Thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2021 Roster

The Red Wings made a series of assignments to their taxi squad and to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday and, with that, their roster for the 2021 season is pretty much confirmed.

I qualify that because the Red Wings are starting with Bobby Ryan, Darren Helm, and Christian Djoos out of the lineup. So, while this might be the roster on opening night, it’s probably not exactly the one they’d hoped for, nor is it the expected roster on a nightly basis.  Even if they are small changes, we’re probably going to see a bunch of adjustments to this roster over the first month of the season.

Right now the taxi squad consists of Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Kevin Boyle, and Calvin Pickard.  You can bet that, once the Grand Rapids Griffins’ season gets going, five of those players will be in GR.  The Red Wings won’t want any of their youngsters sitting in the press box (or wherever the NHL has mandated that taxi squad players sit) when they could be playing in the AHL. They’ll keep one of the goalies up, as required, then swap out everyone else who isn’t playing for guys like Turner Elson and Dylan McIlrath.

Meanwhile, on the playing roster, we’re seeing these lines:

Obviously we’ve got some taxi squad guys in there but they’re not in positions we need to worry about. Rasmussen and Smith on a “fifth line” with a no-contact Bobby Ryan isn’t a real line and while Lindstrom may very well effectively be the Red Wings’ eighth defenseman right now, they’re not going to roll four pairings in a game so his play alongside Alex Biega in practice doesn’t matter.

The top line has been virtually set in stone since last season so there are no surprises there.  Vladislav Namestnikov with Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina is somewhat unexpected but likely influenced by Ryan’s injury.  Mathias Brome got some buzz in camp and seemed likely to get some NHL playing time once Helm and Ryan were out.  The fourth line looks a whole lot like a “and everyone else” line as I don’t see a reason for Frans Nielsen to be there.

I think once Ryan returns, we’ll see Nielsen drop out of the lineup (unless he’s rebounded strongly from last season but there’s been no camp chatter to say we should expect that) and Brome drop down a line.  Namestnikov could also move to the third line to make room for Ryan with Fabbri and Zadina.

Helm’s return (which I’m assuming would come later as he’s not even skating right now) would then seemingly push Adam Erne off the fourth line, unless Brome is shown to need AHL time to adjust to the North American game and he is the one who comes out of the lineup.

On defense, the big thing left to see is Djoos’ role on the team.  He’s sticking in the Detroit lineup as he would otherwise have to clear waivers and the Red Wings didn’t claim him just to be a tradable asset as they also can’t trade him without first waiving him.  Does he bump Marc Staal or Troy Stecher off that third pairing or is he just here as another depth guy, effectively replacing Lindstrom alongside Biega?

Assuming what I’ve suggested, a healthy lineup would need one more change, though, as the Red Wings would have 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies, putting them over the 23-man roster limit.  The easy answer there would be to drop Brome down to the Griffins as he wouldn’t need to clear waivers.  That said, I’ve already advocated for keeping Brome in the lineup over Nielsen and Erne, so a more interesting option would be to waive Nielsen and (assuming he’s not claimed) put him on the taxi squad.  The Red Wings have the salary cap space to eat his contract and the one-season taxi squad gives a place for Nielsen to go where he can’t take a spot with the Griffins from one of the kids who needs it.

Given that the Red Wings just re-confirmed that Nielsen will be an alternate captain under new captain Dylan Larkin, I can’t see them punting him to the sidelines so easily, though.

Obviously further injuries could change this quickly but I think this is an approximation of what we could be looking at under ideal conditions.

Red Wings Claim Defenseman Djoos via Waivers

The Detroit Red Wings claimed defenseman Christian Djoos off of waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Djoos, 26, split last season between the Washington Capitals and the Ducks at the NHL level but spent most of the season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. In 119 career NHL games, he has five goals and 22 assists for 27 points.

Christian Djoos is the son of former NHLer Per Djoos, who played 26 games for the Red Wings during the 1990-91 season.

This pickup is a little weird to me.  Detroit’s blueline seems set with Danny DeKeyser, Filip Hronek, Patrik Nemeth, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, Marc Staal, and Alex Biega.  That’s with Gustav Lindstrom on the outside looking in.

Djoos could have been claimed to fill space on the taxi squad this season but he will have to clear waivers to be assigned to it, just as if he were being assigned to the AHL.  In that case, Anaheim would have the right to claim him back and – if no other team placed a claim – send him to their own AHL affiliate, as they originally intended.

Maybe Detroit GM Steve Yzerman thinks the Ducks just didn’t want Djoos anymore and he’ll make it through waivers.  There’s no risk in trying it.  Best-case scenario, the Red Wings add a depth defenseman.  Worst-case scenario, they’re right back where they started.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle

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 Add Defenseman Stecher

The Detroit Red Wings continued rebuilding their roster on Saturday afternoon, adding defenseman Troy Stecher.

Stecher was linked to the Red Wings pretty much immediately after Vancouver failed to give him a qualifying offer.  His two-year deal reportedly carries a $1.7 million salary cap hit.

With Stecher in the fold, Detroit’s blueline appears to be set for the coming season.  Assuming that none of the Red Wings’ prospects currently playing in Europe come back for the start of the NHL campaign, they would be able to roll out pairings something like this:

Danny DeKeyserFilip Hronek
Patrik Nemeth – Troy Stecher
Marc Staal – Jon Merrill
Alex Biega

Jersey number geek notes: This is Detroit’s fourth free agent signing of the season who had been wearing a number that’s unavailable with the Red Wings, as Stecher wore #51 for the Canucks.  He wore #2 with North Dakota and while that’s currently assigned to Joe Hicketts, Hicketts seems to have lost his chance in Detroit.  I wonder if they might assign Hicketts a different number and give Stecher #2.  I could also see Stecher getting #52 with Jonathan Ericsson gone.