Happy Fourth of July, Hockeytown!
Detroit pulled a minor Calgary Flames move (ha… Olol Lolkinen…) and brought back a guy into the fold they’ve said goodbye to. Not that they have a history of such things. In total, three players were signed on the third day of free agency
Playing the role of “mentor to Thomas McCollum who will compete for starts in GR” is Joey MacDonald.
Yes, the very same Joey MacDonald that was a Wings’ depth goalie for parts of five seasons — including 2006-07, when he began the season in Detroit. He wasn’t getting any icetime with Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood in the fold, and he was claimed by the Boston Bruins off of waivers. The following season was split between the Islanders and their AHL club in Bridgeport — and this past season, he bounced back and forth between the NHL and AHL versions of minor league teams in Toronto. He’s a proven AHL guy, and will hopefully push McCollum — the clear-cut goaltender of the future — to be a better player as he enters his second professional season.
Playing the role of Matt Hussey is Chris Minard.
My fiancee’s father has season tickets for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Baby) Penguins, so I’ve had the opportunity to see Minard play a handful of the 110 games he played as a Penguin. He’s a very decent AHL player, and has gotten a taste of the NHL in each of the last three seasons. I wouldn’t expect the same in Detroit — and I’m sure he knows the score. Guys like Josh Langfeld, Mark Hartigan, Carl Corazzini, and Kip Miller have been this kind of signing in recent years: might be able to play for an NHL squad, if they weren’t the Red Wings.
Playing the role of Who the Hell is That? is Jamie Johnson.
As a general rule, you should always read Babcock’s Death Stare every day — but particularly when there are signings like these because our homeboy Kyle knows more about these guys than most folks. Johnson, who spent last season with the Rochester Americans, has never played a game in the National Hockey League, and — at 28 years old — probably won’t. Solid enough numbers, and theoretically will be a wonderful contributor on the farm, babysitting awesomesauce like Tomas Tatar.
Let me preface all of this by saying that I adore Mike Modano, and always have. I grew up playing in arenas that has his name on banners — and that are now named after him — so my objectivity may be a tiny bit skewed. He isn’t the player he once was — but the Stars aren’t the team they once were, either. I understand that it’ll be tricky to shove a guy like Modano into the already-packed lineup, and that he would have to come at or around 1M (which he is in no way obligated to take). Toss in the fact that his wife (Mrs. Willa Ford Modano Ford Terwilliger Ford) prefers the Left Coast to be close to Hollywood for modeling and acting and whatever other nonsense she embarks upon.
All of that said, there are three different scenarios under which we may be kicking ourselves in September saying, “hey wouldn’t it have been great to have signed Mike Modano?” In addition, you don’t have to be under the salary cap until the final day of training camp — going over by as much as 10% in the meantime — so what’s the rush? Any of the following situations are feasible and may be worth going over by a few bucks.
Exhibit A: Mattias Ritola
There had been some discussion as to whether Ritola is ready for the big leagues — even in a 13th/14th forward capacity. Personally, I like what I’ve seen from him in the short bursts of action he’s gotten in the NHL, so I daresay he’ll most likely be the guy. The Wings won’t want to risk waiving him (hi, Kyle Quincey!) and sending him down, so it’s very likely he’s a member of the Detroit Red Wings when training camp closes.
But let’s pretend for a minute that Ritola isn’t one of the 14 best forwards… the Wings will have to make a decision, and a trade or waiving are options. All of a sudden, the corps aren’t so crowded. Again, I don’t see this as an option considering the time and effort they’ve put into developing him as a player since his draft, but it’s worth noting as a possibility.
Exhibit B: Injuries
Each September since the beginning of time, a player has sustained an injury during training camp that necessitates a move to IR. Last year, the Wings began the season with two players on Long-Term Injured Reserve: Andreas Lilja (who got his ass kicked by Shea Weber, resulting in a brainfart that caused him to hire Todd Diamond as his agent) and Darren Helm (who fell awkwardly into the boards, injuring his shoulder).
If this were to happen again, wouldn’t you rather have Mike Modano than Chris Minard as a failsafe? The only wrong answer is “no.” I certainly don’t want to tempt the Hockey Gods, but just because you clench your eyes shut, jam your fingers in your ears, and do the LALALALALA thing doesn’t mean it isn’t something you shouldn’t be prepared for.
Exhibit C: Don’t Hurt Me
It pains me to say, but it’s definitely possible that not all of the restricted free agents are retained. I’m aware that all four forwards are interested in returning and that the Wings are interested in having them. Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm are automatic — they have that lifer feel about them. But Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller are of a different breed. Stick with me for a minute.
Drew Miller seems to have found a home in Detroit. He’s certainly happier in Motown than he has been anywhere else in his career — easily surpassing his career totals without playing a full season with the Red Wings. I can’t imagine he’d complain about nickels and dimes if it means staying somewhere that makes him happy. However, he’s arbitration eligible, and although Ken Holland is a master at avoiding hearings, if it makes it that far, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could get priced out of the range the Wings have in mind for the RFAs. Doubtful, but possible.
The sticky wicket, in my opinion, is Patrick Eaves. Eaves was due to make $1.7M this past season before being bought out and hitting the market. Detroit (wisely) scooped him up and signed him to a league minimum $500,000, one-year deal. I always got the feeling that it was a “I have something to prove” signing on Eaves’ part, and it remains to be seen if he’ll take a deal in the neighborhood of this last deal (which, by the way, was supplemented by buyout payments) or if he is interested in getting closer to the deal Carolina offered him. Eaves, too, has arbitration rights and if he has some face-time with an arbiter, his 12 goals, 22 points, and all around fearlessness might translate into a few more dollars than the Wings might wish.
When all is said and done…
If Detroit goes with only 7 defensemen (as opposed to the 8 they’ve carried the last few seasons), they’ll have room for 14 forwards. If all of the RFAs are re-signed, and Kirk Maltby is not, the forward are as follows:
Henrik Zetterberg :: Pavel Datsyuk :: Tomas Holmstrom
Johan Franzen :: Valtteri Filppula :: Todd Bertuzzi
Jiri Hudler :: Justin Abdelkader (RFA) :: Dan Cleary
Kris Draper :: Darren Helm (RFA) :: Patrick Eaves (RFA)
extra: Mattias Ritola :: Drew Miller (RFA)
Subtract one of those guys for any of the above reasons, and you’ve got a spot (and maybe even a need) for Mike Modano.