Free Agency Anti-Frenzy

The Red Wings were predictably uninvolved with free agency on day one, making a few low impact signings and avoiding all the hullabaloo of the big names that were circling the market.  

Yzerman’s day one moves are all sensible moves and nothing to be concerned about, especially given the status of last year’s roster moving forward.  The NHL roster is poised to look mostly the same, with only Filppula and Nemeth likely to be added to the fold unless Yzerman makes more moves. Yzerman has already stated that he may not be completely done with free agency or possibly making trades, and could look to add another forward and defenseman before all the pickings become slim.  

Detroit has been linked with the Vegas Golden Knights with Nikita Gusev.  Gusev, who turns 27 on July 8th, was a high scoring winger in the KHL before coming to North America.  He’s currently an RFA with arbitration eligibility, and according to sources has asked for a two year, $8M contract with an AAV of $4M.  Although that could end up being a steal if Gusev can convert some of his scoring touch from the Kontinental Hockey League to the NHL, it is still out of Vegas’s affordability zone.  Detroit could possibly take both Gusev and the contract of David Clarkson (one year left at $5.25) to give Vegas much needed cap space to finalize their roster for 2019/2020. They’re currently sitting at a cap hit of $84.2M, with $2.67M projected LTIR usage, with 14 forwards, 5 defenseman, and only 1 goalie according to Capfriendly.  

The roster is still looking a bit dicey for the 2019/2020 season, unless some of the prospects are truly ready to make the roster.  There is still a giant hole that Nyquist left on the second line, and the defense is still a giant mess.   

I also wouldn’t exactly be surprised if Yzerman also has another trick up his sleeve to possibly unload a contract, possibly one of Ericsson or Daley, if he does sign another defenseman from free agency. Either way, it does seem that he has no interest in rushing any of the prospects to Detroit this year, nor will he rely on any of them to fill a vacant roster spot.

The Additions

F Valtteri Filppula

D Patrick Nemeth 

G Calvin Pickard

The Subtractions 

F Martin Frk (LAK)

D Luke Witkowski (TBL) 

G Patrik Rybar (Liiga)

The Breakdown 

G Calvin Pickard

At first the move to acquire Pickard was a bit puzzling.  Pickard, 27, has played in 104 NHL games for four different teams (Arizona, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Colorado), and has decent statistics throughout those NHL tenures, although nothing to write home about.  Although Pickard will be given the opportunity to compete with Bernier to serve as Jimmy Howard’s backup during the 2019/2020 season, he’s already slated to start in Grand Rapids, and help mentor goaltending prospect Filip Larsson.  

The move made a lot more sense when it was officially announced that Rybar was leaving to play in Europe.  Although he was given a qualifying offer in June, he decided to go elsewhere to continue his hockey career.  

Pickard hasn’t had the greatest level of stats in the NHL, but he’s historically been a great asset at the AHL level.  He will likely assist in easing Larsson into the pro hockey life as a goaltender, and will also possibly aide the Red Wings in goalie depth should they decide to shop Howard around the deadline this coming season.  

F Valtteri Filppula

I love having Filppula back in the fold.  He was a fan favorite when he was in Detroit, although some fans still hold animosity towards him for leaving way back when.  The animosity likely stems from the consequences of Valtteri leaving. His departure led to the poor-conceived contract for Stephen Weiss, which Detroit is still paying the buyout penalty for.  It even further led to the signing of Frans Nielsen, who still has three years left at an excessively high cap hit of $5.25M, which is the second highest for forwards on the team behind Dylan Larkin, not including Henrik Zetterberg’s cap hit which is destined for LTIR.  

Filppula gives the Red Wings the ability to move Athanasiou back to the wing, which Steve Yzerman has described as his “natural position.”  It also helps the Wings down the center, alleviating the pressure that Veleno might’ve had to make the roster if he’s not ready. 

Filppula posted 31 points, including 17 goals in 72 games for the Islanders last season. Nielsen or Filppula will likely start the season at the second center position.  

D Patrick Nemeth

Nemeth coming to Detroit fills a real need for the Red Wings.  He’s a steady, stay-at-home defender on the left side. He will compliment Filip Hronek or Mike Green rather well, and also adds to the defensive depth on the left side.  Once Witkowski’s return to Tampa Bay was announced, the Nemeth signing became an excellent move for defensive depth. His signing also will not affect Hronek, Bowey, or Kaski, as all three of them play on the right side.  Cholowski’s chances might be strained by Nemeth’s signing, but Yzerman has stated that if a young player is ready to make the roster, they’ll be on the roster. While Cholowski might not beat Nemeth or DeKeyser for a job out of camp, it should be relatively easy for him to beat out Ericsson and possibly Daley for their jobs.

  • Jesse L
  • @jcleist17

Feature Photo Credit: Bill Streicher

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