Tomas Jurco undergoes back surgery, ‘not sure’ he’ll be ready for season

Jared Clinton
Tomas Jurco (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings are running into some injury problems and training camp, let alone the regular season, hasn’t even started.

In the same week that it was announced defenseman Niklas Kronwall is still battling a knee injury and can’t compete at the World Cup and that prospect Vili Saarijarvi will miss three months following wrist surgery, the Red Wings have also announced that winger Tomas Jurco may not be ready to go come opening night.

According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, Red Wings GM Ken Holland has confirmed that Jurco, 23, injured his back while training in Slovakia and there are concerns about his ability to hit the ice in time for training camp, the pre-season and even the start of the regular season.

“He needs 4-6 weeks of rest, then start slow. Need to see how he feels,” Holland said, per Khan. “Don’t think he’ll be on the ice playing in 4-6 weeks. Not sure he’ll be ready to open the season. Won’t know for another month down the road.” Read more

Detroit Red Wings have a “tank” in prospect Givani Smith

Givani Smith (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)

Givani Smith didn’t have an enviable situation in his draft year. The physical left winger played for literally one of the worst teams in all of major junior – the Guelph Storm – and watched coach Bill Stewart walk out on his troops after Guelph won just two of its first 27 games. But scouts saw Smith’s unique combination of brawn and skill and knew he’d be a good one. Detroit nabbed him in the second round this summer and now he’s already impressing NHLers.

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Injury knocks Kronwall out of World Cup, Sweden names Lindholm as replacement

Jared Clinton
Hampus Lindholm (Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Swedish World Cup team is getting an upgrade on the blueline, though it will come at the cost of one of their veteran leaders being forced out of the tournament due to injury.

It was announced Wednesday that Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall, 35, will be unable to compete at the tournament and 22-year-old Anaheim Ducks rearguard Hampus Lindholm has been named to the team in Kronwall’s place. The announcement is somewhat surprising after Red Wings GM Ken Holland said Kronwall was feeling better heading into the season.

“He’s had much better training sessions this summer than he had last summer,” Holland told NHL.com. “He feels his leg is stronger and he’s done some things to be more prepared physically for the upcoming season.”

There was no indication from Sweden what exactly is ailing Kronwall, though there’s reason to believe he could still be dealing with the after effects of a knee injury that required surgery this past season. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Red Wings will go into season with current D-corps, look at trades later

Red Wings GM Ken Holland. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings pursuit of a top-three defenseman remains a hot topic among the club’s fans. In late-June, rumors linked the Wings to St. Louis Blues blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim Ducks rearguard Cam Fowler.

With the start of NHL training camps fast approaching, Wings GM Ken Holland still hasn’t found a suitable defenseman. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan responded to questions from Wings fans on this topic. He notes the lack of depth in the free-agent market and intense competition for the few quality players who hit the trade block makes it difficult for Holland to address this need.

Khan points out the asking price for “non-elite talent” such as Shattenkirk and Fowler could cost the Wings some combination of “a top prospect, first-round pick or a good, young roster player.” He said the Wings contacted the Blues about Shattenkirk and the Ducks about Fowler earlier this summer, and probaby spoke to other clubs, but were unwilling to meet their asking prices.

Earlier this summer, rumors claimed Blues GM Doug Armstrong sought rising young star Dylan Larkin in exchange for Shattenkirk. It’s understandable Holland would pass on that. Larkin has the potential to become the Wings’ franchise player and future captain.

Much of the Shattenkirk conjecture is tied to his eligilibity next summer for unrestricted free agency. However, Armstrong now appears willing to retain the 27-year-old for the upcoming season.

As for Fowler, the Ducks aren’t likely to move him until they’ve re-signed restricted free agent blueliner Hampus Lindholm. The Ducks have an excess of defensemen and a need for depth at left wing. Fowler would make an attractive trade chip, but they could consider moving someone else.

Should Fowler be shopped, the Wings won’t be the only club interested in his services. The Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils could also come calling.

Since a deal hasn’t been made by now, Khan feels the Wings will go into 2016-17 with their current D-corps and evaluate their situation, and the trade market, later in the season.

KANE TRADE TALK ON HOLD

Earlier this summer, there was talk the Buffalo Sabres could attempt to trade troubled left winger Evander Kane.

The 25-year-old is facing misdemeanour charges stemming from an incident in a Buffalo bar in late June. His first season with the Sabres was an injury-shortened disappointment, limited to 20 goals and 35 points in 65 games in 2015-16.

With the Buffalo Sabres losing Jimmy Vesey to free agency, Kane could be off the market. The Buffalo News’ Mark Harrington speculates Vesey’s signing with the New York Rangers spells the end of talk the Sabres could shop Kane to the Vancouver Canucks. Harrington notes the Canucks seemed to be the only team with interest in the winger.

Considering Kane’s legal issues and the fact he’s signed through 2017-18 at $5.25-million annually, Harrington believes the Sabres’ best bet is to hope Kane rebounds this coming season and improves his trade value.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

Watch: Red Wings’ Abdelkader, Larkin take flight with Breitling

Dhiren Mahiban
Detroit Red Wings forwards Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader with the Breitling Jet Team. (Photo courtesy of Breitling)

Red Wings forwards Justin Abdelkader and Dylan Larkin traded in their skates for a flight of a different kind last week. The pair took the skies at the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show with the Breitling Jet Team.

Flying at over 10,000 feet, the Breitling Jet Team maneuvered their seven L-39C Albatros Jets within a few feet of each other at speeds of up to 565mph. Abdelkader and Larkin experienced loops and barrel rolls while in flight.

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Five sophomores who could be in line for breakout seasons

Robby Fabbri (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)

There’s nothing worse than the dreaded sophomore slump, and there are several players who are going to be fighting against a down year after bursting onto the NHL scene this past season.

Take Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin for example. Each came in with significant amounts of hype — McDavid the phenom, Eichel the Hobey Baker winner and Panarin the Russian standout — and each delivered with stellar performances in their rookie seasons. Because of that, the upcoming campaign is going to be their chance to prove that the 2015-16 season was no fluke and that the production was a sign of things to come.

The same goes for defensive talents such as Colton Parayko and Shayne Gostisbehere. Parayko came in as a relative unknown and turned into a top-four defenseman for the St. Louis Blues and already looks to be a member of the core group that will lead the team forward. As for Gostisbehere, his high-scoring ways made him a sensation and Philadelphia Flyers fans can’t wait to see if he can do it all again.

But there are also several rookies who had good — not great — rookie campaigns and could take a major step forward this coming season. Here are five sophomore players in line for a breakout year in 2016-17: Read more

Rumor Roundup: Red Wings willing to move forwards for top-three defenseman

Lyle Richardson
Tomas Tatar (Bill Smith/Getty Images)

Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s made no secret of his desire to add a top-three defenseman. How he’ll address that need remains a topic of interest for Red Wings fans this summer.

If Holland goes the trade route, he could draw upon his forward depth for bargaining chips. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press suggests winger Tomas Tatar could be used in a trade package to bring in the help the Wings need on defense.

In a profile of winger Gustav Nyquist, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan speculates the 26-year-old could become a viable trade chip.

Tatar and Nyquist surfaced in the rumor mill earlier in the off-season due to their disappointing performances in 2015-16. Having reached career-highs in points in 2014-15, Nyquist’s production fell from 54 to 48 last season, while the 25-year-old Tatar’s dropped from 58 to 45.

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The Red Wings are in limbo – and Ken Holland is OK with that

Matt Larkin
Red Wings GM Ken Holland. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Assessing the Detroit Red Wings’ off-season depends on what kind of person you are.

If you see the world sunny-side up, summer 2016 was a rah-rah moment for the franchise. The Wings, hovering around the playoff bubble for the past few seasons in the Eastern Conference, said goodbye to their best forward of the past decade, Pavel Datsyuk, but they brought in some veteran help. They threw $31.5 million over six years at center Frans Nielsen. They snagged Minnesota Wild castoff Thomas Vanek at the low-risk, high-gain price of $2.6 million over one year. They added center Steve Ott for veteran leadership. They re-signed speedy pivot Darren Helm and top blueliner Danny DeKeyser long-term. Detroit has made the playoffs 25 straight years and, to an optimist, the off-season sends the message the franchise wants a 26th berth. Maybe the Wings can ascend into something more than a bubble team if young center Dylan Larkin and goalie Petr Mrazek continue ascending and become organizational pillars.

The crabby pessimist, perpetually trailed by a rain cloud, isn’t so happy about the Wings’ summer. This team has finished with a .567 points percentage twice in the past three seasons, marking 16-year lows. The Wings haven’t picked in the top five at the NHL draft since Keith Primeau in 1990. They haven’t picked in the top 10 since Martin Lapointe in 1991. That’s 25 years, matching the playoff streak. Hardly a coincidence. The pessimist might say the Wings have become victims of their own success, which includes four Stanley Cups since 1996-97. They’re never bad enough to blow the operation up and rebuild around superstar draft picks, and they’re no longer good enough, it seems, for a deep Stanley Cup playoff run.

So who’s right? Will the Wings doom themselves to mediocrity if they limp forward with a good-but-not great roster, or are they on the cusp of a turnaround, fuelled by improving youth and an injection of free-agent talent? The person best equipped to tackle the topic is, naturally, Ken Holland, Detroit’s GM since 1997. And he’s refreshingly candid about the state of his team.

“The philosophical question you’re asking me is, ‘Do we head in a direction where we make a determination that it’s all about five years from now? Or do we continue to try to be a playoff team?’” Holland said. “When you’ve got Mrazek, and you’ve got Larkin, and you’ve got Riley Sheahan, Justin Abdelkader, and you’ve got Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, and you’ve got DeKeyser, and you’ve got Nielsen… we’ve either got to have those people and we’re trying to win the division, we’re trying to qualify for the playoffs…or don’t sign Frans Nielsen. Don’t sign Thomas Vanek. Don’t bring in Ott. And just go with a bunch of kids. And let the chips fall where they may.

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