open up #15 for Merrill, or I could see Merrill wearing the #24 he wore at Michigan, taking it from prospect Antti Tuomisto.

Thomas Greiss has worn #1 for his entire NHL career but it’s retired in Detroit.  It’s hard to tell if there’s a different number he prefers.  By keeping #30 and #33 out of circulation, the Red Wings make it hard to work with traditional goalie numbers.  I’m guessing they’ll hold off on assigning #35 for a bit but if they don’t, Greiss could take that.  They could make #30 available again and give him that.  They could take numbers from any of the goalie prospects.  He could go non-traditional with #60 or #80 or something.  If they don’t do any of those things, I’m guessing #29 goes to Greiss.

Troy Stecher wore #51 for his whole Vancouver Canucks career but Valtteri Filppula has that in Detroit.  Stecher wore #2 for his college career at North Dakota and, while that’s currently assigned to Joe Hicketts in Detroit, Hicketts’ path to the Red Wings seems to be gone, so the team could let Stecher take his number.  I could also see Stecher taking Jonathan Ericsson‘s #52, if the team allows it, or something like #42.

Vladislav Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career.  Joe Veleno has it in Detroit but he’s not in Detroit right now.  Will the Red Wings make one of their top prospects give up his number to someone who’s on a short-term deal?  If so, there’s an easy answer.  If not, I’d love to see him take his uncle Vyacheslav Kozlov‘s #13, but it’ll probably be something like #95 or #98.  Or #60 if Greiss doesn’t go that route.

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.

Red Wings Sign Goalie Greiss

The Detroit Red Wings got their goalie on Saturday, signing Thomas Greiss to a two year deal.

The Red Wings didn’t announce financial terms, of course, but even before they confirmed the deal, it was reported to carry a $3.6 million salary cap hit.

The hit feels a tiny bit high to me but I really don’t care, because it’s a two-year deal, which was my biggest hope.  They could have dropped $7 million on Marc-Andre Fleury as long as it was only two years.  That term gets them through the Seattle expansion draft but not to the point that the rebuild should be done, so there’s a ton of flexibility.

Also, $3.6 million is less than I expected even if I feel like it’s a little high, so it’s a win either way, I’m just nitpicking the amount.

Greiss was one of my top two targets for Detroit, along with Cam Talbot.  So the Wings got the cheaper of the two on shorter term.  Win all around.

Jersey number geek thoughts: Greiss has worn #1 throughout his NHL career, which won’t be possible here.  He wore #40 with Germany but probably can’t have that.  He wore #33 early in his career in the minors but it seems like if anyone gets that in the Detroit organization, it’s going to be Kienan Draper.  Will the Red Wings hold #35 out of respect to Jimmy Howard?  If not, that makes sense for Greiss.  With Brendan Perlini gone, #29 could make sense.


Some additional contract talk:

I wonder if that structure is with the Seattle expansion draft in mind.

The Red Wings will have to make at least one goalie signed for the 2021-22 season available via the expansion draft.  Right now, only Greiss and Kaden Fulcher are signed for that season, so Fulcher would be the one available.  But if Detroit happened to pick up another goalie between now and then, someone they wanted to protect, putting more of the actual cash owed to Greiss in the 2021-22 season could serve to scare off the Kraken, making it so that Greiss could be left unprotected but not selected.

Of course, it could also be that, for the 2020-21 season, Greiss is expected to split time with Jonathan Bernier.  For 2021-22, with Bernier possibly gone, Greiss would be the starter and would get paid like it.

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.

Pre-Free Agency Thoughts

It’s October 9 so, of course, we’re getting ready to kick off NHL free agency.

The Red Wings have been tied to two big names, defenseman Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins and goalie Jacob Markstrom from the Vancover Canucks.  Both make some sense but I don’t like either option.

Krug is from Detroit and played college hockey at Michigan State so there’s a “hometown kid” storyline to enjoy there.  The Wings, despite depth on the blueline, are shockingly short on talent at the position.  Krug would instantly become their top d-man and take pressure off of the still-developing Filip Hronek and the oft-injured Danny Dekeyser.

However, Krug has made it clear that, now that he’s hitting unrestricted free agency, he wants to make sure that he gets paid.  That seems to rule out the idea of a hometown discount.  He’s coming off a deal that paid him $5.25 million per season.  Boston reportedly offered a six-year, $39 million deal in September, which was declined.  That’s a $6.5 million cap hit until he’s 35 and it wasn’t good enough.

Meanwhile, Markstrom is reportedly looking for $6+ million per season.  This, for a goalie whose career numbers are actually pretty close to what Jonathan Bernier put up before signing his three-year, $9 million deal with Detroit.  I don’t actually think that’s a particularly fair comparison but it’s enough to give me pause.

We can be relatively sure that the Red Wings don’t expect to compete for, probably, at least three more seasons.  We also know that the Red Wings have a ton of salary cap space for the coming season, so they can throw money around in the short-term without feeling too pinched.

That said, I don’t see Krug and Markstrom as the right signings.

Krug is 29 and projected to sign for something like $8 million per season for at least six years.  If the Red Wings aren’t going to compete for the first three of those, you end up in 2024 paying 10% of your salary cap to an aging defenseman at a time when contracts are up for guys like Dylan Larkin and Filip Zadina.

With Markstrom, you’re going for one of the more sought-after goalies on the market, asking for a bidding war, just to put the guy behind a team that isn’t good enough to win on a nightly basis.  The goalie position is a problem for the Red Wings organization, absolutely.  Throwing money at it now may not be the answer, though.

I’ll admit, I don’t have an answer on defense.  I’m shooting down Krug without giving a better option to replace him.  Maybe trade is a better way to add on defense, if you were to insist adding on defense was necessary, picking up another Staal-like contract.  Or perhaps helping Carolina’s blueline logjam out.

In goal, I’d rather see a second-tier goalie like Thomas Greiss or Cam Talbot.  Actually, what I’d really like to see is a deal to take Marc-Andre Fleury from Vegas with a sweetener from the Golden Knights, but Fleury has a no-trade clause and it’s hard to see him wanting to come to Detroit.

Part of the problem is that Detroit is no longer a destination for free agents.  Gone are the days where a guy comes on the market and we can say that, of course, he’d want to join the Detroit organization.  Just like how Fleury may not want to come to Detroit, players looking to rebound after being bought out might not think the Red Wings are the right team to sign a one-year “show me” deal with.

Which is why it’s hard for me to guess who the Wings should target at forward, where GM Steve Yzerman has also said the team would like to add.

Would recently-bought out Kyle Turris see Detroit as a place he could showcase his skills?  What about Anthony Duclair, who wasn’t given a qualifying offer by Ottawa?  I’d like to see Detroit go after both but the feeling has to go both ways.  Perhaps it’s the condensed offseason but I haven’t gotten the feeling that any free agents see Detroit as a destination without significant money behind it.

And maybe that’s not a problem.  Overpay on two-year deals and flip the player for picks at the 2022 trade deadline.  They’re off the books in time for the next round of raises.

I just don’t want to see long-term, high dollar deals unless the Red Wings are being paid to take them from someone else.

Red Wings Rally Past Penguins in Overtime

The Detroit Red Wings score two goals in the final three minutes of regulation and added another late in overtime to rally for a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday night.

Down 3-1 with 2:39 remaining in the third period, Henrik Zetterberg scored to give Detroit life. With Red Wings’ goalie Jimmy Howard on the bench for an extra skater, Danny DeKeyser sent a pass through the neutral zone to Zetterberg at the blue line. Zetterberg jumped between the Pittsburgh defenders and into the slot to snap a shot past goalie Thomas Greiss.

It looked like the game would be over just minutes later, as the Penguins gained control of the puck in Detroit’s end with Howard back on the bench, but DeKeyser blocked a shot at the empty net and the Wings turned it the other way.

With 39 seconds left, Zetterberg fed Pavel Datsyuk all alone in front of Greiss. Datsyuk attempted to fake out the Pittsburgh goalie but, finding nowhere to go, threw a pass back to an open Niklas Kronwall, who fired a shot back past Greiss to tie things up with his second goal of the night.

Justin Abdelkader would give Detroit the win with 44 seconds left in the overtime period. Abdelkader carried the puck into the Pittsburgh zone along the right wing and sent a pass across to defenseman Brendan Smith for a shot on Greiss. Greiss knocked it aside and the Penguins recovered but Zetterberg was able to tip Paul Martin’s clearing attempt right to Abdelkader in the slot to whack past Greiss.

Pascal Dupuis had opened the game’s scoring at 5:12 of the first period, snapping a shot past Howard on a two-on-one with Blake Comeau.

Olli Maatta made it 2-0 with 8:54 left in the first, picking up the rebound of his own shot from the high slot and cutting in from the left wing corner to squeak a backhander through Howard.

With 5:00 left in the period, Kronwall got Detroit on the board, stepping around Patric Hornqvist in the high slot to snap a shot past Greiss.

Chris Kunitz made it 3-1 for Pittsburgh at 8:29 of the second period, rifling a shot from the right faceoff circle over Howard’s shoulder.

Howard finished the night with 23 saves on 26 shots while Greiss stopped 27 of 31 Detroit chances.

Neither team scored a power play goal on the night. Each had three tries with the extra attacker.