DETROIT – As of this writing the Detroit Red Wings have 21 players under NHL contracts.
NHL teams are allowed a roster of no more than 23 players. That means two more players could make the Red Wings' opening night roster.
GM Steve Yzerman has 12 forwards, six defenseman and three goalies under NHL contracts. According to CapFriendly, Detroit also has two players on injured reserve costing the team about $10 million: Henrik Zetterberg, who retired, and Johan Franzen, who has not played the past three seasons due to his ongoing post-concussion problems.
CapFriendly, of course, does a terrific job of summarizing all of the contracts with terms and conditions. You'll notice a long list of free agents for Detroit come next summer. There could be some massive changes to the makeup of this team by next season, or even by the end of this upcoming 2019-2020 season.
But for now, what could this roster and lineup really look like by this October?
Here's an educated guess:
|Tyler Bertuzzi||Dylan Larkin||Anthony Mantha|
|Andreas Athanasiou||Valtteri Filppula||Filip Zadina|
|Evgeny Svechnikov||Frans Nielsen||Michael Rasmussen|
|Justin Abdelkader||Luke Glendening||Darren Helm|
Note: Is Zadina is a sure thing for the Red Wings roster? Seems like it, but there are others (see below) competing for that spot. Nothing is a given. Same goes for Svechnikov, who missed last season due to injury. Even Rasmussen, who had a solid rookie start, will be facing competiton for a spot.
As for the centers, the addition of Filppula added a LOT more depth down the middle. He can go up against other team's top lines at both ends of the ice. I have him in the second line center spot, bumping Nielsen to the third line.
|Danny DeKeyser||Mike Green|
|Jonathan Ericsson||Filip Hronek|
|Trevor Daley||Madison Bowey/Patrik Nemeth|
Note: Notice veteran defenseman Niklas Kronwall is not in the table. That's because he's an unrestricted free agent right now with an uncertain future. Is he retiring, signing with the Red Wings or signing with another team?
Meanwhile, Nemeth was the big addition in free agency. He's in this lineup until he is not, which really makes you wonder what the heck this defense is going to look like. It's a weird one.
Madison Bowey, 24, was acquired through that Nick Jensen trade with Washington this past February. It's difficult to have a real good understanding of his future in this organization when there are now so many other young defensemen with similar potential.
- Jimmy Howard
- Jonathan Bernier
- Calvin Pickard
Note: Pickard is with Detroit on the cheap, and presumably starting the season in Grand Rapids. His presence adds depth and a chance for some competition to the Red Wings' goalie situation.
Who could make the lineup?
First of all, Yzerman can still make some moves/acquisitions before the season gets going. He will have some money to play with. Regardless, here's a look at a few players in the system who could crack this Red Wings lineup:
Jacob de la Rose (C, LW)
De la Rose is under contract through this season with Detroit. The 24-year-old was claimed off waivers by the Red Wings this past October. Right now he serves as a depth player who could slot in on the 3rd or 4th line. He could easily be moved as he has a lot of upside and is a restricted free agent next summer. He played 60 games with the Red Wings this past season. I think he's on the roster this season unless he is moved, but there will be competition.
Oliwer Kaski (D)
Yzerman got Kaski to sign a one-year entry-level deal this spring. The 23-year-old has been tearing it up in SM-liiga, or the Finnish Elite League, Finland's top pro hockey league. Kaski, a righthanded defenseman, scored 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 59 games played this season with the Lahti Pelicans. Don't be surprised to see him with the Red Wings this season -- he only has the year to make an impact and prove he can play pro hockey in North America.
Christoffer Ehn (C, LW)
Ehn, 23, played 60 games with the Red Wings this past season. He, like de la Rose, might have a spot in this lineup if not for the veteran forwards. He has some size and speed, and showed strength on the forecheck.
Dennis Cholowski (D)
Cholowski started his rookie campaign last year looking real strong -- I even wrote this thing about him. But mistakes started to mount for the 21-year-old defenseman, and he was sent down to Grand Rapids. He'll likely be back up this year, but we'll have to see how this plays out. There are high hopes for this kid, and there should be. He was drafted 20th overall in 2016, played a season at St. Cloud State, then returned to juniors where he dominated in the WHL.
Taro Hirose (LW)
Hirose left Michigan State late last season and signed with the Red Wings. In his first 10 NHL games he scored a goal and 6 assists. He did not look like a rookie just out of college. He looked very ready for the pros. He's 23 years old now, and he looks like a legitimate pro hockey player. He could be spending some time in Grand Rapids this year, but he appears to be the type of player who has the mind for the NHL. He is strong in all areas of the ice, responsible with the puck and, well, he's a good freaking hockey player who didn't get drafted due to his size -- 5-10, 160 pounds. He put up 50 points in 36 games played with the Spartans last year.
Ryan Kuffner (LW)
Kuffner, 23, also joined the Red Wings out of college this past season. The product of Princeton played in 10 games at the end of the season but didn't record a point. He's another guy who got passed up in the draft and came to Detroit for a chance to play. We shall see. He's listed at 6-1, 195 pounds.
Joe Veleno (C)
Fans want Veleno in the Red Wings lineup right now, but he hasn't played a second of pro hockey. He will be in Grand Rapids at the start of this season -- I think that's a pretty safe bet. But everyone is so hyped about him because of the type of player he is. He also scored 104 points in 59 games played this past season in the QMJHL. He is a part of the future for Detroit, but right now Nielsen, Filppula and Glendening are in his way. And that's OK. There is no real reason to rush him right now. He's 19. Let him get used to a new level first. One step at a time.
Jared McIsaac (D)
I'd say McIsaac has at least a year of playing in Grand Rapids ahead of him. He's 19 years young with a few players ahead of him in the system. He has spent the past three seasons playing in juniors for Halifax in the QMJHL. He scored 62 points in 53 games played for the Mooseheads this past season. He needs to get in the Griffins lineup ASAP before we can get a better look at him. He was drafted 36th overall in 2018 and expected to be a very solid NHL defenseman before long.
Vili Saarijärvi (D)
Saarijärvi, a 3rd-round pick in 2015, spent this past season with the Griffins, his second in the AHL. He's a righthanded shot. He's 22. What else can be said? There are guys in front of him. I don't know what his chances for making the Red Wings roster are right now. Next year looks a lot better for him.
Others in the system
Joe Hicketts (D) and Dominic Turgeon (C) both remain unsigned. Givani Smith (LW), a 2nd-round pick in 2016, still hasn't gotten the call up to the NHL level. Dylan McIlrath (D) is in the system, too. The Red Wings signed the 27-year-old up for a 2-year extension in May.
Training camp and the preseason will be very important for a lot of these players, and that's what GMs want. They want a list of prospects competing for spots on the big club. Fans should enjoy it, too.