By the time that the Red Wings wrap up their latest stretch of 3 games to be played over the course of 4 nights, their roster may be markedly different from the one they iced a week ago.
After today’s optional practice, Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill insisted that his message to the personnel at his disposal will not change, as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:
“For the most part we’re going to go business as usual; that’s our job,” Blashill said. “Our job is not worry about speculation. I don’t live in a speculation world. I deal with facts, and I know the team I have available to me. That can always change. I spent three years in the minors, and it changed all the time for various reasons. But we’re able to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand.”
Blashill is kept abreast of any possible player movement by general manager Ken Holland — a perfect example being early this week when goaltender Petr Mrazek was traded to Philadelphia.
Holland is mindful, Blashill said, of the job of a coach.
“He has the respect of anybody who has ever worked with him for 30-plus years,” Blashill said. “He has great respect in the hockey world because of the type of manager and person he is. He understands both sides of it. We have a job to do, and our job is to win hockey games and his job is manage for tomorrow and the future. I respect what his job is and he what my job is, and we go about our business.”
[edit/update: Here’s more from Blashill via Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff:
“I’ll have conversations with guys that are in that spot or in that rumor mill or in that position where they could potentially be a guy that might get traded, just make sure they’re doing all right,” Blashill said. “Last year, (Thomas) Vanek was definitely one, Smitty (Brendan Smith), where you just have conversations to make sure they’re doing OK at that point, especially if I see a guy struggling a little bit mentally.
“The one part I think gets forgotten about because they’re professional athletes is the human side of it, and it’s hard.”
Anthony Mantha spoke with DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji regarding the mindest of the players who will remain with the Wings post-deadline…
Seeing teammates leave as Petr Mrazek did when he was traded to Philadelphia and perhaps others by next week can affect everyone.
“I think it’s part of the game,” Mantha said. “Obviously, everyone knows that you can get traded at any time. For Mrazek, it’s just a good opportunity for him. If we do lose more teammates, obviously we’ll wish them luck in their new team. I would say it’s pretty exciting to play against them afterwards. Maybe a little challenge for them and for you.”
Mantha said he’s looking forward to facing Mrazek when the Flyers come to town March 20.
And Mantha and Blashill had a long discussion with Wakiji regarding the 20-goal-scoring Mantha’s need to learn how to attack the front of the net:
“Habits are taught in numerous ways,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “They’re taught through repetition in practice. They’re taught through conversation. They’re taught through video. They’re taught through immediate consequence from when you do and when you don’t. We’re in the business of training habits here. I think he’s really done a good job of getting to the net. He’s learned a lot of those things and he’s continuing to learn some of the nuances of being around it. Him and I had a conversation yesterday. He’s got 20 goals on the year, 10 of which were either rebounds or tips in front of the net. Now, he would have scored some if he wasn’t net-front on the power play in different areas, but maybe five. He’s not probably got 10 at that point. That’s an easy way to get lots of goals, so let’s keep getting good at it.”
Blashill has shown Mantha video clips of Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk, who scored shortly after Mantha did in the second period, and has become a net-front mainstay.
“We kind of looked at each other after he scored his and I scored mine, just being like, ‘You want to get this going? Alright, let’s do it,'” Mantha said. “He’s one of the good ones also in the league and obviously I’ve looked at a lot of clips of him.”
In van Riemsdyk’s second season in the league, he scored 21 goals in 75 games. Mantha has 20 in 57 games. The Wings’ last opponent, the Nashville Predators, had another example for Blashill to show Mantha.
“I went in his office and he showed me a couple of clips,” Mantha said. I think it was (Colton) Sissons in Nashville, how he was net-front against Ottawa. He showed me two clips. Sissons didn’t even touch the puck but the team scored, so it’s just little details that I’m trying to get better at. Right now, I’m not sure what the percentage is, but as soon as I’m inside 20 feet of that net and I get a scoring chance, it’s pretty much there.”
Wakiji continues at length, and if you missed it, the Wings posted a pair of Twitter videos today:
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 21, 2018
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 21, 2018
1. The Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran posted this note regarding Mike Green:
Defenceman Mike Green could find himself in high demand if the Red Wings choose to move him. His reputation has taken a hit from his starring days in Washington, but Capitals coach Barry Trotz says Green may now be underrated. “His style is more the way the game is,” says Trotz. “He was probably ahead of the curve. He would be joining the attack, and stay in the attack and maybe never leave the attack. He’s an exceptional talent, and offensively didn’t get the credit he deserved. He’s refined his game to add a defensive side. Now he has a really good balance. He’s an older player who has seen a lot. He’s a top defenceman.”
2. ESPN’s Rob Vollman penned an Insider article titled, “How the Detroit Red Wings build their next Stanley Cup contender,” and I feel that this part of his article is the most notable:
Whatever cap relief is achieved by shedding one or more of the low-value contracts and finding players on ELCs will have to be managed very carefully.
Detroit will have very little cap space to work with. The current NHL salary cap is $75 million, almost all of which was committed in Detroit this season. The expected rise to somewhere between $78 million and $82 million in 2018-19, trading Mrazek and Green’s departure through either a trade or free agency will free up a total of between $13 million and $16 million.
That may sound like a lot, but that entire sum will be immediately swallowed up by the projected cap space required to re-sign Larkin, Mantha and Bertuzzi over and above this season’s current combined sum of $2.45 million. Even if it isn’t, any spare change will be required to keep other RFAs like Andreas Athanasiou and Martin Frk in town. All else being equal, that means Detroit will spend 2018-19 slammed up against the cap with the exact same team, except one year older and without Green and Mrazek.
In nets, Detroit can safely run with Jared Coreau or Tom McCollum as the backup instead of Mrazek. If Howard is moved, ideal free agents to pursue would include Antti Raanta, Carter Hutton, Aaron Dell and Michael Hutchinson — if the price is right. If not, then it’s also possible that they can secure a more mediocre veteran like Kari Lehtonen, Jonathan Bernier, Cam Ward or Jaroslav Halak to a one-year contract with a cap hit of $2.0 million or less.
As for the blue line, Chicago’s tough cap situation saw it pursue low-cost UFAs like Jan Rutta, Jordan Oesterle, Cody Franson and Viktor Svedberg, with mixed results. That’s the right idea, but it can be difficult to execute.
To replace Mike Green and any other veterans whose contracts are successfully moved, the Red Wings may want to pursue a low-cost UFA who can kill penalties, play top-four minutes in both zones and keep his shot-based metrics above water. Good examples include John Moore, Nick Holden and Mark Barberio. In addition to those acquisitions, depth options like Nick Jensen and Xavier Ouellet can certainly be challenged with greater roles.
Up front, no additions are required. Even if Abdelkader and Helm are both moved, the Red Wings already have ample young talent to move up the depth chart and replace such players. Any spare cap space should be invested in blue-line upgrades.
Update: NHL.com’s Dan Rosen also made some estimates as to where the NHL’s “Trade Deadline Assets” might end up:
Mike Green, D, Detroit Red Wings
Green, an all-star this season, is the most intriguing defenseman available because of his big righthanded shot and his ability to use it on the power play. The 32-year-old would fit best with a team that needs more offense from its back end, particularly from a righty.
Status: Can become UFA July 1
Biggest strength: Power-play contributions
Playoff experience: 37 points (10 goals, 27 assists) in 76 games
Three teams that make sense: Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks