Red Wings defenseman Moritz Seider showed some promise in his rookie AHL campaign and was expected to be recalled to finish up the season in Detroit had it not been for the pandemic. With the start of next season still in question (it’s looking like late December or early January as things stand but still nowhere near being finalized), Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press suggests that the team may wind up loaning him back to Mannheim of the DEL to start next season as it’s unlikely that the AHL will start on schedule if there are still restrictions on how many fans – if any – can attend games. That would certainly be beneficial from a development perspective but it would also give the sixth-overall pick in 2019 a leg up in a push for a full-time roster spot with the Red Wings next season.
Red Wings Rumors
If Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly’s face didn’t give it away during Friday night’s NHL Draft Lottery, this result was not what the league was expecting or hoping for. In a season when a decorated Original Six franchise, the Detroit Red Wings, had one of the worst campaigns of all-time and the league’s most downtrodden franchise, the Ottawa Senators, had not one but two high-percentage chances of winning the top pick, the No. 1 overall selection will instead go to a to-be-determined “playoff” team.
With the league expanding the postseason field to 24 teams this season as a result of COVID-19 cutting the regular season short, 16 teams will vie for a chance to move through a “knockout round” onto a more standard version of the NHL playoffs. However, now those same 16 teams, all of whom finished above .500 this season, will also be in the running to win the top overall pick and the right to select a generational talent in forward Alexis Lafreniere. All eight losers of the qualifying round will have even odds in a second running of the lottery and one lucky team will get playoff experience and an elite young player this season. No one is going to be truly happy with the result (apart from the lottery winner and their fans of course) but who would you least like to see win the top overall pick?
The Pittsburgh Penguins might be at the top of many peoples’ lists. The franchise has won three Stanley Cups in the last decade and no one would be surprised to see them win again this year, especially given the fact that they finished the regular season in seventh league-wide in points percentage. The Penguins are the best team slated to play in the knockout round, but if by some chance they lose to the Montreal Canadiens, Lafreniere could potentially join Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and company in a move that could extend the dynasty for years still to come. The thought of the talented young winger playing beside either of those superstars would be daunting to every other team in the league.
Finishing just behind Pittsburgh with the ninth-best points percentage in the league this year were the Carolina Hurricanes. The club has quietly accumulated a deep, talented roster including a number of elite young players. Carolina is set to contend for titles for many years to come, but Lafreniere would make them truly dangerous. Like the Penguins, the Hurricanes simply do not need the best player in the draft. Keep in mind that they were also one of just two teams to vote against the expanded postseason model, making it especially twisted if they were to reap the benefits of this one-off lottery structure. As good as the Hurricanes were at times this season, they are a popular upset pick in the qualifying round against the New York Rangers and could wind up in the lottery.
The New York Islanders finished just outside the top-ten in points percentage this season and have a deep, experienced team. They also play a sound defensive system. While it works to win games, it isn’t the most exciting strategy and could limit the upside of an explosive offensive talent like Lafreniere. On top of that, the Isles don’t even know where they will be playing their home games next season and have suffered from poor attendance in recent years. It doesn’t exactly sound like an ideal landing spot for an exciting top prospect. Fortunately, the Islanders drew a plus matchup against the Florida Panthers and should advance past the knockout round if they can stick to their smothering defensive game.
Given their luck in the draft lottery over the past decade, it’s pretty gross to think about the Edmonton Oilers being in the running for another No. 1 pick. Likely soon to be the home of two MVP’s in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers landing Lafreniere as their fifth first overall pick and ninth top-ten pick since 2010 would really be something. With an improved NHL roster and a strong pipeline of talent, the Oilers are finally starting to be self-sufficient and don’t need Lafreniere like they might have in recent year. However, if the team can’t hold off a poor Chicago Blackhawks club in the knockout round, maybe they do need the pick.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are another team that is chock full of young talent and it would be an embarrassment of riches (and embarrassing for the league) to see them land Lafreniere. While the team would be in prime shape to finally snap their Stanley Cup drought with the addition, the Leafs are already well on their way and will be contenders for years and years to come even without the top pick. Additionally, should Toronto win the lottery, there would certainly be those that would cry foul about the whole situation. The Maple Leafs face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round in one of the more evenly matched of the upcoming series. Toronto is likely the slight favorite, but could just as easily wind up in the lottery.
The current iteration of the Chicago Blackhawks is not good. However, they are also the most dominant franchise of this decade with three Stanley Cups. It’s not east to find many outside of Chicago who have pity for the current Blackhawks given their sustained success of late. With some of those core players still in place and some exciting young pieces starting to build up, the Blackhawks may already be back on the rebound without the assistance of Lafreniere. If they make it a series with the star-studded Oilers, it will be even more evident that they don’t need a top pick to stay relevant. Like the Maple Leafs, some will also be outraged if the Blackhawks win the lottery due to the perceived favoritism shown by the league on a number of occasions in recent years.
If you really want to hear conspiracy theories though, look no further than the possibility of the Montreal Canadiens winding up with No. 1 overall. Yes, the Canadiens have no business in a playoff series and would have been in the standard draft lottery anyway, but there will be plenty who think that it is far too convenient if the Habs win the top pick when a Francophone and Quebec native is the best player on the board. It used to be that Montreal – who don’t forget have more Stanley Cups than any NHL franchise – was able to claim the best French Canadian players in the draft regardless of draft order. If that opportunity should inadvertently occur once again, plenty of people might get upset at the league despite the fact that Montreal technically is the most deserving (read: worst) of the qualifying round teams. The NHL does not want that drama right now and its most decorated club frankly does not need special treatment, perceived or otherwise.
As for the remaining teams, the Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks were all better than their records implied this season and already have elite young players, the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes may not have the fan bases to support a young star like Lafreniere, and I’m sure there are reasons to root against the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, and Minnesota Wild as well. If you can think of a valid reason why the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have one playoff series win in franchise history, don’t deserve a stroke of good luck, that’s fine too.
What do you think? Which team do you absolutely not want to see Lafreniere go to, either because of existing talent or complaints of foul play or for any other reason? The reality is that one of these 16 will end up with the best player on the board, which in many ways is already a loss for the league, but it can get much worse from here.
The Detroit Red Wings are done playing hockey for the year, and after a disappointing draft lottery night, they will be eager to turn the page on the 2019-2020 hockey season. In more disappointing news, the club announced the cancellation of the 2020 NHL Prospect Tournament, NHL.com announced.
The 8-team tournament typically takes place in September in Traverse City, Michigan to showcase some of the game’s top young talent. Last year’s tournament field included the Stars, Blackhawks, Wild, Red Wings, Rangers, Blues, Blue Jackets, and Maple Leafs. Detroit defeated Dallas in the final 6-5.
The tournament takes place annually at Centre Ice Arena where the Red Wings also typically hold their preseason training camp. Next season, however, Red Wings training camp has been moved from Traverse City to Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit, per Ansar Khan of mlive.com. Both events are set to return to Traverse City in 2020-2021. It’s unclear at this time when training camp for the 2020-2021 season might take place, but the decision to move camp to Detroit was made with player safety in mind.
Khan provides an explanation via GM Steve Yzerman, who released a statement: “The health and safety of our fans, players and staff is our top concern. Based on discussions with local health experts, we have decided to hold our 2020-21 training camp at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. We look forward to returning to Traverse City next year. The Traverse City community is extremely hospitable to our organization, and Centre I.C.E. Arena is an ideal location for us to hold our events each September.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly put the kibosh on any expectation that the final announcement about the postseason’s hub locations would be revealed today, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun. There was hope bordering on expectation that the chosen cities would be announced today, but there’s evidently much still to consider. In the meantime, let’s see what else is going on around the NHL…
- Tonight’s draft lottery will decide who gets the top three picks in next year’s draft – assuming the winners of those picks fall in the bottom seven by record, writes The Athletic’s Sean McIndoe. Otherwise, we might be facing a second lottery once the play-in round decides the other eight teams of the lottery field. The Detroit Red Wings have the night’s best odds, but the top pick has only gone to the team with the best odds 30% of the time over the past decade. After the Red Wings, the Ottawa Senators hold each of the next best slots, one for their own pick, and one for the Sharks pick they acquired in the Erik Karlsson deal.
- Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman hasn’t engaged with their impending free agents, a list largely comprised of arbitration-eligible restricted free agents, per The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus. Goaltender Corey Crawford is their highest-issue unrestricted free agent, as the 35-year-old netminder held sway between the pipes for two Chicago championships. Restricted free agent Drake Caggiula also presents an interesting case, writes Lazerus, as the speedster expected that his broken hand would be the end of his season. The long layoff and expanded playoff pool has presented Caggiula with an opportunity to build his case ahead of what’s expected to be a rather tepid free agency.
While the Red Wings didn’t have a lot of success on the ice this season, it was a decent year for goaltender Jonathan Bernier. He took over the number one role from Jimmy Howard while his 2.95 GAA and .907 SV% were respectable marks for a team that struggled as much as Detroit did. The 31-year-old still has one more year left on his contract with a $3MM cap hit but he is already thinking ahead, telling Dana Gauruder of the Detroit Free Press that he’s hoping to play until he’s around 38-40 years old and would love to finish his career with the team. GM Steve Yzerman will likely have to look to free agency to find Bernier’s partner for next season and if he signs a proven number one, their willingness to keep a higher-end second option in the fold may be limited. However, if they go with another Bernier-type netminder with a goal of having a platoon, then the potential for him sticking around would go up considerably.
By now, everyone knows that the Detroit Red Wings were a bad team in 2019-20. The team finished last in the NHL with a 17-49-5 record. Their 39 points was 23 points less than the Ottawa Senators in 30th place and a whopping 61 points behind the President’s Trophy-winning Boston Bruins. Their .275 points percentage was historically bad, eighth-worst in the modern era and the very worst if expansions teams are removed.
But just how pervasive was Detroit’s failure this season? The Red Wings finished last in almost every meaningful statistic. The team was the worst at both scoring and preventing goals in 2019-20. Their meager 2.0 goals per game was more than half a goal behind the 30th-ranked Los Angeles Kings. They gave up 3.73 goals per game, nearly two more goals than they scored and .38 GAA behind the Ottawa Senators in 30th. In contrast, .38 more than the Senators’ goals against would be a sub-3.0 GAA and in the top half of the league. Detroit finished last in even strength, power play, and shorthanded goals against. The Red Wings also struggled on the penalty kill, finishing in last place with a 74.3% rating.
Taking an even deeper look, the team was a disaster at creating offense. Their 27.1 shots per game was last in the league, more than two shots behind the Buffalo Sabres in 30th. If the Sabres improved by the same amount, they would be among the top half of the league. Detroit also finished last in takeaways with just 4.33 per game.
The big question is: what wasn’t Detroit the worst at in 2019-20. The Red Wings were by no means successful in the following three key statistics, but they did not finish last:
The Red Wings should thank the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks that they can say their team wasn’t the very worst this year in a major category like power play. The difference is marginal, but Detroit’s 14.9% was .02 higher than the Ducks and .07 higher than the Sens. The Red Wings were also just behind the Chicago Blackhawks in 28th at 15.2%. Success rates start to rise significantly beyond those bottom four all the way to the Edmonton Oilers, who were more than twice as successful with the man advantage as Detroit, Anaheim, and Ottawa.
Unfortunately, when you combine the Red Wing’s low power play success rate with their league-high 13 shorthanded goals against, the team actually had a league-worst 8.8% net power play.
At the end of the day, Detroit had the worst goals against in the league, but they did their part not to leave their goalies out to dry entirely. The team finished 27th in shots against per game with 32.8. The Vancouver Canucks, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers, and Chicago Blackhawks all finished below the Red Wings, with the Blackhawks bringing up the rear allowing more than two more shots per game. Detroit was actually closer to a top-ten mark in shots against per game that they were Chicago in last.
While bad teams and giveaways seem to go hand-in-hand, and often do, the Red Wings did not cough up the puck the most in the NHL. That honor belongs to the New York Islanders, with the New York Rangers coming in second-to-last. Detroit tied the Montreal Canadiens with 11.23 giveaways per game. This was only marginally better than the Rangers, but nearly two giveaways less than the Islanders’ ugly mark.
Yet, due to their measly 4.33 takeaways per game, Detroit still finished last net turnovers with -6.09 per game. They may not be the worst team in giveaways, but they were hardly winners in the turnover battle.
Finally, a noteworthy statistic that Detroit was not worst or among the worst at this season. The Red Wings’ 49.5% face-off rate was still below average by definition, but it was just short of a middling mark and good enough for 20th in the league. The team was only about 1% better than all but three of the teams below them, but the Red Wings will be happy not to be a part of that bottom group.
The 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings: “Historically bad, but okay at face-offs”.
There was quite a few rumors surrounding the trade status of Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere at the trade deadline in February, but in the end, the team couldn’t find a deal that they liked. After all, Gostisbehere was a top offensive defenseman with the Flyers for several years before back-to-back poor seasons. Of course he is just 27 years old and while he’s recovering from knee surgery this season, the team still believes he has quite a bit of value.
However, Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi writes in his most recent mailbag, that the team is still looking for a trade partner for Gostisbehere and hope to find the right deal this offseason. He adds that the team isn’t willing to just give the blueliner away as he still has vast potential, but the team might be willing to accept a second-round pick or a young forward with 20-goal potential down the road.
- NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin reports that Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said that with the uncertainty of the salary cap going forward, the team has shelved any thought of discussing contracts with their UFAs and RFAs. The team has several unrestricted free agents, including defenseman Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Joakim Nordstrom and Kevan Miller. The team also has several key restricted free agents, including Jake Debrusk, Anders Bjork and Matt Grzelcyk, but will have little cap room to work with and with rumors that the cap may not increase next year, could force the team to make some difficult decisions.
- Despite a record losing season in Detroit, MLive’s Ansar Khan writes that Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman and the coaching staff do feel that the team made quite a bit of progress in their development of their younger players. He notes that the team were thrilled with the play of defenseman Filip Hronek, who averaged 23:54 of TOI, while posting nine goals and 31 points. While his minus-38 isn’t impressive, the team saw a blueliner whose defense improved greatly. The scribe also points out the improved play of 2018 first-rounder Filip Zadina, Givani Smith and defenseman Gustav Lindstrom.
While many NHL teams will begin open up their training facilities on Monday and the league is slowly moving towards getting back into action, there still remains quite a bit to negotiate. One thing that is still being debated is how many players each of the 24 teams will carry once play resumes.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun notes that while the NHL has suggested 28 skaters, plus goaltenders, that number still must be negotiated with the NHLPA. However, that number isn’t necessarily needed until either Phase 3 or even Phase 4, which gives the two sides time to come up with a proper number.
- Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News writes that Detroit Red Wings veteran goaltender Jimmy Howard wants to play another one or two seasons before he retires, although he does admit that it might not be with the Red Wings. The 36-year-old would prefer to finish out his career in Detroit, the team that drafted him, but that seems somewhat unlikely to return to a rebuilding team after a career-worst season with a 2-23-2 record with a 4.20 GAA and a .882 save percentage. “I want to keep playing,” said Howard. “This year left such a bitter taste in my mouth. I want to go out there and show people I can still play in this league — I know I’m capable … I personally don’t believe I represent those number (statistics), but I was a big part of the program (losing). I got in my own way a lot instead of letting the play to come. I was overthinking things.”
- The Athetic’s Corey Masisak (subscription required) writes that he believes that with three first-round picks (and two potential lottery picks) in a strong upcoming 2020 draft, the New Jersey Devils are a team that would be strong candidates to grab highly-touted goaltender Yaroslav Askarov with one of those picks. The 17-year-old is one of the highest-rated goaltenders in years, but after a poor showing at the World Juniors this past year, many have watched as his stock has dropped somewhat and with teams generally shying away from taking goaltenders in the first round, there is no clear indication where the young netminder might be taken. Regardless, he has been rated as a lottery pick by many scouts. The scribe adds that even though they have a young netminder in MacKenzie Blackwood, the team should still consider taking the goalie, especially since they have three first-rounders. The Devils already have the sixth-best chance to win the lottery with their own pick, but the team also has the Arizona Coyotes’ first-rounder (acquired in the Taylor Hall trade), but the pick depends on how Arizona fares in the post-season and is top-three protected. New Jersey has a third first-round pick, acquired from Tampa Bay in the Blake Coleman trade (via Vancouver), but that pick is lottery-protected based on Vancouver’s performance in the play-in game.
While the Red Wings didn’t have much in the way of success this season, one player who was able to turn his career around after being traded there was Robby Fabbri. After being a role player with St. Louis, he averaged more than 17 minutes a night with Detroit and picked up a respectable 31 points in 52 games along the way. However, he told Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News that there hasn’t been any talk about a new contract yet although he’s hoping to stick around. A restricted free agent, the 24-year-old will be owed a qualifying offer of $945K this offseason but he will also be eligible for salary arbitration.
Fabbri also indicated that he would like to change his position. While he came up through the junior ranks as a center, he has spent the majority of his NHL time on the wing. The Red Wings gave him a chance to spend a bit of time down the middle late in the year and it went over well; a long-term change back to that role would also certainly help his contract leverage down the road.
Johansson, 19, was the 60th overall pick last year and represents another member of the Red Wings growing defensive prospect pool. The team used three of their top four picks a year ago on European defensemen, with Johansson joining Moritz Seider (6th overall) and Antti Tuomisto (35th).
Though he only scored 13 points in 42 SHL games, just taking a regular shift at such a young age is an impressive feat. Johansson only turned 19 in January, meaning his contract can still slide a year if he fails to make the NHL squad.
That fate is likely given that the 6’0″ 168-lbs defenseman still needs quite a bit of polish and physical maturity, but his raw skills represent a lot to get excited about. Whether he spends next season in the SHL or AHL is unclear, but expect his offensive production to improve in either case as he becomes more accustomed to the opposition.
Johansson is also a contender for the Swedish squad at the next World Juniors, given his gold medal performance at the U18 and silver medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky.