On the Red Wings as Trade Deadline Sellers

The NHL’s trade deadline is less than a week away and – in the middle of their “bye week” – the team sits last in the Atlantic Division, only two points up on the Carolina Hurricanes (who have four games in hand) for last in the Eastern Conference, and twenty-sixth overall in the thirty-team league.

For the first time in a quarter century, the Red Wings will (in all likelihood) not make the playoffs.  As such, they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland insists that the team will not be torn down in a total rebuild.  He expects only to unload “rentals” – players who will be free agents this summer anyway.  With that in mind, there are three players who we can probably expect to see moved.

Thomas Vanek
Vanek has been one of the Red Wings’ top forwards this season, leading the team in goals with 15 in just 47 games played.  He was signed last summer to a cap-friendly one-year deal as a reclamation project and is just the kind of player a team looking to make a playoff push would want to add.  The only hiccup is that he reportedly loves Detroit and Holland may choose to simply extend his contract rather than trade him and risk being unable to bring him back this summer.

Brendan Smith
At 28, Smith is no longer a prospect, he’s a known quantity.  He could be a solid addition to a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins (who, as I write this, traded for Ron Hainsey), looking to shore up their defense.  That said, Holland has stated that he’ll talk to Smith’s camp about a contract extension, so he could stay put.  The Red Wings have five defensemen already under contract for next season, plus restricted free agents Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet.  If Jensen can do Smith’s job at half the price (or less), it makes sense to get what they can for him.

Steve Ott
Ott signed with his “hometown” Red Wings last summer and was excited to come to Detroit.  He clearly wants to be here.  I’ve been against his signing from the start.  There are a lot of GMs who love the kind of player he is, even if I don’t.  He could be a cheap veteran addition for a team looking for a little extra grit.


In addition to the above three, there are a few others in unique positions that could see them dealt.

Drew Miller
Exiled to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the face of a roster crunch in Detroit, Miller has made it clear that he’d like to be traded and get back into the NHL.  His position is similar to Ott’s, as a veteran grinder who would come cheap, except for the fact that he already cleared waivers so any team that wanted him will have already passed him up.  The Wings would likely have to take a player back in any deal for Miller.

Tomas Jurco
Jurco has been stuck in the press box for much of the season and doesn’t seem to have a future in Detroit.  He reportedly requested a trade earlier in the year and will be a restricted free agent this summer.  That said, if the Wings were to sell on Vanek and Ott, it would seemingly open up a roster spot in Detroit for Jurco to get more playing time.

Tomas Tatar
Tatar has been one of the Wings’ top forwards this season but has been plagued at times by accusations of not living up to his potential.  He’s a restricted free agent this summer, likely due a raise from the $2.75 million he makes now to something close to the $4.75 million of Gustav Nyquist.  The Chicago Blackhawks called about Tatar and Nyquist earlier this season, so if the Wings wanted to avoid paying Tatar, they could ship him out now.


Finally, there’s a small group of players that might have value but probably won’t be dealt for various reasons, primarily because – as stated above – the Wings say they’re not tearing the team down.

Gustav Nyquist
Signed for two more seasons after this one and currently suspended, the Blackhawks did ask about him, so the possibility of moving Nyquist is there.  Even more than Tatar, Nyquist can’t shake the “underperformer” label and the Wings may want to dump his salary to facilitate re-signing Tatar (or anyone else).

Mike Green
Green has one year left on his contract for $6 million, so any team looking to acquire him wouldn’t be going for a rental.  If available, though, he’d be one of the top defensemen on the market and could probably bring in a decent haul for the Red Wings’ reload.  It’d also clear a lot of money from the Wings’ cap.  I don’t expect him to be dealt but I think it’s an intriguing possibility.  Green does have a no-trade clause.

Jimmy Howard
I don’t expect Howard to be traded at the deadline, lets get that out of the way.  But – especially if he’s not claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft this summer – the Wings are going to have quite the logjam in goal to deal with, plus a lot of money dedicated to goalies.  Clearing that up sooner rather than later would be to Holland’s benefit, so he should be trying to move Howard now.  Of course, Howard is currently hurt and has no timetable for return, so pulling off this move would be near-miraculous.


My prediction? Vanek and Smith or Ott get traded.  Maybe Miller, especially if Ott stays.

Nyquist, Ott, and Random Numbers

Earlier today, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press posted a piece about how, once the Wings get healthy, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan need to be benched because they’re not producing as expected.  She then engaged readers via Twitter, repeating her argument while also stating that Steve Ott has been a great signing for the Red Wings.

I Tweeted a little bit about it but I want to sum it up here.

As far as Nyquist (and probably Tatar and Sheahan) goes, I won’t deny that the Wings probably had higher hopes for him, especially with the contract that they gave him.  That said, Prashanth Iyer of Winging it in Motown does a great job of explaining that Nyquist’s production is solid by certain metrics.

Read his whole thread. Seriously.

When asked about Steve Ott, HSJ said the following:

I’m not an Ott fan. I was confused by his signing on Day One.  Last week the beat writers were all over how great Ott is for his fight sparking the Red Wings to a win, which is confusing correlation with causation.

If Ott was brought to Detroit to fight and provide a spark, here’s what we know:  Ott has fought five times this season.  The Red Wings are 2-2-1 in those games.  In the minutes played after his fight in each of those games, the Red Wings have scored 13 goals and allowed 13 goals.

In short, the impact of a Steve Ott fight on the outcome of a game this season is completely neutral.  You could argue it’s a negative, even, if you take that overtime loss as just a loss.

But if we’re going to take salary into account, let’s say that instead of Ott, the Wings had a guy who was making just over $800k and put up at a 15-goal, 15-assist pace last season while playing about 11 minutes per night.  Would you say that’s the kind of guy you could play in the bottom six or you could bump up to the top six if you felt like you need to cut the minutes of Nyquist/Tatar/Sheahan?  I think so.

Of course, those numbers belong to Teemu Pulkkinen, abandoned by the Red Wings and now skating for the AHL’s Iowa Wild.

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.

Red Wings Rally for Stadium Series Win

The Detroit Red Wings rallied from down 2-1 entering the third period on Saturday for a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche in their Stadium Series matchup at Denver’s Coors Field.

Gustav Nyquist‘s scored just 1:27 into the third period. Nyquist lifted a no-look backhander from the left faceoff circle past Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov to tie the game, 2-2.

With 6:32 left in the period, Darren Helm fed Justin Abdelkader from behind the goal for a quick shot from the side of the crease past Varlamov for a 3-2 lead, Detroit’s second of the night.

The lead was short-lived, as Alex Tanguay blasted home a rebound over sprawling Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek just 14 seconds later.

The game seemed to be headed to overtime until Brad Richards banged the rebound of a Niklas Kronwall shot from the point off Varlamov’s pad, through the air, and into the net for a 4-3 win.

Helm added an empty-net goal to wrap up the game’s scoring.

Tomas Tatar had opened things up 5:07 into the first period. After a brief scramble around the side of the net, Tatar collected the puck and snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle through a screen by Nyqyust,

Nathan MacKinnon tied things up at 7:44 of the period, rifling a shot from the left wing past Mrazek on a rush.

With 5:22 remaining in the first, Tyson Barrie lifted a shot over Mrazek to make it 2-1. The Red Wings challenged the goal, saying Carl Soderberg interfered with Mrazek, but the call stood.

The Red Wings went scoreless on five power play tries while the Avalanche didn’t score on either of their chances with the man-advantage.

Mrazek finished the night with 24 saves on 27 shots. Varlamov stopped 23 of 27 chances.


Detroit’s healthy scratches were Brendan Smith and Teemu Pulkkinen… The game was briefly interrupted in the third period as wind lifted fake snow into the air, dumping some of it onto the playing surface.

Red Wings Rout Coyotes for 5-1 Win

The Detroit Red Wings earned a point in their ninth consecutive game Thursday night with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced to earn the win – his fourth in a row – and five different players scored for the Red Wings.

The game could have been very different, as the Coyotes thought they had opened the scoring just 1:22 in. Klas Dahlbeck scored on a play that Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill challenged. Video review revealed that Connor Murphy was offside and the goal was wiped out.

Instead, it was Justin Abdelkader‘s goal with 7:30 left in the opening frame that got things started. Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin forced a turnover behind the Arizona net and chased it up the side boards, then worked the puck to Abdelkader in front of the net for a backhander past goalie Mike Smith.

Niklas Kronwall made it 2-0 with 42 seconds left in the period on a blast from the slot off a feed from Tomas Tatar. Just 18 seconds later, Gustav Nyquist bounced a shot from the neutral zone past Smith to give the Red Wings a 3-0 lead.

The period would end with Kyle Chipchura laying a hard hit on Brendan Smith. Smith replied with a slash to Chipchura, then the two fought.

Arizona got on the board at 5:52 of the middle frame. Jordan Martinook snapped a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle through traffic and past Howard off a feed from behind the net by Steve Downie.

Danny DeKeyser replied for the Red Wings just 1:26 later with a blast from the blue line past Anders Lindback, who replaced Smith in the Coyotes’ net to start the second period.

Darren Helm would round out the game’s scoring with his first of the season. Lindback lost the puck behind the net and it came out to Helm, who put it in before Lindback could get into position.

Lindback finished the night with 26 saves on 28 shots while Smith stopped 13 of 16 chances he faced.

The Red Wings lost both Teemu Pulkkinen and Drew Miller to injury in the first period. Pulkkinen was boarded by Martin Hanzal and Miller took a shoulder to the head from Dahlbeck.

Kronwall Scores in OT to Lift Red Wings Past Oilers

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall scored 26 seconds into overtime on Friday night, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-3 win over the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

Five of Detroit’s last six games have been decided in the extra period, with the team going 3-2 in that set.

After Kronwall gave the puck away to Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins right in front of the Detroit net, he took Nugent-Hopkins down and joined Dylan Larkin on a rush going the opposite way. On a two-on-one against Oscar Klefbom, Larkin fed Kronwall for a snap shot through Klefbom’s legs and past goalie Cam Talbot for the win.

The Red Wings had opened the scoring at 5:11 of the second period, as Gustav Nyquist pounced on a loose puck at the edge of the crease during a scramble and knocked it past Talbot. Tomas Tatar made it 2-0 6:56 later, snapping a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past the Edmonton netminder.

Two quick goals near the end of the period would erase the Detroit lead. Iiro Pakarinen took a feed from Anton Lander and beat Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard from the slot to make it 1-0 with 4:43 left in the second. Just 2:27 later, Andrej Sekara scored a power play goal on a one-timer from the high slot to even things up.

Larkin restored Detroit’s lead with 36 seconds left in the middle frame, racing in on goal off a feed from Henrik Zetterberg and beating Talbot from in close.

Pakarinen tied things back up at 8:45 of the third period, capitalizing on a Detroit turnover to lift a shot past Howard from the left faceoff circle.

Each team had two chances on the power play with Sekara’s tally the only goal scored.

Howard finished the night with 21 saves on 24 shots. Talbot stopped 28 of 32 Detroit chances.

The Red Wings are next in action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Florida Panthers.

Datsyuk Scores 300th as Red Wings Fall to Bruins in OT

Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk scored his 300th career goal but it wasn’t enough for the Red Wings, who allowed late goals to the Boston Bruins to drop a 3-2 decision in overtime.

With 1:44 left in regulation, Boston’s Colin Miller tied the game at 2-2. After a long shift of Detroit control in the Boston zone, the Bruins finally got the puck into the end and were able to change faster than the Red Wings. Miller jumped on the ice and into the Detroit zone, taking a pass from Loui Eriksson and blasting a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past Wings goalie Petr Mrazek.

Miller would figure into the overtime game-winner as well, as his initial shot from nearly the same spot as the tying goal was tipped by Frank Vatrano in the crease and past Mrazek for the 3-2 win.

It was Vatrano’s second goal of the night, as he had opened the game’s scoring 7:11 into the first, slapping a shot from the high slot through traffic to make it 1-0.

Datsyuk’s milestone marker tied things up at 2:26 of the second. In the left circle, Datsyuk sent a saucer pass to himself over the stick of defender Torey Krug, then snapped a shot from the slot past Bruins goalie – and former Red Wing – Jonas Gustavsson.

With 5:07 left in the middle frame Tomas Tatar gave the Red Wings a 2-1 lead. Tatar jumped off the bench on a line change and picked up the loose puck, driving into the slot to rip a shot past Gustavsson.

Gustavsson finished the night with 32 saves on 34 shots while Mrazek stopped 19 of the 22 chances he faced.

Neither team scored a power play goal, with each team getting three tries with the extra attacker.

The Red Wings are back in action on Friday when they host the Edmonton Oilers.


The game was celebrated as Detroit’s 200th consecutive sellout… Former Red Wing Landon Ferraro, claimed by the Bruins off waivers on Sunday, assisted on Boston’s first goal of the game. It was his second assist in as many games for the Bruins after having none in his Detroit career.

Mrazek Stops 35 as Red Wings Best Kings

Detroit netminder Petr Mrazek stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced and helped lead the Red Wings to a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.

Dylan Larkin scored the eventual game-winning goal at 6:08 of the second period, banging home the rebound of a Justin Abdelkader chance to give the Red Wings a 3-1 lead.

Jeff Carter‘s second goal of the night made it 3-2 with 9:17 left in the middle frame. Breaking into the Detroit zone, he snapped a shot from the top of the left circle past Mrazek.

The Red Wings would hold the Kings to just eight third-period shots and Mrazek would stop them all to preserve the lead and get the win.

Detroit opened the game’s scoring with 5:50 left in the first period on the power play. Henrik Zetterberg worked the puck down to Justin Abdelkader at the front of the Los Angeles net, who then moved it on to Tomas Tatar for a shot past goalie Jhonas Enroth.

Just 2:11 later, Carter scored on a shorthanded breakaway to tie things back up.

At 3:45 of the second, Mike Green jumped in from the point to bang a rebound chance in, making it 2-1.

Enroth finished the night with 26 saves on 29 shots.

The Red Wings are back in action Saturday night when they visit the St. Louis Blues.


Detroit got forward Brad Richards back from injury for the game. Andreas Athanasiou was returned to the Grand Rapids Griffins to make room on the roster for Richards.