Pre-Free Agency Thoughts

NHL Free Agency opens in about 6 hours and the Red Wings are already expected to be active.

The league’s free agent interview period reduces some of the drama of July 1.  We already know that Detroit has a verbal deal with Jonathan Bernier after calling on Carter Hutton and having Robin Lehner visit Detroit.  We know they’ve talked to former Red Wings Thomas Vanek and Valtteri Filppula.  We know they have interest in Carolina center Derek Ryan.

Filppula and Ryan come with a somewhat unexpected connection: According to Craig Custance of The Athletic, the Red Wings are interested in centers in case Henrik Zetterberg is unable to play this season.

That’s a bit to unpack so I want to break it down bit by bit.

Goaltending

This is the easy one.

I think I would have preferred 26-year-old Lehner over 29-year-old Bernier, as Lehner still has time to turn his career around and possibly become what Petr Mrazek was supposed to be for the Red Wings.  That said, Bernier has stats that are similar to Jimmy Howard‘s over the last several seasons and, with Howard a free agent next summer, it gives the Red Wings the option of trading him at next spring’s trade deadline if they’re out of playoff position.

Zetterberg

This is a complicated one.

When his contract was signed, I don’t think anyone expected him to play it out.  Then the CBA was rewritten to punish teams who had signed back-diving contracts.  Since then, LTIR has been abused to circumvent that punishment.

If Zetterberg’s back is hurt again, it would be very easy for him to go on LTIR for the rest of his career.  That said, when the Red Wings packed up for the summer, he said he expected to play in the fall.  What could have happened between then and now that would change that?

Filppula or Ryan could just be an insurance policy, but it seems expensive and premature unless there’s something the team isn’t telling us at this point.

Bottom line is I wouldn’t want to see the Red Wings sign a Zetterberg replacement without knowing for sure that Zetterberg would be out.

Vanek

Sigh.

I like Thomas Vanek.  I don’t want the Red Wings to sign him.

Custance made the point that Vanek seems to make Andreas Athanasiou better.  I agree.  But I also think Athanasiou isn’t long for the Red Wings, so signing someone to make him better doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Maybe you sign Vanek for a year and Athanasiou for a year and try to flip them both at the deadline?  I don’t know.

The larger point is that Vanek takes up a roster spot.  I already wrote about Mike Green‘s re-signing leaving little room for “the kids” on the Wings’ blueline.  If Vanek is signed, that gives the Red Wings 13 forwards on the roster (including Tyler Bertuzzi, who was in Detroit to end last season).

Yeah, they could send Luke Witkowski to Grand Rapids.  Or Martin Frk.  But all that does is open a spot on the fourth line or in the press box.  Where’s the spot that Michael Rasmussen is supposed to compete for.  Or Filip Zadina?  Or Evgeny Svechnikov?

Vanek’s signing would only take one spot and they need a lot more open than that to get the kids playing time, but it would seemingly show that, once again, the organization is only giving lip service to the idea of a youth movement.


So what will we see when noon rolls around?

Bernier is the only “confirmed” signing.  backup goalie is also the only position the Red Wings actually need to fill.

Vanek wouldn’t surprise me, based on the buzz and the fact that they wanted to bring him back last year.  I hope not, though.

Anything beyond that would unnecessary, so I hope it’s a quiet day for Detroit.

Red Wings Fall to Lightning, Series Even at 1-1

The Detroit Red Wings dropped a 5-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game Two of their Atlantic Division Semifinal matchup on Saturday.

The defense and goaltending that led Detroit to a win in Game One wasn’t there to save them in Game Two, leading to the series now tied at a game apiece.

Tyler Johnson opened the game’s scoring just 3:05 in on a Tampa Bay power play. Johnson picked up the rebound of a shot off the goal post in the circle to Detroit netminder Petr Mrazek‘s left and snapped it back into the net.

It was 2-0 at 7:56 of the second period when Alex Killorn beat Mrazek thanks to a fortunate bounce. Ryan Callahan attempted to pass the puck from the left wing through the high slot but Red Wings defender Alexey Marchenko got in the way. The puck bounced off Marchenko and fluttered right to Killorn, wide open at the edge of the crease. His initial shot went into the side of the net but he collected the puck and lifted it over a sprawling Mrazek.

Andrej Sustr was left wide open in the slot to take a pass from former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula and snap a shot past Mrazek with 5:12 left in the middle period for a 3-0 lead.

Johnson’s second of the afternoon made it 4-0 with 38 seconds left. Johnson broke in on Mrazek all alone after Nikita Kucherov knocked down Danny DeKeyser to turn a two-on-one into a breakaway, with Johnson faking out Mrazek in close.

Tomas Tatar scored Detroit’s only goal of the game at 5:49 of the third period, deflecting a Kyle Quincey shot past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop from a low angle.

Filppula rounded out the game’s scoring with a power play with with 4:34 remaining. Racing down the left wing, Filppula fired a shot on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard – who replaced Mrazek to start the third period – and snapped his own rebound into the back of the net.

Tampa Bay scored two power play goals on four chances after going scoreless on seven tries in Game One. Detroit didn’t score on any of their four attempts with the extra skater.

Mrazek finished with 14 saves on 18 shots in two period of play while Howard stopped 11 of the 12 chances he faced and Bishop stopped 23 of 24 shots.

Game Three will be on Thursday in Detroit.


Detroit head coach Mike Babcock announced after the game that Mrazek will start Game Three and that injured forward Justin Abdelkader is expected to return.

Red Wings Steal Game One from Lightning

Though badly outplayed and outshot, the Detroit Red Wings earned a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, taking a 1-0 lead in their Atlantic Division Semifinal series.

Detroit rookie goalie Petr Mrazek made 44 saves on 46 shots to deliver the Red Wings the victory. Lightning netminder Ben Bishop made just 11 saves on 14 Detroit chances.

Luke Glendening scored the eventual game-winner at 5:50 of the third period. While shorthanded, Glendening chipped the puck past Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman and raced down the right wing to catch up with it. Former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula caught up with him but Glendening held up and spun to his backhand, flinging a shot between Bishop’s pads to make it 3-1.

Just 2:36 later, the Lightning would pull back to within one, as Nikita Nesterov snapped a shot from the high slot past Mrazek through traffic.

Tampa Bay would be unable to even things up despite controlling play for the remainder of the game.

Pavel Datsyuk opened the game’s scoring at 9:03 of the first period, tipping a Kyle Quincey chance from the blueline past Bishop.

With 5:29 remaining in the opening frame, Brian Boyle tied things up on a shorthanded breakaway after blocking an attempted pass by Marek Zidlicky.

Datsyuk would strike again just eight seconds into the second period, snapping a shot over Bishop’s shoulder from the slot off a feed from Darren Helm while on the power play.

Datsyuk’s second was the only power play goal of the night. Detroit had three chances with the man-advantage to Tampa Bay’s seven.

The two teams will meet Saturday afternoon for Game Two of the series.


Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader (hand) was unable to play.

Postgame: Lightning @ Red Wings – 3/30

This game was at times awesome, infuriating, and terrifying.

They’re all must-wins from here on out and Detroit played like it early, showing a lot of jump after playing less than 24 hours earlier. They controlled play for almost the first ten minutes and got the game’s first six shots. Of course, former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula got Tampa on the board with just their second shot, so it looked like it was going to be one of those nights.

The Wings responded, though. Joakim Andersson‘s backhander from down low bounced off goalie Ben Bishop to tie things up and then Gustav Nyquist‘s incredible individual effort put them up 2-1.

I think that first period really decided the game. If the Wings hadn’t rebounded then, they wouldn’t have later on.

The second and third were somewhat sloppier but with each team adding one goal, Detroit was able to hold on for the win.

Johan Franzen drives me nuts. Jonas Gustavsson drives me nuts. The officials drive me nuts. But it’s okay if I’m nuts at the end of the night as long as the Wings come away with two points.

It should also be noted that Justin Abdelkader was pretty invisible in his return from injury, which I’ll take as a good thing given his role tonight. He slotted in on the bottom six, didn’t make any egregious mistakes, that’s good enough.

The win ends Detroit’s run of 10 games in 17 days, during which they went 6-3-1. They’ve got two days off before they finish the season with seven games in 12 days.

Trade Deadline Thoughts: “I Like Our Team”

At last season’s trade deadline, Detroit general manager Ken Holland somewhat-famously declared “I like our team” in explaining why there wasn’t a need to make any moves to either gear up for a playoff run or sell off assets in preparation for missing the playoffs.

I strongly disagreed at the time, thinking the Wings were certain to miss the playoffs or lose in the first round and that they should be sellers to maximize profit from it. To a large extent, I was wrong, as that team was good enough to come one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals. That said, a second-round loss isn’t that far off from a first-round elimination and they still lost Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner and (to a much lesser extent) Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo for nothing over the summer.

This year it’s different. I won’t claim at all that the Wings should be sellers this time around, mostly because any of the assets I want them to sell come laden with no-trade clauses or were available for free on waivers and went unclaimed. Selling is not an option.

But we saw last night in New Jersey that this team is not poised to make a playoff run. Injuries have them decimated at center and, even when healthy, they have only three top-four defensemen.

This year, unfortunately, the problem is that prices seem to just be too high. By all accounts, every trade conversation Holland has starts with the other team asking for Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist. And that’s just not a cost worth paying, even if it leaves the team shorthanded for the stretch run.

This year, I’m totally fine with the Red Wings standing pat rather than overpaying to fill the gaps. Sometimes cost is just too prohibitive. I just hope we don’t see any “I like our team” comments if that happens, because Holland really should be able to see these flaws.

Red Wings Fall to Lighting in Second Consecutive OT Loss

For the second-straight game, the Detroit Red Wings fell in overtime, dropping a 3-2 decision in the extra frame to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

They had previously lost in overtime to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

With 1:19 remaining, Richard Panik stole the puck from Kyle Quincey behind the Detroit goal and sent a pass out to Teddy Purcell all alone in the slot for a quick snap past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard into the top of the net.

The goal gave the Lighting just their second-ever win at Joe Louis Arena, their first since 1994.

Henrik Zetterberg had opened the game’s scoring just 3:51 into the game. Pavel Datsyuk pressured Steven Stamkos in the left wing corner and Stamkos threw the puck out into the slot, where Zetterberg picked it off and whipped a shot past Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop.

The Lighting would tie things back up midway through the period, as Ryan Malone was left untouched on a wraparound chance off a feed from Matthew Carle. Howard stretched to stop Malone’s first attempt but Malone got the rebound and lifted it over the prone goalie at 10:11.

Immediately after killing off a long series of Detroit power plays, the Lightning would take the lead with 7:10 left in the second period. Stamkos was left alone as the Red Wings attempted to clear their zone but Victor Hedman stepped up to hold the puck in and sent it to Stamkos, who rifled a shot past Howard to make it 2-1.

Zetterberg’s second of the night evened things back up with 4:12 remaining in regulation. Danny DeKeyser dumped the puck in from the neutral zone and it wrapped around the boards. On the right wing Datsyuk let it go back to Zetterberg, who stepped up to the faceoff dot and fired a slapper off the stick of former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula and past Bishop.

Neither team scored a power play goal on the night, with the Red Wings having four chances with the extra attacker and Tampa Bay having three.

Howard finished with 31 saves on 34 shots against while Bishop stopped 25 of 27.


The Red Wings were without Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith due to injury. Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves were healthy scratches… Xavier Ouellet and Luke Glendening were called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins for the game, with Adam Almquist being sent back to Grand Rapids.

2013 Red Wings Jersey Number Wrap-Up

I’ve already touched on the sweater numbers worn by the Red Wings at their development camp in July and the fact that Joakim Andersson has (as expected) switched from #63 to #18. Since the full training camp roster is now out, I’ll take a look at some of the remaining numbers.

With Daniel Cleary accepting a PTO from the Flyers (with a three-year deal on the way as soon as they can clear the cap space by putting Chris Pronger on LTIR), there’s no conflict as Daniel Alfredsson takes #11.

Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans, having lost the #3 he wore in January’s Red and White Game to Nick Jensen, takes the departed Valtteri Filppula‘s #51. Similarly, Nathan Paetsch drops from #71 to the #24 vacated by Damien Brunner and Triston Grant takes the #28 that formerly belonged to Carlo Colaiacovo. Grand Rapids captain Jeff Hoggan goes from #73 (now assigned to Griffins’ forward David McIntyre) to the #81 worn in the development camp by Mattias Janmark.

Calle Jarnkrok gets the #70 that was worn in development camp by free-agent tryout Jaimen Yakubowski. McIntyre’s #73 came from try-out Brody Silk. Teemu Pulkkinen gets #56.

Free agent try-out Michal Plutner gets the #75 worn by James de Haas in July while try-out Cam Lanigan gets the #68 that was worn by Jake Patterson.

As per usual, most of these changes mean nothing as they relate to players not under contract with Detroit. The Red Wings do have a tendency to give players acquired in midseason the number of someone already in the organization, as those jerseys are already made up, but given the cap space this year Detroit is unlikely to be making any big deals.

Red Wings to Host Sabres to Open 2013-14 Season

The Detroit Red Wings will open their 2013-14 schedule by hosting the Buffalo Sabres on October 2, it was revealed as the National Hockey League announced its schedule for the coming season on Friday.

It will be the first of four matchups between the Detroit and Buffalo, who are now divisional rivals as the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division, a group made up of the former Northeast Division plus Detroit, Tampa Bay and Florida.

The remaining teams of the Eastern Conference, a division mostly made up of the former Atlantic Division, will be called the Metropolitan Division.

The crown jewel of the Red Wings’ schedule is the January 1, 2014, Winter Classic, in which Detroit will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium.

Detroit will first host the Ottawa Senators, former team of free-agent signing Daniel Alfredsson, on October 23. The Senators will host their former captain on December 1.

Stephen Weiss will meet his former team on December 7 and December 10 in a home-and-home with the Florida Panthers. Immediately after that will be the Red Wings’ first visit to Valtteri Filppula and the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Filppula’s return to Detroit set for December 15.

With the move to the Eastern Conference, the Red Wings will play only four games at 10:00 PM Eastern or later. Only two of those fall on a weeknight. On the flip side, however, they will visit Boston for a Monday afternoon game on October 14 (Columbus Day).

With the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, there will be seventeen consecutive days without Red Wings hockey in February. To make up for the gap, the team will play on consecutive nights thirteen times. Only one of those sets will involve two games in the same location, as the Wings host the Colorado Avalanche and then the New Jersey Devils on March 6 and 7.

In addition to the series with Florida in December, the Red Wings will have a home-and-home with the Minnesota Wild on March 22 and 23.

The Red Wings will first visit former Central Division rival Chicago on March 16, Columbus (also making the jump to the Eastern Conference) on March 11 and Nashville on December 30. They close the season with a visit to the Central’s St. Louis Blues on April 13.

Red Wings Free Agency Recap: Day 1

The Red Wings made quite the splash as the NHL’s 2013 free agency period opened on Friday. Here’s the breakdown of what happened:

Arrivals
The big surprise to start the day was that longtime Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson would be spurning the Senators and joining the Red Wings for a (presumably) final run at the Stanley Cup. There’s a lot of drama around how he left the Sens but he arrives in Detroit on a $5.5 million deal. The base salary is only $3.5 million, so the final $2 million could apply to the Wings’ 2014-15 cap instead of the 2013-14 one. Alfredsson is penciled in to play the right wing on the second line as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be reunited on the top line.

Centering Alfredsson will be new addition Stephen Weiss. Signed from the Florida Panthers on a five-year deal with a $4.9 million cap hit, Weiss replaces the departed Valtteri Filppula. Detroit won a bidding war with the St. Louis Blues for the onetime Plymouth Whaler. The $4.9 million is a steal compared to the $6 million it was rumored Weiss was asking for.

Departures
As mentioned, Weiss replaces Valtteri Filppula, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning shortly after the Weiss deal was announced. Filppula reportedly was looking for first-line center pay and a first-line center role. He’ll be the number two center in Tampa behind Steven Stamkos, making $5 million per season for the next five years.

Though not yet signed by anyone else Damien Brunner seems to be out in Detroit. Red Wings general manager says he expects Brunner to go “in a different direction” for his next deal. The rumor is that Brunner is asking for guaranteed top-six minutes, something he couldn’t get with Detroit after falling to the third line (but having success there) late last season. There has been little buzz on where he might end up.

It seemed like Daniel Cleary was on his way out of Detroit but there are still rumors that the door is open for his return. The Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins were vying for his services but both teams dropped out. The Anaheim Ducks were also reportedly interested at one point. The Red Wings have continued to be reported as “in” on Cleary, to the extent that at one point it was thought he’d be back in the Winged Wheel by the end of the day. As of right now, Cleary is still on the market.

Defenseman Ian White – who no one expected to return to Detroit – is also still on the market with no apparent suitors.

Grand Rapids
The first of two Griffins-centric came when former Ferris State defenseman Chad Billins signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Calgary Flames. Billins spent all of last season on an AHL-only deal with Grand Rapids and was rumored to be a Red Wings target for a deal similar to what he took with Calgary.

Former University of Michigan forward Luke Glendening did stick with the organization. After spending last year on an AHL-only deal with the Griffins, he signed a one-year, two-way deal with Detroit today. He’s expected to stick with the Griffins next season but will provide additional depth if the Red Wings need a call-up.

Additional Moves
In addition to being in on Cleary, the Wings are reportedly interested in former Dallas captain Brenden Morrow. This makes absolutely no sense, so I have no idea why the team would be interested.

Detroit still has four restricted free agents to sign. Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith and Tom McCollum will be looking for deals but restricted free agents tend to sign after their teams are done with the unrestricted market, so it’s likely only a matter of time.

On top of those moves, the Wings will need to make at least one trade before the start of the season. After all of the RFAs are signed, the team will be maxed out at 50 player contracts and have 16 NHL forwards. If Cleary or Morrow were signed, there wouldn’t be room to sign all of the RFAs. Trade bait includes Cory Emmerton, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves, Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson has a no-trade clause but could be convinced to waive it if the alternative was to be buried in the lineup. The Wings are reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman on the trade block.

Detroit Adds Forward Weiss as Free Agent

On the heels of signing forward Daniel Alfredsson to a one-year contract, the Detroit Red Wings announced on Friday the signing of center Stephen Weiss as a free agent to a five-year deal.

Weiss, 30, was the Florida Panthers’ all-time leader in game played, having spent his entire 654-game career with the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2001.

Limited to just 17 games due to injury during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, Weiss scored one goal and added three assists. In his career 145 goals and 249 assists.

Weiss will be expected to replace Valtteri Filppula in the Detroit lineup, as the Finn will not return as a free agent. Filppula had reportedly been requesting a five-year deal averagining $5 million per season.

As per club policy, financial terms of the Weiss’ deal were not announced. The contract reportedly carries a $4.9 million salary cap hit.