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Red Wings roundup: New roster, key signings, draft recap, more

Yzerman has new-look roster heading into 2021

ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24: Vladislav Namestnikov poses with Steve Yzerman and other members of Tampa Bay Lightning during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
ST PAUL, MN - JUNE 24: Vladislav Namestnikov poses with Steve Yzerman and other members of Tampa Bay Lightning during day one of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center on June 24, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It might not feel like it, but a lot has happened in Red Wings world recently. Let’s get caught up.


The new roster 📝

This could still change quite a bit before the start of the new season (more on that below), but let’s pretend the Red Wings were set to play this evening. The lineup could look something like this:

Forwards:

  • Line 1 -- LW Tyler Bertuzzi | C Dylan Larkin | RW Anthony Mantha
  • Line 2 -- LW Robby Fabbri | C Vladislav Namestnikov | RW Filip Zadina
  • Line 3 -- LW Sam Gagner | C Valtteri Filppula | RW Bobby Ryan
  • Line 4 -- LW Darren Helm | C Luke Glendening | RW Adam Erne

Note: Swap Zadina and Ryan between the 2nd and 3rd lines, maybe, but I think Zadina is ready to shine on one of those top two lines. Let’s hope he at least gets the chance. I see Ryan as more of a depth player in this lineup, ideally.

Defense:

  • D1 -- Dan DeKeyser | Filip Hronek
  • D2 -- Patrik Nemeth | Jon Merrill
  • D3 -- Marc Staal | Troy Stretcher

Note: Your guess is as good as mine at what exactly these pairings will look like. I think we’ll see what kind of chemistry can be developed among the newcomers.

Goalies:

  • Thomas Greiss
  • Jonathan Bernier

Key signings 🖊️

D Jon Merrill (1-year deal): Detroit signed the former Michigan Wolverines defenseman to a one-year contract. Merrill, 28, spent the past three seasons with the Vegas Golden Knights. He was drafted 38th overall in 2010 by the New Jersey Devils. Right away the defense is better with Merrill without any risk in a one-year contract. Very nice job here by Steve Yzerman.

Goalie Thomas Greiss (2-year deal): He takes the spot of Jimmy Howard, who will not return with Detroit this upcoming season after more than 15 years with the organization. Greiss, 34, spent the past five seasons with the New York Islanders. The native of Germany has been piling up the wins and posting impressive save percentages including a 0.927 in 2018-19. Take a look at his full career stats here. You’ll notice he was drafted way back in 2004 and only recently started to flourish at the NHL level. He’s what you’d call a true late bloomer. Why not? The Red Wings are not looking for anything long-term in net. Greiss will be sharing it with 32-year-old Jonathan Bernier who has one year left on his contract with Detroit. Bernier is costing the team $3 million in cap space while Greiss will cost a reported $3.6 million in space -- Howard was costing the team $5.2 million then $4 million in cap space during his final one-year deal. Niiiice. Yzerman will have to figure out a long-term plan for the goalie situation, but for now this is ideal.

D Troy Stecher (2-year deal): Stecher, 26, did not receive a qualifying offer from the Vancouver Canucks after his two-year, $4.65-million contract expired at the end of the season. He first signed with the Canucks as an undrafted free agent in 2016. In four seasons with Vancouver he had 11 goals and 75 points over 286 games. His 2015-16 rookie season is still his best, statistically speaking, with 24 points in 71 games. So where would Stecher go from there? He’s still a young player who’s full potential remains untapped. He wasn’t going to get the contract he might deserve, but now he’s back in a position to prove he’s worth it, something an undrafted player is used to doing. Yzerman grabbed him at $1.7 million a year for two seasons. That is a brilliant steal for the Detroit GM, and it puts Stecher in an extremely favorable position. The Red Wings are sure to give him an opportunity in their top four on defense, and perhaps power play time. He can play without the pressure of his hefty contract in Vancouver and work on solidifying his NHL value.

C Vladislav Namestnikov (2-year deal): This is the most exciting signing to me. Detroit picked up Namestnikov on a $4 million, two-year contract. He has eight seasons of NHL experience after splitting last year between Ottawa and Colorado. The 27-year-old is reunited with Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman, who held the same title with Tampa Bay when the Lightning selected Namestnikov with the 27th pick in the 2011 draft. Namestnikov had four goals and five points in 12 playoff games with Colorado this summer after being acquired in a trade with Ottawa in February. He enjoyed his best season in 2017-18, when he had 22 goals and 48 points split between Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers. Overall, he has 83 goals and 106 assists for 189 points in 425 NHL games. Although he’s from Russia, he spent part of his childhood in Michigan. He is the son of former NHL defenseman Evgeny Namestnikov, and nephew of former Red Wings forward Vyachelsav Kozlov.

RW Bobby Ryan (1-year deal): As mentioned above, this is a nice depth pickup of a guy who is looking for a new contract. To put it bluntly: Ryan, 33, is playing for his career after taking an extended leave of absence from the Ottawa Senators starting in November 2019 to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, citing his issues with alcohol abuse. He returned to play in February and scored a hat trick in his first home game back in action. He wants to keep that career rebound trend going with the Red Wings, a team with which he expects to see more opportunity on the power play, and perhaps on the 1st or 2nd line.

D Marc Staal (1 year left on contract): Here’s a sneaky good depth pickup. The Red Wings acquired Staal and a second-round draft pick from the New York Rangers for future considerations. The Rangers needed to dump Staal’s contract, and Yzerman was in the perfect position to pick him up for a year ($5.7 cap hit). Again no risk, and you get to add a respected veteran to the mix on a rebuilding squad.


Mantha, Bertuzzi stay 💰

An arbitrator awarded Bertuzzi a $3.5 million, one-year contract. The 25-year-old Bertuzzi has scored 21 goals in consecutive seasons. He was an All-Star during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season and finished leading the team in goals along with having career highs in assists (27) and points (48) for the NHL’s worst team.

Am I surprised this went to arbitration? Not exactly. I think Bertuzzi has been a consistently good player on a very consistently bad Red Wings team. It’s still tough to judge exactly where he falls into this lineup. Is he really a 1st or 2nd-line player? Yzerman is not convinced just yet, and I don’t blame him. I love how Bertuzzi plays, but this is not the time to lock in anyone to a risky deal.

Meanwhile, Anthony Mantha is locked up for another four years. The 26-year-old’s new contract carries an average annual value (AAV) of $5.7 million. That’s up from $3.3 million under his former contract. Mantha was a 20th overall draft pick in 2013 after putting up 89 points in 67 games with Val d’Or Foreurs in the QMJHL. The expectation was that Mantha, standing 6 feet 5 inches, would be an offensive force on the wing at the NHL level. He began to hit his stride in 2017-18 with 24 goals for the Red Wings -- he followed that up with 25 goals in 2018-19.

Yzerman didn’t have a choice here. I think most of us would agree that if Mantha can stay healthy, he will far outplay this contract. He should be a definite 30-goal scorer ... when healthy.


The Abdelkader buyout 👋

All I have to say is ... Pavel Datsyuk made Justin Abdelkader rich. It was Datsyuk who said Abby pulled the piano while he played it. That’s a compliment and nod to good chemistry, sure, but without Datsyuk to play the piano, Abdelkader’s career was rather doomed. Add in some injuries, and the game started to pass him up quickly.

Abdelkader, 33, had been with the Red Wings since 2008. He was drafted 42nd overall by Detroit in 2005. He was in the 5th year of a 7-year contract he signed with the Red Wings in 2015. CapFriendly reports Abdelkader would cost $4.25 million against the cap for the remainder of his nearly $30 million deal.

The move to buy him out makes it clear Yzerman would rather save the cap space and free up a roster spot as he works to rebuild the Red Wings. It also suggests Abdelkader was willing to consider retirement.

Abby was a fan favorite. He earned a lot of respect in front of fans at The Joe and LCA. The Muskegon native and Spartans hero was not shy about dropping the gloves to come to his teammates' defense. He often rose to the occasion in big games, scoring timely goals and throwing big hits. He definitely played physically, which probably helped cut his career short. The body can only take so much.

I wish him well in his next endeavors.


Draft recap:

Here are the 2020 NHL Entry Draft picks by the Red Wings:

photo

Of course, we’ll be watching each of these prospects very closely moving forward. Lucas Raymond has been dazzling with Frölunda HC in the Swedish pro league.

You’ll see a lot of Raymond highlights popping up -- let’s hope he brings it all to North America. I am always skeptical of every draft pick until we see him in the lineup, in a Red Wings sweater and playing well. It can be a journey.

The rest of these picks? I would be lying to say I know exactly what Yzerman sees in them. He drafted the players at the positions he wanted to do so -- that’s it. I trust him. I’ve never been the type to weigh in heavily on draft picks because I am not running around the Swedish leagues, for instance, scouting players.

At least we know for sure Yzerman knows 7th-round pick Kienan Draper’s dad pretty well.

More details from draft:


When does NHL season start? 📅

Finally, when the heck will they actually play hockey ... and how will this work?

The NHL is targeting a Jan. 1 start for next season. But details are still being worked out in talks between the league and NHL Players' Association. The league also is contemplating a reduced schedule and temporary hubs. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said realignment could help with ongoing travel restrictions for Canada and mandated quarantines for visiting certain states in the United States.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense,” Bettman said during a panel with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.

The NHL also could use a hybrid model with some teams in a bubble and some at home, and teams moving in and out of the situations, Bettman said.

Alright, well, the NBA will start on Dec. 22. Let’s see how that goes ...


This first appeared in our Red Wings newsletter:


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