In Craig Custance’ latest piece for The Athletic (subscription required), he lists through 20 names that could be moved this summer. Number 19, Nick Jensen of the Detroit Red Wings, comes with an interesting first paragraph:
The Red Wings are actively shopping defenseman Xavier Ouellet, who has one year remaining on a contract worth $1.25 million. “He wants a fresh start,” Red Wings GM Ken Holland said last week at the draft combine. That’s not necessarily an easy assignment since Ouellet had trouble cracking the lineup on a Detroit team that wasn’t particularly good.
Though Jensen is the target of the blurb, Ouellet sticks out as an interesting note as we get closer to draft day. The 24-year old defenseman has been underwhelming through his 141-game NHL career, but still could posses enough upside for a team to take a chance on him. The fact that the Red Wings are trying to move him doesn’t come as much of a surprise, as they currently project to have a bit of a logjam on defense next season if everyone comes back healthy.
Ouellet, selected 48th-overall in 2011, still hasn’t found a full-time role for the Red Wings. In 45 games this season he recorded just seven points, averaging fewer than 14 minutes a night. With the sheltered role—or perhaps in spite of it—Ouellet actually did put up reasonably good possession statistics and could be seen as an underutilized asset to another team. The league is getting a first-hand look at what underwhelming players can do in the right situation, with several of the Vegas defenders and Michal Kempny who is starring for the Washington Capitals after believing he was on his way out of the NHL just a few months ago.
Still, it’s hard to see the Red Wings bringing back anything of real value for Ouellet. Though a $1.25MM contract isn’t outlandish, it also might be a little too much for a team to risk when they don’t exactly know what kind of contribution they’ll get. That’s not to say there won’t be any takers, but to expect much of a return seems foolish at this point.