Dear Red Wings: Filip Hronek signs for 3 years, guessing defensive pairings, Olympic players

Red Wings sign Hronek with training camp weeks away; Givani Smith remains final RFA in need of contract

Filip Hronek of the Detroit Red Wings, shown in a previous game. (Maddie Meyer, 2020 Getty Images)

I was writing a newsletter this week titled “Waiting on Hronek,” and then he signed. Perfect.

We have some other news to catch up on as we’re just weeks away from training camp.

Hronek at 3 years, $4.4 million

Filip Hronek, 23, now has played 167 NHL games -- 16 goals and 64 assists. The defenseman led the Red Wings in ice time this past season at an average 23:23 per game. He appeared in all 56 games.

About a month ago I speculated the deal would be $4 million year on a three to five-year term. Obviously the money per season would fluctuate based on term length. Three years at a reported $4.4 million against the cap each season is fine by me. He is getting paid a bit more than $4 million but at the short end of the expected term length. Steve Yzerman might actually like this guy.

Hronek is now the only Red Wings defenseman with a NHL contract beyond 2023 -- prospects Moritz Seider, Eemil Viro, Donovan Sebrango and Albert Johansson all have entry-level contracts through 2023-24.

Hronek is a coveted right-shot defenseman. As I mentioned, he’s been placed directly into the fire the past couple of seasons as the Red Wings have struggled mightily in their own zone. Well, they’ve struggled everywhere. But the defense did look much improved this past season. There were many nights this past season when they clearly placed the emphasis on defense. Hronek looked more confident out there in some games, then he would have a poor outing to remind us he’s still a young defenseman on a disheveled roster with a lot to figure out. When you’re back there on defense your mistakes are under a microscope.

My question now is what kind of defenseman Hronek will be as this team progresses? It’s possible he’s pairing up with veteran Danny DeKeyser this season. If that’s the case, I expect DeKeyser to be staying back while the team allows Hronek to contribute more on the rush. He has the skill to do this. He just needs to get smarter at picking his moments, and he absolutely must start hitting the net. Anecdotally speaking, I recall him missing the net way too much this past season. He cannot afford to do that this season, especially if he’s back on the power play.

Red Wings defensive pairings -- a guess

I am going to guess the pairings with the assumption Seider is starting the season in Grand Rapids. And I’m probably going to be wrong, but here’s this:

That leaves 29-year-old Jordan Oesterle as the 7th defenseman. Again, Seider is not going to be riding the bench or sitting in the press box. He’s either in the lineup or he’s in Grand Rapids.

The Red Wings also have 23-year-old Wyatt Newpower under an entry-level contract. Newpower signed with Detroit in May. He was undrafted and spent four seasons with the University of Connecticut, where he was team captain. He broke into the professional circuit with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. The right shot defenseman is 6-4, 205 pounds. Newpower had 10 points in 24 games during his single season with the Monsters, then signed with Detroit. He’s a great option for the Red Wings, and he is clearly hungry to make a roster. Don’t forget about him.

Carter Rowney adds depth on 1-year deal

Carter Rowney is a 32-year-old center/winger who spent the past three seasons playing for the Anaheim Ducks. He won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.

He was part of a struggling Anaheim team the past few seasons. He failed to score a goal last year through 19 games with the Ducks. He was averaging about 14 minutes of ice time a game. Rowney played center when he was with the Penguins, but he was lining up on the wing with the Ducks.

He was undrafted out of the University of North Dakota and signed with Pittsburgh’s AHL squad in 2013. He’s now appeared in 223 NHL games -- 20 goals and 37 assists.

Obviously this is a depth pickup as the Red Wings prepare for training camp. His one-year deal is reportedly $825,000 against the cap. In other words, it’s nothing. Steve Yzerman needs some pros to fill out his camp rosters and to provide depth between Grand Rapids and the NHL roster.

Rowney can be plugged into the 3rd or 4th lines without much concern about his development or defensive liability. This adds some more competition for the young forward prospects, but Yzerman has made it clear he’d rather not use the likes of Joe Veleno, Jonatan Berggren or Lucas Raymond as a “plug.”

Remember, the Red Wings let Luke Glendening and Darren Helm leave. I think they’re still concerned about not having actual NHL depth down the lineup. Yzerman said we should expect more young players to have bigger roles on this team, but there is only so far we can expect him to go right now. Those players have to make the team. What if they’re not ready?

Training camp is about two weeks away -- the prospects tournament gets going Sept. 16, followed by camp on Sept. 23.

Givani Smith remains

Givani Smith, 23, is now the final restricted free agent without a contract. Perhaps that’s two or three years as well. Will he show up to camp looking better than Rowney? Smith should be part of the burgeoning (my favorite word) young core.

But right now, even without the contract, Smith appears to be the odd man out. Rowney, Sam Gagner and Mitchell Stephens are all on cheap one-year deals. The Red Wings have 12 forwards under NHL contracts, meaning Smith would be 13th.

We’ll see. Again, training camp and the preseason mean A LOT this season. This should be fun for the fans, stressful for some of these players trying win a spot on the roster. And that’s exactly how Yzerman, and Jeff Blashill, want it to be.

Riley Sheahan to the Kraken

Former Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan, the 21st overall pick in 2010, has a new job with the new Seattle Kraken.

Seattle signed him to a one-year contract worth $850,000. Sheahan, now 29, scored 4 goals and added 9 assists over 53 games with the terrible Buffalo Sabres in 2020-21. He’s a bit of journeyman at this point with 566 career NHL games to his name with the Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers and Sabres.

I wish only the best for the Teletubby. Hopefully he gets some better looks with the Kraken.

NHL players to participate in 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

NHL players are returning to the Olympics in 2022. The league and players’ union (NHLPA) announced Friday they reached an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) confirming a break in the 2021-22 NHL regular season schedule to allow players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympic ice hockey tournament in PyeongChang in 2018 was held without participation of NHL players for the first time since the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer. Team Canada and Team USA were most notably without top talent in 2018, hurting Olympics viewership in North America.

Which Red Wings could be going to Beijing?

Here’s a guess at which Red Wings could have a shot at representing their country:

I don’t think I am missing anyone obvious here. I’d have to take a closer look at Sweden’s options before giving Berggren, Raymond or Johansson a shot at making that team.


Free agency moves recap:

Pre-free agency moves recap:

About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.