The Red Wings have reached an agreement with RFA blueliner Brendan Smith, signing him to a two-year, $5.5 million deal with a $2.75M average annual cap hit.
Smith, 26, was Detroit’s first-round pick at the 2007 draft and appeared in a career-high 76 games last year.
Despite that games played total, it wasn’t an incredibly successful campaign; Smith’s numbers took a dip (in points and minutes per game, specifically) and former head coach Mike Babcock made him a healthy scratch for Game 1 of the club’s opening-round series against Tampa Bay.
Still, Smith figures to be a fairly key cog of Detroit’s defense moving forward.
He’s scored himself a pretty decent raise — up from the $1.26M he was making annually on his old deal — and should be firmly planted in the top-six group alongside Niklas Kronwall, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Danny DeKeyser next season.
Defenseman Victor Hedman need some time to develop into a player worthy of the expectations thrust upon him when he was taken with the second overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry, but he’s certainly been a big part of the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
In fact, Hedman has been playing at an elite level for a little while now and it’s gotten to the point where it’s encouraged of a reexamining of Sweden’s 2014 Olympic roster decisions. He was left off that team as they went with a defensive core of Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, and Henrik Tallinder. That group is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but was there really no room in there for Hedman?
Swedish coach Par Marts was the one to reject Hedman and he doesn’t regret that decision, per Aftonbladet. As he pointed out, it’s easy to criticize in hindsight and he argued that Hedman wouldn’t have gotten the ice time he deserved if he was put on the roster, in part because they leaned towards the defensive pairings in Detroit (Ericsson-Kronwall) and Chicago (Hjalmarsson-Oduya). At the same time though, plenty of star players go into the Olympics with the understanding that they won’t get the minutes that they’re accustomed to.
“I was surprised that he didn’t make the team,” Blackhawks defenseman Hjalmarsson said during Tuesday’s press availability. “Obviously he’s a good player.”
Hedman admitted to being disappointed, but he said it wasn’t difficult for him to switch his focus to Tampa Bay’s next game after finding out he wouldn’t make the team. Certainly he has plenty to be pleased about at this point as he took another step forward in 2014-15 and needs just two more wins to win the Cup.
Marts did leave the door open to him reaching out to Hedman over the summer. The fact that he didn’t make the 2014 team was eyebrow raising, but it will be a far bigger story if NHL players go to the 2018 Olympics and Hedman is once again left off the roster.
Update: It turns out that Ryan Callahan will, indeed, play in Game 1. Wow.
It’s impressive enough that Callahan is a game-time decision for Game 1 of the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. As it turns out, it sounds like he’s more likely to play than not.
Callahan will at least warm up heading into this emotional series against the New York Rangers less than a week removed from undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper referred to Callahan as a “tough kid” and indicated that he expects the former Rangers captain to play.
This feels unprecedented – remember a similar situation sidelining Peter Forsberg for a playoff run? – but HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reminds us of Jonathan Ericsson’s courage:
The 30-year-old went under the knife on May 11. He missed the Lightning’s Game 6 win, yet he returned to practice less than 72 hours after the procedure. Cooper hinted at Callahan’s possible availability by referring to it coming down to “pain tolerance” and viewing him as day-to-day.
Of course, with all this optimism, Callahan (or Cooper) may pull the plug after warm-ups. It’s one thing to be tough enough to try to play, but what if he’s so limited that he ends up being a liability?
Either way, it’s a remarkable story, and another example to file under “hockey players are tough” (if you’re into that sort of thing).