Red Wings Logjam Won’t Get Better On Its Own

Xavier Ouellet is back in Grand Rapids and Mattias Backman has returned to Sweden. For the time being, the Red Wings’ logjam on the blue line is resolved. Seven defensemen in Detroit, seven with the Griffins (Scott Czarnowscan was called up from Toledo when Ouellet was brought to Detroit).

That the Red Wings aren’t icing the best lineup they can right now is irrelevant. That one of their prospects is now disgruntled is as well. There is now a spot for everyone, that’s all that matters, fixing it is a problem for the future.

So let’s look at that future.

We’ll assume that the Red Wings don’t trade anyone (because they haven’t yet) and sign all of their restricted free agents. We’ll also assume that the Griffins bring back Nathan Paetsch and Brennan Evans because they’re a couple of blue line leaders in GR. None of the unrestricted free agents return.

That means that Niklas Kronwall is back. And Jonathan Ericsson. And Kyle Quincey. And Danny DeKeyser, and Brendan Smith, and Jakub Kindl, and Brian Lashoff. Ouellet and Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko and Nick Jensen. Evans and Paetsch and Backman. Richard Nedomlel, currently in Toledo.

Joe Hicketts, who just made the Canadian World Junior team? He’s probably turning pro. Marc McNulty? Mitch Wheaton? Ben Marshall? James DeHaas? Not under contract yet but very well could be by next year.

The Red Wings have zero unrestricted free agents on defense next summer. Their two RFAs are Smith and Jensen, both of whom will return. In short, there are exactly as many roster spots available throughout the organization next year as there are right now. And in all likelihood there will be even more players fighting for them.

Without the Red Wings making a trade – dumping one or more players – their current roster crunch isn’t getting any better until at least the summer of 2016. That’s one more full season before there’s even a roster spot in Detroit available, which means another full season before there’s even a spot in Grand Rapids available, which means the Wings are dumping their prospects straight to the Walleye.

Or back to Sweden, in the case of Backman, ’cause why should he stick around for that?

I’ve been among the crowd clamoring for the exit of Jakub Kindl (and, to a lesser extent, Brian Lashoff) as a means to clear up the logjam. At varying points the Red Wings have said they’re trying to move Kindl but just how hard they’re trying is up for debate, as the Carolina Hurricanes just managed to get a sixth round pick back for Jay Harrison while Kindl remains in Detroit.

I see three possibilities: The Red Wings see value in Kindl and want a return that reflects that. Teams are interested in Kindl but not given his current contract. No one is interested in Kindl.

All three of these reflect poorly on Detroit.

If the Wings want more for Kindl than anyone is willing to give, then they’re overvaluing him and are no better than the Buffalo Sabres asking for Anthony Mantha for Tyler Myers. This is an addition by subtraction move, stop worrying about the return.

If the contract is the issue, it means the Red Wings gave him a contract that no one else would have.

If no one is interested, then Detroit continues to employ a player that no other team wants.

Rafalski Scores OT Winner as Red Wings Defeat Sabres

Brain Rafalski scored 31 seconds into overtime Saturday night, giving the Detroit Red Wings a 3-2 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

It was Rafalski’s first game-winning goal of the season.

With the win, the Red Wings moved into eighth place in the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of the idle Calgary Flames.

The Red Wings were skating four-on-three with Buffalo’s Tyler Myers in the penalty box on a delay-of-game penalty that carried over from the end of regulation. Rafalski drifted to the top of the left faceoff circle and one-timed a pass from Nicklas Lidstrom past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller on the short side.

Detroit had opened the scoring with a pair of goals early in the first period.

Just 2:02 in, Pavel Datsyuk got the Red Wings on the board. Brad Stuart fired a shot that went wide to Miller’s left and deflected off the back boards, coming to Datsyuk on the other side of the goal. From an extreme angle, Datsyuk put it into the open net.

Patrick Eaves made it a two-goal lead 1:13 later, driving down the left wing and cutting to the net, rolling the puck up Miller’s stick and over him when the goaltender came out to poke-check it away.

Jochen Hecht scored the first of his two goals at 7:02 of the period, backhanding the rebound of a Jason Pominville shot past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard from in close.

Hecht tied the game at 5:30 of the second period. The rebound of Tim Connolly’s original shot came out to Pominville in the slot. Pominville couldn’t get a shot away as he cut towards the bottom of the left faceoff circle but he teed it up for Hecht who put it past a sprawling Howard.

Howard finished the night with 24 saves on 26 shots. Miller stopped 34 of 37 Detroit chances.

Detroit finished the night 1-for-4 on the power play while Buffalo was scoreless on three tries with the extra attacker.

The Red Wings now head out to Western Canada for a three-game road trip, starting Monday night in Calgary.

Rafalski’s goal gave Detroit a nine-game streak of scoring at least one power play goal.

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