Newcomers top list of players under the microscope in Detroit

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Let’s kick off Red Wings day on PHT with a list of five players that will be key to the team’s success in 2013-14…

Stephen Weiss. While it was the Daniel Alfredsson (more on him later) signing that got the most media attention, it was Weiss who got the largest financial commitment — $24.5 million over five years. The 30-year-old center comes to Detroit from the Florida Panthers, the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2001, with much to prove. Weiss played just 17 games in 2013, scoring only once with three assists. (A wrist injury that required surgery caused him to miss 26 games.) Ideally, his addition will allow coach Mike Babcock to play superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg together, with Weiss holding down the No. 2 center spot.

Daniel Alfredsson: The former Ottawa captain will be 41 once the playoffs start, but there’s reason to believe he can still be a very effective player, even at his age. Alfredsson had 26 points in 47 games in 2013, and that was on an injury-ravaged Senators side with multiple offensive stars out of the lineup. Alfie led the Sens in postseason scoring, with 10 points in 10 games. For obvious reasons, fans in Ottawa will be watching him closely this season as well. When asked why he chose Detroit, he said the Wings gave him a better chance to win a Stanley Cup. “This is purely a situation to me where this is about me,” he said. “This is the decision I make for myself, not for anybody else. It’s all about trying to get the Stanley Cup.”

Danny DeKeyser: The 23-year-old college free agent has earned high praise since joining the Wings in March. He may not ever put up big offensive numbers, but his size, decision-making and ability to move the puck out of his end make his progression as an NHL defenseman vitally important for the club. “He really has done a good job for us,” Babcock said in April. “We liked him all along when we were recruiting him. We had no idea that when he came to the National Hockey League he’d be able to do the things he’s done for us. Basically, it’s allowed us to move the puck better, to get back and get pucks. If you improve your D zone play, it improves your offense and makes you a much quicker team. Obviously, we had deep growth amongst the group we had already and we added him, it made us all that much better.”

Jonathan Ericsson: Mostly under the microscope because he’s in the last year of his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Only Niklas Kronwall averaged more ice time than Ericsson in 2013. The big 29-year-old led all Wings d-men in hits and shorthanded ice time. However, given the crop of young defensmen like DeKeyser, Brian Lashoff, and Brendan Smith that will be fighting for more and more minutes — and with Kronwall locked up long-term — it’s not totally clear how Ericsson fits into the Wings’ future plans.

Darren Helm: Mostly under the microscope because of the mysterious back injury he suffered through last season that limited him to just one game. The 26-year-old speedster sounded cautiously optimistic after skating recently at Red Wings development camp. “I’m encouraged, for sure,” he said. “I see this moving in the right direction, especially in the last few days.” Babcock is a huge fan of Helm, going so far as to call him “a top-four forward” on his team.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.