The roster moves made Saturday by the Detroit Red Wings may have caught some by surprise. But they weren’t a shock to anyone with connections into the inner circle of the team.
Since shortly after the NHL entry draft, there was strong speculation that Steve Yzerman, new general manager of the Red Wings, was basically treating the 2019-20 NHL season as a write off.
Of course, he’s not going to say that publicly. But those close to Yzerman insist that he doesn’t see the team being anywhere near as close to contending as some optimists want to paint that picture.
Yzerman doesn’t want to improve the team to a point where the Wings are one of those clubs that season after season either just makes the playoffs, or barely misses out on postseason play. He wants the whole enchilada - a perennial Stanley Cup contender like the team once was.
To make that happen, he needs two things - firstly, a franchise player to build around. And the only way to get one of those is to do what Ken Holland was adamant that the team would never do under his management - bottom out.
Secondly, the Wings need to shed the litany of bad contracts currently on the books in order to truly launch the rebuild of this team. A year from now, the pacts of Mike Green, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley are all done and the wings can begin to restructure the Achilles heel of this team, its defense.
That’s why both of 2018’s first-round draft picks, right-winger Filip Zadina and center Joe Veleno, found themselves assigned to AHL Grand Rapids on Saturday. No sense putting in the midst of what figures to be another losing campaign. They’re both better off seeing lots of ice time and enjoying success at the minor-league level.
Also assigned to Grand Rapids on Saturday was defenseman Oliwer Kaski. The Finn who led his country’s top league in scoring by a defenseman is on a one-year deal, so he’s likely to get a look before season’s end.
Other players sent down Saturday weren’t as much of a surprise. Going to Grand Rapids was forward Evgeny Svechnikov, who’s coming back after missing all of last season due to a knee injury. Joining him in GR will be defenseman Vili Saarijarvi and Gustav Lindstrom, as well as forwards David Pope, Ryan Kuffner and Givani Smith.
The Wings also placed eight players on NHL waivers in order to assign them to Grand Rapids.
Waived Saturday were goalie Calvin Pickard, defensemen Dylan McIlrath, Brian Lashoff and Joe Hicketts and forwards Dominic Turgeon, Matt Puempel, Turner Elson and Chris Terry.
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