- Although the Red Wings were without center Frans Nielsen this afternoon against Philadelphia, this should be the only game he misses. The team noted (Twitter link) that Nielsen is dealing with a minor illness and they are hopeful that he’ll return to the lineup on Sunday. The 34-year-old very quietly sits fourth in team scoring with 30 points (9-21-30) in 54 games so far this season.
Red Wings Rumors
As is often the case, Saturday is a busy day on the schedule with 24 teams in action which means there should be plenty of roster movement throughout the day. We’ll keep track of those moves here.
- The Jets announced the recall of defenseman Sami Niku from AHL Manitoba. The 22-year-old has split the season between the NHL and AHL which has prevented him from really getting into a rhythm as of late. He has a dozen points in 20 games with the Moose plus a pair of assists in 11 contests with Winnipeg so far this season. With Joe Morrow suffering a lower-body injury that’s going to keep him out for two-to-three weeks, Niku, who has been part of trade speculation in recent weeks, may be in line for some more playing time. In a separate move, the team has also promoted blueliner Tucker Poolman from Manitoba. After playing 24 games with Winnipeg last year, he has yet to play with them this season while injuries have limited him to just 25 contests with the Moose.
- Dallas is giving a look to the top goal scorer in the AHL as center Joel L’Esperance has been brought up from Texas (AHL) per a team release. The 23-year-old is in his first full professional season and has already scored 27 goals in just 49 games. He signed with the Stars as an undrafted free agent last summer, a move that is certainly paying dividends already. This will be L’Esperance’s first look at the NHL level.
- The Islanders announced (Twitter link) that they have assigned winger Andrew Ladd and defenseman Thomas Hickey to Bridgeport of the AHL on conditioning stints. Ladd has been out for three months due to a leg injury while Hickey has been out of action with an upper-body issue for nearly two months. GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters, including Newsday’s Andrew Gross (Twitter links) that both players have been transferred to LTIR today and are pegged to play two games with the Sound Tigers before re-evaluating their progress.
- Defenseman Filip Hronek is back with the Red Wings after the team announced his promotion from AHL Grand Rapids. The 21-year-old has been quite productive in limited action at the minor league level, collecting 23 points in 28 games. He also has more than held his own with Detroit, logging over 18 minutes a night in 23 contests with the big club.
- Injuries on the back end for the Kings have provided an opportunity for Matt Roy to get a look with the big club as the team announced that he has been brought up from Ontario (AHL). Roy leads the Reign in scoring by a defenseman with 29 points in 45 games so far this season. His recall was required with Alec Martinez and Sean Walker are out with upper-body injuries.
- The Anaheim Ducks announced they have assigned winger Kevin Roy to the San Diego Gulls of the AHL. The 25-year-old has been on season-opening injured reserve after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. Roy played 25 games for the Ducks last season, putting up six goals and seven points. He will attempt to find his game after a long layoff with the Gulls, where he scored 14 goals and 37 points last season.
- The Philadelphia Flyers announced they have assigned forward Mikhail Vorobyev to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL. The 22-year-old was recalled for a second stint with the team on Jan. 28, but has failed to produce offensively. He hasn’t register a point in eight games since that call-up. He has just one goal and two points in 15 games total this season, while receiving just 9:20 of ATOI.
- Ed Willies of The Province reports that injured winger Jake Virtanen has been moved to injured reserve with an upper-body injury. Virtanen took a big hit from Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf Wednesday, missed Thursday’s game and had an MRI this morning, prompting the team to place him on IR. The team will use that open roster spot to put newly acquired forward Ryan Spooner on the ice. Head coach Travis Green said the injury is not concussion-related. He is expected to miss at least a week.
With the trade deadline fast approaching, we continue our look at the situation for each team over the coming weeks. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs? As we continue with the Atlantic Division, here is a look at the Detroit Red Wings.
By every metric, the Detroit Red Wings should be total sellers at the deadline and they have a laundry list of notable UFA’s to move. Yet, the team claims they would prefer to re-sign starting goaltender Jimmy Howard, top-six forward Gustav Nyquist, and dependable defenseman Nick Jensen. There is also word that veterans Thomas Vanek and Niklas Kronwall are happy in Detroit and unwilling to waive their No-Trade Clauses. That doesn’t leave much on the table.
In most cases, these rumors could be dismissed as the team simply trying to up the offers on their available rentals. But not in Detroit. The fatal flaw of the current Red Wings franchise and GM Ken Holland is total, unapologetic loyalty to long-time players. If a team says they won’t move someone or will only do so for a first-round pick, this is the one team worth believing. It could be a quiet deadline in Detroit.
23-28-7, seventh in the Atlantic Division
Deadline Cap Space
$5.06MM in full-season cap hit, 0/3 used salary cap retention slots, 48/50 contracts per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
2019: DET 1st, DET 2nd, NYI 2nd, DET 3rd, DET 4th, DET 5th, BUF 5th, CLB 5th, DET 6th, DET 7th
2020: DET 1st, DET 2nd, DET 3rd, DET 4th, DET 5th, DET 6th, DET 7th
Of course, the aforementioned players are the top trade chips that the team has. Howard and Nyquist are having great years and are surely drawing plenty of attention. Will Detroit get the first-round pick they desire to move either? That remains to be seen. Jensen and Kronwall could both step in as a solid bottom-pair addition for a contender, while Vanek would fill his frequent role as a capable depth addition to any forward corps. The fact remains that if any of these players want to stay in Detroit beyond this season, the Red Wings are unlikely to move them, extension in place or not.
So looking elsewhere, Luke Witkowski is a UFA that the Red Wings don’t seem as attached to. The market may be limited for the versatile skater, but if a team wants to take a shot, Detroit will be willing to move on. Recently waived and demoted, Martin Frk is in need of a change of scenery. Frk is a restricted free agent this summer and any number of teams might like to get a look at how he fits in their system down the stretch. The one-dimensional forward is more valuable now that he has cleared waivers and can be sent back and forth. Wade Megan, Dylan McIlrath, Brian Lashoff, and Harri Sateri are all free agents as well who could be targeted as deep depth additions.
The Jonathan Bernier signing looks like a mistake so far and the Red Wings seem eager to re-sign Howard rather than give Bernier the starting job. If another team is willing to take on the remaining two years of Bernier’s contract, Detroit would move him. Luke Glendening is another term player who could be on the move. He is still well-liked by the organization, but if the market is there they could move him. As always, if there was any way to move Justin Abdelkader or Danny DeKeyser, you would think Detroit would pull the trigger. Then again there’s that whole loyalty thing…
1) Cap Space: For several years now, the Red Wings have had one of the highest payrolls in the NHL, yet have been one of the league’s worst teams. That’s not a good mix. The flip side of wanting to re-sign top free agents, like Howard and Nyquist, is that you’re not opening up any more cap space. If Detroit wants to be players on the free agent market this summer, they need to try to move out some of their more cumbersome cap hits if possible.
2) Picks and Prospects: The Red Wings have a lot of good talent in the AHL and some others still at the junior and collegiate level. Adding picks, especially 2019 picks in a deep, talented draft class, is always helpful, though. However, there should room for some camp battles next season, particularly up front, so some pro-ready forward prospects would also be helpful.
While the Lightning, Islanders, and Capitals pulled off convincing wins last night, perhaps more impressive were the upsets by the Avalanche and Panthers over the top teams in the Western Conference. It will be a quieter night across the NHL this evening, with only four games on the docket, but not without it’s fair share of drama as the Sabres, Oilers, Hurricanes, and Wild all seek much-needed wins to stay afloat in their respective playoff races. Early indications are it could be a busy day for transactions, though. Keep track of all the activity here:
- Not only did the Detroit Red Wings bench young defenseman Dennis Cholowski on his own bobble-head night, but then they sent him down to the AHL right after the game. The team announced that both Cholowski and waived forward Martin Frk have been reassigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins. This is the first demotion for both players this season, as the pair are desperately in need of ice time after frequently watching from the press box of late. Still, the Red Wings’ timing could have been better.
- The Anaheim Ducks have added some firepower up front. The Ducks announced that top prospect forward Troy Terry has been recalled from the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. Terry, in his first pro season, has been a point-per-game player for the Gulls, but has just two points in ten games with the Ducks. However, a player who starred at the collegiate, world junior, and Olympic levels before turning pro is bound to find his offense in the NHL eventually. In a corresponding move, Anaheim reassigned veteran checking forward Adam Cracknell in a swap of two drastically different players.
- Lee Stempniak has taken another step toward perhaps the most predictable free agent signing in NHL history. The veteran forward, who has been working out and practicing with the Boston Bruins since joining the team on a tryout basis in training camp, has been added to the roster of the AHL’s Providence Bruins on a PTO, reports The Providence Journal’s Mark Divver. Stempniak has been expected to sign with the Bruins for the stretch run since it was first noted back in October that he would continue practicing with the team rather than seek employment in the minors or overseas. The fact that he is now getting into actual game action means that signing is on the horizon.
- With Michael Bunting placed on waivers yesterday with a designation for the minors, the Arizona Coyotes were able to activate long-time forward Brad Richardson from the injured reserve. Richardson was a game-time decision last night, but ended up making his return to the lineup. The veteran had missed the past 13 games with an upper-body injury.
- The Dallas Stars have announced that forward Denis Gurianov has been reassigned to AHL Texas. The streaky winger has shown some promise in the NHL this season, but has little to show for it with four points in 19 games. Dallas continues to battle with what to do with Gurianov, the No. 12 pick in 2015. He has been better than a point-per-game this season in the minors, but at the same time the Stars didn’t feel he was worth a call-up once last season and he hasn’t done much with his opportunity this year. The scoring forward has been an enigma for the team and with this latest demotion the saga continues.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets have called up homegrown forward Kole Sherwood on an emergency basis to fill the roster spot of Brandon Dubinksy, who they have moved to the injured reserve. Dubinsky has missed the past five games with a hip injury and it was only a matter of time before he landed on IR. Sherwood, who has been on fire in the AHL of late, is in his first pro season after being signed as an undrafted free agent while in juniors. An Ohio native, Sherwood hopes to make his NHL debut with his hometown team on this recall.
Thursday: Friedman reports that Frk has indeed cleared waivers. He is expected to be reassigned to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Not expected to be in demand on the trade market, the Red Wings’ next decision regarding Frk is likely whether or not to make him a qualifying offer this summer.
Wednesday: The Detroit Red Wings are over the Martin Frk experiment, at least for now. The team has placed the 25-year-old forward on waivers, writes Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, and this isn’t the first time. Frk was lost on waivers by the Red Wings early in the 2016-17 season, only to be reclaimed later when the Carolina Hurricanes also placed him on waivers. Will he survive the wire this time around? Limited game action and production could suggest so.
Although Frk has earned one-year extensions from Detroit in each of the past two seasons, he continues to be a difficult player to figure out. A 2012 second-round pick, Frk is known for his heavy shot and offensive instincts, but lacks the skating ability and awareness to put himself in scoring position often. Frk found some success last season, recording 25 points in 68 games, but has been limited to just 25 games, minimal ice time, and a resulting five points this year. At 25, the question is whether there’s still time and coach-ability left in Frk for him to develop into a complete player. If another team thinks so, Frk’s offensive potential may be worthy of a claim. If not, a pass through waivers could be the first step toward the impending RFA being out of the league sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, Friedman adds that the lone player on waivers yesterday has cleared. Montreal Canadiens forward Michael Chaput went untouched on the wire and remains with the Habs organization. The team was quick to announce that Chaput has been reassigned to the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, we will be profiling several players in the weeks ahead that have a good chance to be dealt by February 25th.
While things haven’t gone particularly well for the Red Wings this season, the same can’t be said for Gustav Nyquist. Detroit is going to be on the outside looking in at a playoff spot but it hasn’t been because of the winger who is in the midst of a career season which makes him a very intriguing candidate for a contender.
Nyquist is in the final season of a four-year, $19MM contract with an AAV of $4.75MM and a salary of $5.5MM. The pending unrestricted free agent also has a full no-trade clause.
Nyquist had a down 2017-18 campaign but that certainly hasn’t carried over to this season. He has been one of their top offensive threats all season long and has already surpassed his point total from a year ago. In fact, he’s on pace for a career high in points if he can stay healthy down the stretch. What’s particularly noteworthy is that he isn’t lighting up the scoresheet with the man advantage. While he has more power play points than he did all of last year (11 to 8), he’s still doing a lot of damage at five-on-five. After entering the season as a second liner, Nyquist has shown that he can still thrive in a top role which will make him that much more appealing to contenders.
57 GP, 14 goals, 33 assists, 47 points, -1 rating, 6 PIMS, 146 shots, 18:04 ATOI, 53.5 CF%
In the East, several Metropolitan teams look like strong suitors. The Blue Jackets could have a need for him if they wind up moving Artemi Panarin as they’ll likely be looking for someone to replace him to help with their postseason aspirations. The Islanders continue to sit atop the division but could certainly benefit from some extra firepower as they’re one of the lowest-scoring teams in the conference. The Penguins are always on the lookout for more scoring help and while they can’t afford to take on his salary outright, GM Jim Rutherford has shown himself to be creative when it comes to freeing up cap room.
In the Atlantic, Boston has been targeting a top-six winger since the beginning of the season and would certainly have interest as he’d slot in nicely behind David Pastrnak. Tampa Bay doesn’t have a direct need for more scoring but they’re all in this season and with that in mind, they could look to load up even further.
Out West, Winnipeg is known to be looking for help on the wing while the Predators will undoubtedly be in the mix as well as those two rivals look to try to one-up each other. Dallas could certainly use someone to take some of the load off of their top three scorers so they’ll likely be in the mix as well as. San Jose and Calgary have had no issues scoring this season so they may not be as inclined to look at Nyquist unless, like Tampa Bay, they decide they’re best off simply loading up with as much talent as possible. Overall, the fit appears to be better in the East than it does in the West.
Likelihood Of A Trade
Compared to other rentals, this one is far from a slam dunk. Detroit’s asking price is believed to be a first-round pick but there aren’t many of those believed to be available and there are more prominent players that could be dealt so unless that price goes lower, there may not be much interest. The Red Wings have also expressed an interest in signing him to an extension so it’s also possible that they lock him up and forego dealing him altogether. Nyquist would be a significant addition to any contender but it’s far from a guarantee that he’ll be on the move.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Toronto Maple Leafs showed interest in Detroit Red Wings forward Luke Glendening last season, but ended up adding Tomas Plekanec at the deadline instead. That interest hasn’t waned according to Frank Seravalli of TSN, who reports that the Maple Leafs have “kicked the tires” on Glendening again. Seravalli suggests a deal would need the Red Wings to retain salary on the fourth-line center, who carries a cap hit of $1.8MM in each of the next two seasons.
The 29-year old Glendening is an excellent faceoff man and penalty killer, and is actually having the best offensive season of his career. Receiving more minutes than ever before, Glendening has 18 points in 54 minutes, on pace to easily cruise by his career-high of 21. That has also come with a surprisingly good +9 rating, despite still seeing heavy defensive zone deployment and losing the possession battle badly.
Toronto currently employs a pair of natural centers on the fourth line, with Frederik Gauthier usually playing in the middle with Par Lindholm on his wing. One of those two would likely be taken out of the lineup in favor of Glendening, a favorite of Mike Babcock since his days with the Red Wings. There’s no guarantee that Glendening would actually have a bigger impact than either of those two on the ice, though his leadership and work ethic has long been admired around the league.
The question them comes down to price, and Seravalli suggests that it would start with a second-round pick given the recent Brian Boyle trade. The Maple Leafs have already sent their first-round selection to Los Angeles for Jake Muzzin, and are also short a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft. Toronto obviously believes this is a year they can compete for the Stanley Cup, but have to be careful about sending away too many draft picks before they’ve even won a playoff round. Still, if Detroit is willing to retain salary on Glendening he could give the team a little more cost certainty on the fourth line for the next few years when cash will be tight.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Filip Zadina has had a difficult year. The sixth-overall pick from 2018 has just 11 goals and 23 points with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and was held to just a single assist at the World Juniors, a tournament he dominated last year. Still, that won’t stop the Detroit Red Wings from giving him a taste of the NHL before the end of the season. GM Ken Holland told Ansar Khan of MLive that Zadina will play a few games with the Red Wings before the end of the year, but won’t go over the nine-game threshold that would make his entry-level contract kick in for this season.
Zadina is an extremely skilled player with a deadly accurate shot, and is still just a teenager playing in a professional league with opponents sometimes more than a decade older than him. Struggles maybe were to be expected, but for the Red Wings success he needs to take another step forward next season. Getting him a taste of what it takes to play in the NHL before the summer will give him even more focus this offseason to come to camp ready to compete in September.
- Dustin Byfuglien has been activated from injured reserve by the Winnipeg Jets after a 15-game absence, and should immediately help them on their push to finish at the top of the Western Conference. The Jets are still in the market to make a move at the trade deadline, but getting Byfuglien back at this point should feel like a big addition for the last part of the season. The big, mobile defenseman usually logs some of the highest ice time totals in the league and is a physical force that demands respect all over the rink.
- Los Angeles Kings GM Rob Blake had some snark for the analysts at TSN when speaking with Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times, and explained that there’s not definite time frame on when he’s looking to make moves to improve the club. If there are opportunities like the one he took by trading away Jake Muzzin the Kings will jump all over it, but they’re not rushing to sell off the whole team right away. For what it’s worth, our readership at PHR believes that Tyler Toffoli will be the next player sent packing by the Kings.
The Los Angeles Kings have already traded one veteran defenseman, and now they’re going to sit down another. Dion Phaneuf is expected to be a healthy scratch for the Kings tonight when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers, a move that isn’t totally surprising given the role he’s played this season. Phaneuf has seen more than 17 minutes of ice time just four times this season, and not since early November.
After this season the 33-year old has two years remaining on the massive seven-year, $49MM contract he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013 and could be headed towards a buyout in the summer. While the result of a buyout wouldn’t be outstanding for the Kings, having Phaneuf on the roster isn’t helping them much at this point and they have younger players who would benefit from that opportunity. The Ottawa Senators, who retained a portion of Phaneuf’s contract when they traded him to the Kings, would still be responsible for 25% of the salary and cap hit from a buyout.
- David Kampf will be out of the Chicago Blackhawks lineup for up to a month with a foot injury, the team announced today. Kampf is a restricted free agent at the end of the year and has done enough to show he deserves another contract with the team, but a month off will certainly hurt his negotiating leverage. The 24-year old forward has 16 points in 50 games but is a solid enough depth option down the middle.
- After a brief conditioning stint in the minor leagues, Michael Rasmussen is expected to be back in the lineup tonight for the Detroit Red Wings. The big center scored twice in three games for the Grand Rapids Griffins, and will look to continue his offensive development in the second half of the season in Detroit. A huge part of their future, the 6’6″ forward had just 13 points in his first 41 games. Playing in the NHL at 19 is an accomplishment in itself, but the team will need more scoring from him going forward.
Just a month ago, a report surfaced that the Detroit Red Wings had not started extension talks with pending free agent defenseman Nick Jensen. That news was notable because of Jensen’s breakout season, in which the 28-year old is playing more than 20 minutes per night for the first time in his career. Because of that, Jensen immediately represented a potential rental option for a team looking for right-handed help on the blue line. Now though, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet notes in his latest 31 Thoughts column that the Red Wings are in fact attempting to sign Jensen to an extension and suggests that the team wants to keep a few veterans around their wave of young players.
Jensen actually has always been a relatively effective defenseman. Though he has just 182 games under his belt at the NHL level, that’s not because of some journeyman career in the minor leagues bouncing around different organizations. In fact, Detroit is the only franchise that the fifth-round pick has ever known, signing with them in 2013 after three seasons at St. Cloud State. There’s not a lot of flash or headlines in Jensen’s game, and he doesn’t provide the measurables to stand out when watching him on the ice. But he has quietly registered solid possession numbers and this year has taken another step to carry more responsibility than every before.
That kind of under the radar improvement is likely why Detroit is interested in retaining him. Jensen has never made more than the $825K he is taking home this season, meaning he represents one of the best right-handed bargains available at the moment. If he’s not asking for a huge raise there is good reason to keep him around as a stabilizing option while the team brings along younger defensemen like Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek. Niklas Kronwall is set to become an unrestricted free agent and is now 38, though Friedman also notes the respect the organization has for their long-time blue liner.
Jensen’s low salary though might bring about quite a few buyers at deadline time. A team pushed to the edge of the salary cap could still likely afford to add him to the mix as a depth option, and his play this season has shown that he can handle increased responsibility if an injury were to happen. The Red Wings will have to make a decision quickly, as the deadline is fewer than three weeks away and teams will be making decisions on their blue line sooner rather than later.