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.
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.
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.
To close out the night was a weird rumor from Frank Seravalli:
Tyler Johnson on waivers today seemed to catch some off-guard today. It’s left many wondering if #GoBolts had something in place for a team to claim Johnson (#RedWings?). We’ll see tomorrow at 12 noon ET.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) October 10, 2020
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.
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.