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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Rumour Roundup: Red Wings and Lightning may need to make trades to become cap compliant

Ben Bishop and Ryan Callahan

The Detroit Red Wings avoided arbitration this week with defenseman Danny DeKeyser and goaltender Petr Mrazek. DeKeyser, 26, inked a five-year, $30-million contract, while the 24-year-old Mrazek agreed to a two-year, $8-million deal.

These deals, however, push the Wings above the $73 million salary-cap ceiling by over $4.2 million. MLive.com’s Brendan Savage reports GM Ken Holland doesn’t expect forwards Johan Franzen ($3.9 million) and Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) to play this season because of ongoing concussion symptoms. The two are expected to be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Joining them could be forward Teemu Pulkkinen ($812,500), who is recovering from recent shouder surgery. With their combined salaries on LTIR, the Wings should be cap compliant when the season begins.

Holland could also be active in the trade market leading up to the season opener in October. NBC Sports’ Jason Brough reports the Wings have a surplus of forwards, noting Holland’s recent wish to acquire a top-three defenseman.

Earlier in July, trade rumors linked the Wings to St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler. Wings forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar surfaced as possible trade candidates, though Holland is apparently reluctant to part with either.

To land Shattenkirk or Fowler, however, could require a good young winger as part of the return. If Holland won’t give up Nyquist or Tatar, he’ll have to consider more affordable, less-talented trade options. He could also wait for a better deal to emerge over the course of the season.

The Wings aren’t the only club that could face the challenge of getting under the salary cap before October. After re-signing center Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year deal worth over $1.9 million per season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have $6.5 million in cap space. With right winger Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Nikita Nestorov still to re-sign, getting the pair under contract could exceed the $73-million ceiling.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman remains confident he’ll get rising star Kucherov under contract this summer. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times suggests Nashville Predators left winger Filip Forsberg (six years, $36 million) as a comparable.

Yzerman said he doesn’t have to make a salary-dumping deal before re-signing Kucherov and Nesterov, but acknowledged his need to become cap compliant before the season begins. Smith speculates center Valtteri Filppula, who’s under contract for two more years at an annual cap hit of $5 million, as a trade candidate.

Recent speculation also suggested goaltender Ben Bishop ($5.9 million with a full no-movement clause), right winger Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million, no-movement) or defenseman Braydon Coburn ($3.7 million, full no-trade clause) as trade options. Filppula, however, has a modified no-trade clause, making him easier to shop.

TAVARES INTENDS TO STAY WITH ISLANDERS

Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning put an end to speculation the Markham, Ont., native would return home and join the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some Leafs followers, however, are now looking ahead to the summer of 2018, when Mississauga-born John Tavares of the New York Islanders is eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Appearing Tuesday on Sportsnet 590, Tavares chuckled when asked about the possibility of playing for the Leafs. While acknowledging his connection to Toronto, the 25-year-old Islanders captain said not to count on his joining the Maple Leafs. He maintained his commitment to remain with the Isles.

Of course, anything can happen over the next two years. The Islanders efforts to build into a Stanley Cup contender could stall. Tavares could become disenchanted with the club’s direction. While the club’s new ownership is willing to spend to the cap ceiling, contract talks with Tavares could prove unexpectedly difficult.

However, it’s worth remembering there was talk of Tavares bolting the Isles prior to signing his current contract in 2011. At that time, the Isles were still among the league’s worst clubs, but he remained committed to improving the franchise. Should they continue their recent improvement, there’s little reason to believe he’ll depart the Islanders for the Leafs in 2018.

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.).

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Red Wings’ cap compliance trouble should be solved by Franzen, Vitale injuries

Jared Clinton
Johan Franzen (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings may be more than $4 million over the salary cap with the regular season approaching, but GM Ken Holland sees a clear path for the club to take to become salary cap compliant before the campaign begins. And it won’t even require a trade or demoting players to the AHL.

After the signings of Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek, a combination of deals that accounts for a total of $9-million in cap hit this coming season and next, Detroit sits $4.24 million over the salary cap before the season is even set to begin. However, Holland said that neither Johan Franzen or Joe Vitale are expected to play this coming season, meaning both will assuredly be placed on long-term injured reserve.

“Certainly we have no expectations that Franzen and Vitale are playing hockey this year,” Holland told MLive’s Brendan Savage. “I talked to Vitale after we traded (for) him. He’s having on-going issues with concussion. He certainly not expecting to be in camp. I’m not expecting to see Johan Franzen on the ice.”

“I think realistically, when it’s all said and done, we’re probably a little over the cap. What’s a little? Probably a million dollars or just a little bit less over the cap if you don’t count Vitale and Franzen.” Read more

Arbitration clearly works, so why not make it available to more players?

Mike Hoffman  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It should really come as no surprise that of the 25 players who were slated to go to salary arbitration this summer, none has actually sat in front of the arbitrator and 22 of them have resulted in contract resolutions. That’s pretty much the standard these days.

And it should also come as no surprise if the remaining three are resolved well in advance of their hearings. Well, except Tyson Barrie of the Colorado Avalanche, largely because we have no idea what Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy are thinking these days. He actually might end up going. He’s slated for Thursday. (Martin Marincin of the Toronto Maple Leafs is scheduled for Aug. 2 and Michael Stone of the Arizona Coyotes is on the docket for Aug. 4.)

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Three playoff teams who could miss in 2016-17, and three non-playoff teams who could get in

Claude Giroux (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Playoff turnover is a hallmark of the NHL’s salary cap era. It’s rare to see a single franchise entrenched in a contending position for decades at a time. The Detroit Red Wings are the remarkable exception. Typically, we see plenty of playoff squads slide out of the picture from one season to the next, while several also-rans sneak back into the big dance.

Five Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs in 2014-15, and all five missed in 2015-16. The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets slipped out, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers and Dallas Stars. The 2015-16 playoff picture consisted of 31.25 percent “new” teams. That’s down from 43.75 percent the year prior but still constitutes significant turnover.

Chances are, it’ll happen again in 2016-17. Which recent qualifiers might slip out of the post-season and which might claw their way back in?

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Petr Mrazek’s arbitration could determine who stays and who goes in Detroit

Jared Clinton
Petr Mrazek (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

Come Wednesday, Detroit Red Wings netminder Petr Mrazek is likely to become the first player with a scheduled arbitration hearing to actually head to the hearing to settle on a new deal.

Mrazek, 24, will enter arbitration as the goaltender of the Red Wings’ future. He’s already been said to be the No. 1 as the season approaches, and this coming from GM Ken Holland before he’s even locked up the Czech netminder to a new deal. The issue, however, will be that the two sides aren’t just a few dollars apart, but rather have a $4 million gap in what they’ve deemed a reasonable salary going forward.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Mrazek’s camp is asking that Detroit pay him like the No. 1 goaltender he projects to be on a two-year, $10-million contract. The Red Wings countered with a two-year deal worth $2.7 million in the first season and $3.15 million the next. The likely scenario is that the arbitrated salary lands somewhere in the middle, but which side of middle it falls on is going to have an impact on the Red Wings roster as the off-season continues. Read more

Red Wings’ DeKeyser in for even bigger role after signing six-year, $30-million deal

Jared Clinton
Danny DeKeyser (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Based on average ice time alone, Danny DeKeyser was already a top-two defenseman in Detroit. The Red Wings rearguard averaged 21:48 of ice time during the 2015-16 campaign, second only to veteran Niklas Kronwall. Come next season, though, expect DeKeyser to top that list.

Tuesday morning the Red Wings and DeKeyser, 26, agreed to terms on a six-year deal worth a reported $30 million, according to CBC’s Tim Wharnsby. The deal will see him become the second-highest paid blueliner in Detroit with only Mike Green, set to make $12 million over the next two seasons, carrying a higher average salary. And while DeKeyser may not be paid as handsomely as Green, it’s a big contract for the 26-year-old and one that locks up the hometown kid long-term in Detroit.

The deal sees DeKeyser more than double his salary, but the big raise won’t come without added responsibility. Already relied upon as second on the depth chart to Kronwall in 2015-16, DeKeyser’s no doubt moving into the top spot this coming season. It’s about time for the Red Wings to make that switch, too. Read more