Dylan Larkin

Getty

Red Wings sign first-round pick Rasmussen to entry-level contract

5 Comments

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Saturday that they have agreed to terms with their 2017 first-round pick, forward Michael Rasmussen, on a three-year entry-level contract.

The Red Wings selected Rasmussen with the No. 9 overall pick from the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League. Rasmussen, a 6-6, 220-pound forward spent the past three seasons playing in Tri-City and is coming off of a 2016-17 season that saw him score 32 goals and add 23 assists in just 50 games. His 32 goals were second on the team even though he missed more than 20 games.

The selection of Rasmussen marked the first time the Red Wings organization has picked in the top-10 of the NHL draft since 1991 when the team selected forward Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick that year.

Since then their highest draft pick was the No. 15 overall pick they used on forward Dylan Larkin in 2014.

A few years ago we probably would have looked at Rasmussen as a prospect that would not have a chance of making his Red Wings debut until a few years after he was picked. But in recent years the Red Wings have shown more of a willingness to bring their prospects up a little faster and he seems determined to make the roster this season.

 

Looking to make the leap: Michael Rasmussen

4 Comments

This post is part of Red Wings Day on PHT…

First, a disclaimer — there were plenty of other viable candidates for this category. Probably more viable ones, to be honest.

Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, captured the Calder Cup last year on the strength of excellent performances from youngsters like Martin Frk, Evgeni Svechnikov and Tyler Bertuzzi, who captured playoff MVP.

All of them are looking to make the Wings on a full-time basis. But there’s another that says he wants to do the same, and he’s just a little more intriguing:

Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, 18, was taken ninth overall by Detroit at this year’s draft, the club’s highest pick since taking Keith Primeau at No. 3 in 1990. Now, the big-bodied power forward is looking to make a significant leap, all the way from WHL Tri-City to the NHL.

“I’m taking the approach that I’m going to take someone’s job and I’m going to take a spot on the team,” Rasmussen said at the World Junior Summer Showcase, per NHL.com. “I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can and I want to help the team win.”

Detroit’s organizational model has long been to send kids to the American League, at let ’em marinate. But times, they are a changing.

Two seasons ago, Dylan Larkin made the roster as a 19-year-old, going pro after his freshman campaign at the University of Michigan. Last year both Svechnikov (20) and Bertuzzi (22) saw games with the big club, while 22-year-olds Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha emerged as key parts of the lineup.

That could pave the way for Rasmussen getting an extended look. Especially since Detroit has the option to give him a nine-game NHL cameo before burning the first year of his entry-level deal.

Rasmussen has a few things working in his favor at the moment, too. The first is his size. At 6-foot-6, 215 pounds, he should be able to handle the physical rigors of the NHL. He’s proven to be a good net-front presence that can score in bunches on the power play, and it’s worth remembering that Detroit finished 27th in the league with the man advantage last year.

Rasmussen is also healthy. He was medically cleared from a wrist injury that derailed his season in Tri-City, which resulted in a late addition to the Canadian roster for the Summer Showcase. That came as a relief to Wings GM Ken Holland, who told NHL.com it was “important” the prized prospect was healthy for training camp.

Now look, the reality of the situation is that Rasmussen’s facing an uphill battle to make the opening-night roster. A return to junior seems the likely result. He’s already been named Tri-City’s captain for next season, and several pundits have said he’ll need a spectacular showing in the exhibition campaign to stick around.

But he’s still the highest-drafted Red Wing in 27 years. That alone makes the battle worth watching.

What can Red Wings expect from Dylan Larkin next season?

Getty
10 Comments

This post is part of Red Wings Day on PHT…

Two years ago, Dylan Larkin had a terrific rookie season that saw him score 23 goals, 45 points on top of a plus-11 rating. He finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting, and it seemed as though he was on his way to stardom.

Unfortunately for Larkin and the Red Wings, things didn’t turn out that way in his sophomore season (he managed to accumulate 17 goals, but he only finished with 32 points and a minus-28 rating).

It’s not uncommon for second-year players to see their numbers come down. Now that he’s heading into year three, the Wings will need him to step up if they’re going to make it back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Taking a look at Larkin’s totals from last year, one thing that jumps off the page is the drop in shots from his first year to his second year. In his rookie season, he fired 221 shots on goal and he had 390 shot attempts. His shooting percentage was also at 10.4 percent.

Last season, not only did his shooting percentage dip to 9.6 percent, but he also had just 178 shots on goal and 310 shot attempts.

“You look at opportunities and you look at bounces, even, as crazy as it sounds,” Larkin told the Detroit Free Press in February. “You look at shots on goal, in the past few months, (it) hasn’t been there for myself. It’s a stat that’s black and white, in the face. To score goals, to get assists off rebounds, to create offense, you have to put the puck on net.

“I’ve been working on being a playmaker and trying to make my linemates around me better but I think I’ve gotten away from my shooting mentality that I’ve had since my first NHL game.”

The 21-year-old has the wheels to excel at the NHL level, but as he alluded to in the above quote, he clearly got away from what was making him successful. The fact that other NHL teams knew they had to neutralize Larkin didn’t help the young forward either. Now, it’ll be up to him to make the necessary adjustments in 2017-18.

Over the final 20 games of the regular season, he seemed to have made some progress. He picked up eight points in eight games between Mar. 4-18. He then failed to pick up a point in the following six games before ending the season with five points in six contests.

On another positive note, he also had plenty of success with Team USA at the 2017 World Hockey Championship, as he scored two goals and 10 points in eight games during the tournament.

Nobody knows what Larkin’s numbers will look like going forward, but it seems fairly obvious that his focus will be on shooting the puck more. If he generates more shots, the points should come.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of season he’s able to put together in 2017-18.

Poll: Is it time for the Red Wings to go through a full rebuild?

Getty
24 Comments

This post is part of Red Wings Day on PHT…

The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the model franchises in the NHL for a very long time (they made the playoffs for 26 years in a row), but every team goes through a phase where they have to retool their roster.

Some teams can retool on the fly (that’s incredibly difficult), while others are forced to blow up the roster and start from scratch.

Even though the roster needs a lot of work, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has already stated that there will be no long and painful rebuild for his team.

“We have the best fans in the world. They’re passionate. They’re incredible,” Holland said in April, per MLive.com.

“These fans want to watch playoff hockey. Nobody wants to see a rebuild. They want to see us be competitive. They want to see us have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. While we’re trying to draft and develop and get better long-term, one of our short-term goals is trying to figure out how to make the team as good as it can be and hope that team can qualify for the playoffs.”

So, it’s gonna be a retool over a rebuild, but is that really the best decision?

Making the playoffs every year is great, but being stuck between sixth and 11th in the conference year after year isn’t always a recipe for success either.

The Wings’ cap situation is far from ideal. As of right now, they’re one of three teams (Chicago and Toronto are too) that have negative cap space. Of course, that’ll change once they put Johan Franzen on injured reserve, but that still doesn’t leave them with a ton of room.

They also have many veterans making a lot money. Henrik Zetterberg has been terrific for the Wings over the years, but the 36-year-old still has four years left on his contract at just over $6 million per season.

Frans Nielsen, 33, was signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer. He’s on the books for five more years at $5.25 million.

Defensemen Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley are all over 33 years old, and they each have at least two years remaining on their contracts. They each make between $3.16 million and $4.75 million.

On the flip side, Detroit does have some interesting young pieces that should be able to help them win right away.

Dylan Larkin had a tough sophomore season. He’ll need to bounce back in a big way if the Wings make it back to the postseason.

After scoring 27 goals in 2014-15, Gustav Nyquist has had back-to-back disappointing seasons. The 27-year-old needs to contribute more.

The Wings also have Tomas Tatar, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Riley Sheahan that they can rely on in 2017-18 and beyond.

The goalies are also a question mark for them going into next season. Coming into last season, it appeared as though Petr Mrazek was ready to become a solid number one goaltender. Unfortunately for Detroit, things didn’t pan out that way (he ended up being exposed in the expansion draft).

Jimmy Howard had struggled over the last few years, but he emerged as the starting goaltender once Mrazek failed to seize his opportunity.

Like any team, the play of their goaltenders will affect the outcome of their season.

We know that Holland isn’t interested in blowing up the Wings roster, but what would you to if you were in his shoes? It’s time for you guys to vote (feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section, too).

Red Wings’ cap future after Tatar signing: should they buy out Ericsson?

Getty
14 Comments

In a vacuum, the Detroit Red Wings handing Tomas Tatar a four-season deal that carries a per-year cap hit of $5.3 million makes a lot of sense. Tatar ranks as one of their deadliest scorers, and at age 26, the contract likely takes up the final years of his prime.*

Still, it must be mentioned that Tatar’s contract reminds us that the Red Wings may no longer stand as an obvious contender, yet they sure spend like one.

Yes, Johan Franzen‘s near-$4 million will go to LTIR, but this Cap Friendly reading still stands as a reminder that there isn’t much breathing room, especially with Andreas Athanasiou needing a contract. Detroit figures to have a little less than $1 million minus Franzen:

OK, so there are a few options. Winging it in Motown brings up an intriguing idea: what if the Red Wings buy out defenseman Jonathan Ericsson‘s contract?

They used Cap Friendly’s tool to show that a cap hit of $4.25 million would be spread out over six seasons in this setup. Each year, the actual cost would be a bit less than $1.39 million.

The bright side is that, for the next two seasons, the Red Wings would see real savings:

2017-18: save $2.61 million
2018-19: save $2.86 million
2019-20: save $2.86 million
2020-21 and 2021-22: would cost them about $1.39 million

Naturally, that would be quite the price to pay to get a player to not play for the Red Wings, yet it would also help Detroit squeeze under the cap. More on that conundrum here.

Let’s leaf through most of the Red Wings’ structure to see which deals are good, bad, and ugly.

(Note: As usual, Cap Friendly was highly helpful in putting this together.)

Dicey defense

  • Obviously, Ericsson’s health issues and struggles make him a tough guy to keep around at 33 and with a $4.25M. He’s merely the most obvious defensemen who’s an issue for this team.
  • Mike Green presents an interesting situation. He still has his use, yet at 31 and with his $6 million cap hit to expire after next season, the Red Wings must ponder his future. If they don’t want him back, could they send him somewhere else, whether that be now or in-season? Salary retention would likely need to be a consideration, especially if they wanted to move him earlier. That said, their already dicey defense would experience a painful loss if they traded Green.
  • Danny DeKeyser‘s $5 million cap hit through 2021-22 would be very difficult to move. At least he has … some proponents in the organization?
  • Niklas Kronwall‘s been a great solider for DRW, and the positive news is that his $4.75 million cap hit will evaporate after two seasons. Much like Ericsson, health is really hampering what he can do in the present, though.
  • Trevor Daley was just signed this summer. While he brings some strengths to the table, you have to wonder if the 33-year-old will slip enough that the $3.16 million could be an annoyance rather soon.

Forwards

  • Tatar ($5.3 million) becomes the second-highest-paid Red Wings forward behind Henrik Zetterberg, who makes just over $6 million. Zetterberg quietly enjoyed a strong 2016-17, and you can bet that he delivered at far higher a value than $6 million through the earlier years of his contract. Still, he’s 36 and that cap hit runs through 2020-21, the same year Tatar’s ends. Not ideal.
  • That Franzen headache expires after 2019-20.
  • Frans Nielsen is a nice player, and he had a strong debut season for Detroit. Still, he’s somehow already 33 and his $5.25 million cap hit won’t expire until after 2021-22. One would think that, if the Red Wings wanted to move him, now would be one of the better times since his value is probably still reasonably high. Of course, savvy teams will balk at that term. Maybe, like DeKeyser and some other players, the Red Wings would need to move a “problem” (Nielsen’s term) for some other team’s issue.
  • Moving on, there are bit players getting too much. Justin Abdelkader‘s term (2022-23) and $4.25M cap hit give off an albatross vibe. Darren Helm, already 30, at $3.85M per year seems shaky. Even Luke Glendening‘s reasonable but maybe unnecessary $1.8M cap hit argues that Red Wings management might be overvaluing supporting cast members.
  • Then you have young players who may cost more soon. Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha could see big jumps with breakthrough contract years as their ELC’s expire. Will Athanasiou be on a shrot deal, too?

Goalies

The netminder situation is pretty cloudy as well.

Jimmy Howard‘s contract is worrisome, although at least that $5.3M only runs through two more seasons. Petr Mrazek‘s a baffling situation, though maybe a team would take him from Detroit if the Red Wings retained some of that $4M? Would that even be a smart move considering Mrazek’s still-considerable potential?

***

Yikes, that entire outlook is almost entirely dismal. It’s not easy to say what the Red Wings should do next, especially if you’re not in the “blow it all up” camp.

(Note: Ken Holland doesn’t seem to be in the “blow it all up” camp.)

* – Of course, he could defy the general odds by having a longer run of prime years.