DETROIT – When Steve Yzerman became the Detroit Red Wings general manager this past spring, one of his first moves was signing Finnish defenseman Oliwer Kaski.
Kaski, 23, had been tearing it up in SM-liiga, or the Finnish Elite League, Finland’s top pro hockey league. The defenseman scored 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 59 games played with the Lahti Pelicans.
It was rumored several NHL GM’s were interested in bringing over Kaski, a righthanded d-man putting up forward-like numbers in Finland’s top league. He was undrafted by NHL teams, but soon they were lining up for a chance to sign him.
It seemed like Kaski would get a chance with the Red Wings, but he didn’t even make the roster out of training camp. He played 19 games for the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins (2G, 3A) and never got the call up to the NHL squad.
Apparently Yzerman had seen enough and decided to ship him out for Kyle Wood, a 23-year-old defenseman playing for the Carolina Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate in Charlotte. Like Kaski, Wood has never played a game in the NHL. He has been playing around the AHL since 2015.
Wood originally was drafted by Colorado in 2013, 84th overall in the 3rd round. He has been traded by four NHL teams now -- Colorado to Arizona, Arizona to San Jose, San Jose to Carolina, and Carolina to Detroit. At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Wood has considerable size. He also shoots right.
If anything, Yzerman traded Kaski for more size on the blue line. Or maybe Kaski wanted out? I don’t know, you decide. Maybe Yzerman realized his miss and decided to cut ties sooner than later.
I won’t sit here and tell you I know anything about either player’s performance at the AHL level, especially since Kaski has only played 19 games of professional hockey in North America. I will say it feels like something more than some kind of tinkering for the future. It feels like this is one of those cases where a player doesn’t fit, for whatever reason, and the organization decides to move him.
As for Wood, who knows if he has any chance of playing for the Red Wings this season. Detroit has had 11 different defenseman rotate through the lineup, so why not Wood?
One thing is certain: Steve Yzerman is not afraid to make a trade. Players be warned.