Daniel Cleary

Babcock: Cleary a ‘calculated risk’ after playing last year ‘on one leg’


Detroit’s decision to re-sign Dan Cleary to a one-year, $1.5 million contract after a disappointing ’13-14 campaign was met with scorn by fans and media.

But to hear head coach Mike Babcock explain it, the Wings had reason to take a gamble.

“Last year, he didn’t bring anything,” Babcock told Detroit Sports 105.1 radio. “But the year before, he was a key, key component leadership-wise, forechecking-wise, heavy on the puck-wise, just being a heck of a player for us.”

The key to the deal, it seems, is Cleary’s knee. It was a problem throughout last season, forcing him to miss the final 22 games of the regular season and Detroit’s entire five-game playoff loss to Boston in the opening round. Even when he was able to play, the 35-year-old looked a step slow, scoring just four goals and eight points in 52 games, posting a minus-11 rating.

But a summer working with Red Wings trainer Mike Barwis — who Babcock called “the best in the business” — has led the Wings to believe Cleary’s knee issues are a thing of the past, though they’re still cognizant of the risks involved.

“We’ve been told that his knee’s really come on,” Babcock explained. “If he’s on one leg like he was last year, he can’t play on our team. If he’s on two legs, he can help us win.

“Is it going to happen for sure? No. Would we have wasted the money if he can’t play? I guess. Is it a calculated decision and risk on our part? Yes.”

As for Cleary, he says he’s taking the backlash and using it as motivation to make up for what he acknowledged was a disappointing campaign.

“You want to prove people wrong,” Cleary said, per the Detroit News. “My main objective is get healthy and play the way I know I can. Last year was a tough year.”

Blues put Berglund on LTIR, use savings to sign Gomez

Scotte Gomez
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As was the case last season, Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer because he went unsigned over the summer and once again he has used that opportunity to extend his career.

The St. Louis Blues announced that they have signed Gomez to a one-year contract. They didn’t disclose the financial terms, but it’s a two-way deal that comes with a base salary of $575K at the NHL level, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeremy Rutherford.

In order to free up the space necessary to sign him, St. Louis moved Patrik Berglund to the long-term injured reserve list. Berglund had shoulder surgery in August and isn’t expected to be available until January.

Gomez, 35, is coming off of a resurgence campaign where he recorded 34 points in 58 games on a Devils’ team that finished near the bottom of the pack offensively. The two-time Stanley Cup champion will be bringing more than a 1,000 games worth of NHL experience to St. Louis.

He’s not the only veteran forward to make the team off of a PTO as the Blues signed Scottie Upshall on Monday.

NHL key dates for the 2015-16 season

Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares
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Nov. 10 —  NHL General Managers Meeting (Toronto)

At last year’s November meetings, the GMs decided to kill the dry scrape. But these meetings usually serve as a table-setter for the rest of the season. It’s the more in-depth meetings in March where the majority of things get decided.

Nov. 27 — NHL Thanksgiving Showdown: Rangers at Bruins

The first of 12 “NHL on NBC” games in 2015-16. Click here for the full list, including the games on NBCSN.

Dec. 7-8 — NHL Board of Governors Meeting (Pebble Beach)

This is where we could find out about expansion. Will both Las Vegas and Quebec City get the nod? Only one of them? Neither of them?

Jan. 1 — Winter Classic: Canadiens at Bruins

From Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Please don’t make any “deflated pucks” jokes. You’re better than that.

Jan. 28-Feb. 1 — All-Star Break

This year’s festivities are being held in Nashville, which is a pretty fun town we hear. Skills competition on Saturday the 30th, game on Sunday the 31st. Over/under has been set at 25 goals and 60 percent effort.

Feb. 29 — NHL trade deadline

Leap day! Click here for a list of pending unrestricted free agents, a.k.a. potential rentals.

Mar. 14-16 — NHL General Managers Meeting (Boca Raton)

As mentioned, these are the more in-depth meetings where any recommendations are typically made. Last season, the GMs recommended 3-on-3 overtime and a coach’s challenge.

Apr. 9 — Last day of the regular season

All 30 teams in action on this Saturday. Playoffs begin four days later on Wednesday. Also, the draft lottery’s date is still to be determined, but should be held sometime around here.

June 18 — Last possible day for the Stanley Cup Final

Click here for PHT’s Cup picks.

June 24-25 — NHL draft

In Buffalo this year. Click here for Central Scouting’s “players to watch” list, led by Auston Matthews.

July 1 — Free agency begins

And then it’s summer.