Ouellet to be bought out; Russo dealt
Seven is considered to be a lucky number but when it comes to defensemen on an NHL team, to be No. 7 is the furthest thing from lucky. And this was Xavier Ouellet’s fate.
Ouellet could never establish a presence as a regular with the Detroit Red Wings and now, he will be seeking to do so somewhere else.
The Wings placed Ouellet on NHL waivers Sunday with the plan to buy out his contract if no one claims the defenseman.
Ouellet, 24, was never able to show that he could do any one thing well in order to maintain a steady spot among Detroit’s top six rearguards. He appeared in 66 games in 2016-17 and that total fell to 45 games last season, during which he failed to score a single goal.
“X has worked hard at his game,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said at the end of last season. “He worked his tail off last summer. He stayed in Detroit and worked extremely hard at improving his skating.
“That would be the one area he needs to keep improving and it’s not easy as you get older. It’s something when you’re a kid, improvements come a lot quicker. It’s going to be a matter for him of continuing the footwork and finding ways to be as efficient a skater as he can be to make him real effective.”
He’ll be doing that elsewhere, a fate Ouellet seemed somewhat resigned to as the 2017-18 campaign wound to a close. “The main thing for me is I need to get on the ice, I need to play,” Ouellet said at the time.
“I think every athlete wants to play, wants to contribute. So yeah, it’s not fun to sit for a long period of time. So that’s been a little rough mentally but I guess it’s part of the game. I need to keep working on myself, which I did. I kept working hard in the gym and on the ice so I feel really good physically.
“I want to play. I’m 24 years old, I think I need to play, personally. I’ve worked really hard to be where I am here right now. So I’m looking for an opportunity.”
Ouellet wasn’t the only defenseman on the way out the door. Robbie Russo was shipped off to the Arizona Coyotes. In return, the Wings will get a conditional 2019 seventh-round draft pick from the Coyotes.
Signed as a free agent by the Wings on Aug 16, 2015 after the New York Islanders, who’d drafted Russo, opted not to tender him a contract, Russo, 25, was an AHL sensation who never transferred that success to the NHL.
He played 19 games for the Wings in 2016-17 and didn’t register a single point. With AHL Grand Rapids, Russo produced 21-82-103 totals in 204 games, a plus-61 rating and 160 penalty minutes, and was part of the Griffins’ Calder Cup win last season.
The acquisition of that pick from Arizona now gives the Wings 11 selections in the 2019 NHL entry draft.
In addition to the Arizona pick and seven of their own picks, the Wings also own the Islanders’ second-round pick (via Vegas from the Tomas Tatar trade), Buffalo’s fifth-round pick, and Columbus’ fifth-round pick.
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