Red Wings trade for Adam Erne…Who?

The Detroit Red Wings made a trade to do exactly what GM Steve Yzerman said he might do on July 1st–shore up their depth on the wing–on Wednesday, and I certainly scratched my head when I heard the name “Adam Erne.”

The Wings acquired the 24-year-old Erne for a 4th round draft pick, and the 6’1,” 185-pound forward was very quietly signed to what the Tampa Bay Times’ Diana C. Nearhos reported is a 1-year, $1.05 million contract extension.

Nearhos describes Erne’s assets as follows

Erne, 24, had something of a breakout season in 2018-19, his first spent entirely in the NHL. He had 20 points (seven goals) and 40 penalty minutes (10 minors) in 65 games.

The 6-foot-1, 214-pound wing added physicality to the fourth line without drawing many penalties, earning a consistent spot in the lineup.

Erne was arbitration eligible this year but did not file. He was on a one-year, $800,000 contract last year, and his expected raise was to $1 million.

Nearhos also explains why the Lightning traded Erne:

Why did the Lightning trade Erne? Most of what it has done this offseason comes down to the salary cap.

It’s possible the move is to free up cap space for Point. The Lightning is now a projected $9.4 million under the $81.5 million cap for next season, CapFriendly says.

According to CapFriendly, the Red Wings continue to have about $4.27 million in cap space available to them, and WDIV’s David Bartkowiak Jr. chose to hazard a guess as to what Erne brings to the table:

This appears to be a move for more size up front for the Red Wings — Erne is listed at 6-foot-1, 214 pounds. He was averaging 3rd- and 4th-line minutes this past season on that stacked Tampa roster.

Obviously, Steve Yzerman sees something in this player that he drafted as Tampa GM. Erne was in the Tampa system for six seasons, first with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch before being called up in 2017. He found himself a more permanent spot in the lineup this past season.

The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also examined Erne’s developmental path

A former second-round pick of Tampa in 2013, Erne was considered by many scouts a first-round talent who somehow fell to the Lightning in the second round.

Erne’s offense has yet to develop at the NHL level, but he was a prolific offensive player in the Quebec junior league, and can play an agitating brand of hockey when needed.

And MLive’s Ansar Khan spotlighted the “agitating” aspect of Erne’s play…

The native of Brantford, Ct., Erie has four fighting majors in his career, including a bout with new teammate Andreas Athanasiou on March 24, 2017. A physical presence, Erne was third on the team with 159 hits.

Selected 33rd overall, in the second round, by the Lightning in 2013, the 6-1, 214-pound Erne has 13 goals, 14 assists and 62 penalty minutes in 114 career games.

While the Free Press’s Kirkland Crawford examined Erne’s faceoff prowess:

Erne, 24, scored a season-high seven goals and 13 assists in 65 games last season for Tampa Bay. He had two power play goals and three game-winners. He had a face-off winning percentage of .478 and had a rating of plus-10.

Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff offered educated guesses as to where Erne will fit in the Red Wings’ lineup:

Erne’s presence also adds to what is already an overabundance of bottom-six forward types on the Wings’ depth chart. Someone will have to be slotted in on the second line with Andreas Athanasiou and free-agent addition Valtteri Filppula. Might that be 2018 first-round pick Filip Zadina, or perhaps Taro Hirose, who put up seven points in 10 games following his late-season addition from Michigan State as an undrafted NCAA free agent?

That still leaves Erne in a group with Luke Glendening, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Michael Rasmussen, Jacob De La Rose, and Christoffer Ehn looking to fill spots on the third and fourth lines.

It’s entirely possible that Rasmussen, whose play tailed off significantly in the second half of last season, and even Ehn, who the Wings believe has an offensive upside, might begin the season with AHL Grand Rapids.

At this point, I’d gather that Erne is insurance should Ehn, Rasmussen and/or Dominic Turgeon need more AHL seasoning. Erne offers some insulation for Filip Zadina, Evgeny Svechnikov and even Taro Hirose and Ryan “Hawaiian Shirt” Kuffner.

What does Erne himself think about being traded to the Red Wings? The Athletic’s Max Bultman and Joe Smith (their Tampa Bay Lightning correspondent) spoke with Erne regarding the opportunities which he may earn on the Red Wings’ roster:

Detroit has a lot more ice time to offer the 24-year-old winger, at which point it can find out just how much Erne is capable of. For Erne, he finally gets the chance to prove he can be more than a fourth-liner.

“That was my biggest thing, I was looking to go somewhere with a lot of opportunity, and I think (the Red Wings are) definitely a team — after talking to (GM) Steve (Yzerman) — that’s going to provide a lot of opportunity,” Erne said. “Obviously it’s all going to have to be earned, but I think it just provides me more opportunity than Tampa was going to (give me).

“But it’s kind of bittersweet. It’s tough to leave. I did like it there. The staff, the guys, the fans were amazing. I can’t say enough good things about them. But at the same time, I’m just excited for a new start and I’m just excited to be (in Detroit), for sure.”

Erne also suggested that he might have been miscast in a pure grinder’s role with the Bolts:

“I think in the beginning it’s easy to not play the way that got you there,” Erne said. “Sometimes you get caught up in just trying to play a certain role that the team might see you in or have you play, and that gets you away from what makes you yourself. I think, in Tampa, they didn’t have many big bodies, and I think there was a lot of emphasis on me just going out there and hitting guys and (bringing) that physical aspect, but I don’t think that’s what my value is. It definitely is a part of it, that’s part of my game, but I think I’m able to score goals and make plays and play with good players. I’m just looking to prove that with the opportunity. I’m excited to try and prove that to everyone.”

Bultman and Smith continue, and Erne’s pretty darn clear in suggesting that he’s a 24-year-old grinder with more to prove and some scoring potential who was simply unable to find an opportunity among the Bolts’ stacked forward corps.

Whether he can bring some of that QMJHL-level scoring to the table with the Red Wings is certainly a question that has no answer yet; in any case, Erne appears to be the kind of player that will give the Wings excess depth heading into the 2019-2020 campaign, and if Steve Yzerman learned anything from Ken Holland…

It’s that you don’t build a roster for an upcoming season–you overbuild it, and give each and every player an opportunity to shine.

Let’s hope that Erne proves to be someone who was just looking for the right opportunity instead of simply another depth player.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.

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