The Red Wings are in quite the pickle with one Frans Nielsen. The 36-year-old center is signed for 2 more years at a cap hit of $5.25 million, with his no-movement clause switching to (per CapFriendly) a modified no-trade clause this and next season.
Nielsen had a rough 2019-2020 season for the Wings, posting only 4 goals and 5 assists in 60 games, down from 35 points during the 2018-2019 season. There’s been a little bit of chatter from Denmark regarding Nielsen heading home to play for his hometown Herning Blue Fox of the Dansk Metal League, but it doesn’t appear that Nielsen wants to retire just yet.
Instead, Nielsen tells the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan (via a subscriber-only article) that he’s dedicating himself to bouncing back from the worst season of his career:
“My mindset this summer has been one of putting it all out there,” said Nielsen, who compared the situation as if he was training as a 25-year-old again. “I haven’t been burying my head. I’ve been working. I’m pushing myself, and the body is feeling good. I’m putting the work in. Hopefully that’ll carry over into the season. I had to work even harder.”
Nielsen has been working out with Timra of the Swedish Elite League, along with Danish teams in his native Denmark, where he and his family have been living since about late April. Nielsen has been skating three times a week — rinks in Sweden and Denmark have generally remained open during the pandemic — and feels it has done him, and will continue to do him, good.
“Absolutely, because these guys I am skating with, they’re fighting for jobs and to get into the lineup, so it’s a high pace, and people are competing out there,” Nielsen said. “So I’m getting that right now. I’m back to that mindset, a little bit, of I’m 25 again. I went all in this summer. I don’t know how long I’m going to play and I’ll see where it takes me. But I’m training as hard as I can. I needed to do something and this has been a different type of summer. I knew this would be a long break, so I’m building up over a longer period of time.”
Continued (paywall); Nielsen also tells Kulfan that he believes the Wings won’t be as woefully bad as they were last season:
“As a professional athlete you’re going to come in there and compete,” Nielsen said. “We want to compete for a playoff spot. For sure, that has to be everyone’s goal. You have to put the bar up there. We can take a step forward.”
Nielsen feels with the type of group the Wings have, they can move forward collectively.
“As a group, it’s such a tight group, a fun group to be around, and at least that way, it made coming to the rink every day fun,” Nielsen said. “Because it is such a good group of guys. We handled it as well as we could. We didn’t have any selfish guys. We have people that care for each other and that helped a lot. There were a lot of tough days. You wondered why couldn’t we figure this out. But as a group we cared for each other and that helped a lot.”
Kulfan continues at some length (again, via a paywall); I’m not sure that the Red Wings will compete for a playoff spot by any means, but I do hope that they improve competitively over the course of the upcoming season–whenever it begins.