The Free Press’s Helene St. James posted a mailbag article, and among her questions and answers:
HSJ: I’ve heard there’s interest in forward Gustav Nyquist (15 goals, 9 assists, 24 points in 52 games), but it may depend on whether the Wings would have to retain a portion of the $5.5 million he’s owed next season (salary cap hit is $4.75 million). He’d also have to consent to a trade. As for goaltenders Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, Mrazek might interest a team given he seems finally to have emerged from a two-year slump (Mrazek has a .958 save percentage and 1.30 goals-against average in his last seven games). He turns 26 on Feb. 14 and he’s essentially a pending unrestricted free agent, as even with his recent surge, he’s unlikely to be qualified at $4 million.
As for Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, let’s see what happens this summer. Zetterberg will be 38 in October, and he’s topped 1,000 NHL games. He rarely practices any more, as he’s figured out the optimal way to keep himself freshest for games. Health will certainly factor into whether he plays next season, and he did have back surgery in 2014. As for Kronwall (turned 37 in January), he’s played all but three games this season. If he feels he can continue next season, he will play the last year of his contract.
There already is a significant youth movement under way. One of the reasons general manager Ken Holland resisted re-signing Thomas Vanek last summer was because the Wings wanted Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou to play bigger roles. Dylan Larkin leads leads team forwards and is third overall with an average of 19:51 minutes per game. Mantha averages 17 minutes, Athanasiou, 16. All three are playing more on average than they did in 2016-17. Tyler Bertuzzi would have started the season in Detroit had he not gotten hurt during exhibition season. They were also hoping Evgeny Svechnikov would make a push after hitting 20 goals his first year of pro hockey and helping the Grand Rapids Griffins win the Calder Cup, but he, too, suffered an injury during exhibition season. (Svechnikov had some growing pains the first half but has played much better since around New Year’s. He had a goal and two assists Wednesday to help the Griffins improve to 15.3-0-2 their last 20 games).