In a stunning move, the Detroit Red Wings have placed defensive mainstay Danny DeKeyser on waivers. The career Red Wing still has one year remaining beyond this season on his current contract at a $5MM AAV, but Detroit appears ready to move on. Will that mean DeKeyser clears waivers and is assigned to the taxi squad or AHL? Or will another team swoop in and steal the defenseman?
DeKeyser, 30, is a polarizing figure in Detroit. On one hand, he’s second only to Darren Helm as the longest-tenured member of a team that has seen a mass amount of turnover in recent years that scrubbed nearly every reminder of their days as a Western Conference powerhouse. On the other hand, he has also been part of the problem as the club has devolved into a perennial bottom dweller in the Eastern Conference. DeKeyser impressed as an unheralded undrafted free agent out of nearby Western Michigan University, quickly claiming a top-four role for Detroit in his first few pro seasons. However, since signing his six-year, $30MM extension in 2016, DeKeyser has had – at most – one season where he has lived up to expectations. He has been plagued by injuries and when healthy has had diminishing offensive ability, has been prone to turnovers, and has simply struggled to help a team that needed him to be a savior on the back end.
Yet, with all that said, many question whether DeKeyser has himself been unfairly impacted by the lack of talent around him in Detroit. Are his struggles his own or is he still capable of being a well-rounded, minutes-eating, 30-point puck-mover? This season with the Red Wings has not helped to answer that question. The team has moved on from DeKeyser as a centerpiece on the blue line even before he hit waivers. The veteran has played in only 10 of 16 games and almost exclusively in a bottom-pair role, averaging just 15:30 of ice time with no special teams role. Claiming DeKeyser is a massive risk, especially in a flat cap era where being saddled with a $5MM salary this year and next for an unproductive player would be devastating. However, DeKeyser has his supporters around the league and it is hard to judge his true ability given his recent injury history and his position with Detroit. Don’t eliminate all possibility that someone might be willing to take a chance or that DeKeyser could still return to form if he moves elsewhere.
Also on waivers today are Montreal’s Paul Byron (link), Boston’s Par Lindholm (link), Columbus’ Gabriel Carlsson, and Carolina’s newly-acquired Alex Galchenyuk. Edmonton’s James Neal has cleared after being waived yesterday.