Whether for good or bad, the Detroit Red Wings have continued on their pursuit for reaching the playoffs despite having one of the highest payrolls with the least production. After not reaching the playoffs, many believed it was time to rebuild the “great franchise,” but that is not the course it took as it made few moves to fix their aging, yet expensive roster and only added more veterans to it with the hopes that many of their veterans would bounce back this year.
MLive’s Ansar Khan took questions regarding the team path, pointing out that the Red Wings brass have no interest in a team rebuild and are going all-out to reach the playoffs again. His belief is the team has no confidence that their youth can outperform the veterans that are already on the team. The team may have little choice as they are even now over the cap and have very few tradeable contracts at present, but things may change if the Red Wings put up a second disappointing season next year.
- Petr Mrazek should be especially motivated this season as he enters his contract year. Once considered to be their starting goaltender of the future, the 24-year-old has struggled over the last year and a half, according to Khan. He finished last year with a 3.04 GAA and a .901 save percentage, losing his job to veteran Jimmy Howard. He then was exposed to the expansion draft and not selected by Vegas. Khan believes if he doesn’t step up this year, the Red Wings will not make him a $4MM qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
- The Red Wings, which have nine defensemen currently under contract, are likely to shed 24-year-old Ryan Sproul before the seasons begin, assuming there are no injuries. That should get them down to eight defenders and the general belief is that Luke Witkowski will be moved to play the forward position as a fourth-line wing or the 13th man. He would only play defense in emergencies.
- Khan also writes that minor league defenseman Dylan McIlrath, acquired in March from the Florida Panthers, is not a likely candidate to make the Detroit roster. The former 2010 first-round pick has struggled to stay on an NHL roster long-term and while he brings a physical presence the team desperately needs, it’s more likely the team brought Witkowski in to play that same role. McIlrath has only played in 43 NHL games in his career.