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Red Wings face interesting questions regarding Zadina

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The Detroit Red Wings enjoyed quite the gift on June 22, as Filip Zadina – a prospect many expected to go third overall in the 2018 NHL Draft – instead fell to them at No. 6. Zadina, enjoyably, did his part by saying he’d avenge that slight slippage by filing nets with pucks.

With an entry-level contract already agreed upon recently, the question for 2018-19 is: where will Zadina fill nets with pucks?

That’s actually a multi-pronged question if the Czech winger cannot make the big club out of training camp.

As the Athletic’s Craig Custance (sub required) and Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James report, the Red Wings and the NHL believe that Zadina would be eligible to be sent to the AHL rather than the QMJHL if he doesn’t make the Red Wings. It’s a little head-scratching leafing through all of the loan-related details, but Zadina’s agent Darren Ferris told Custance that it’s probably a “moot point” since he believes Zadina will make the team.

And that, more than the slightly convoluted questions about the AHL vs. QMJHL, is where things get more intriguing.

Should the Red Wings actually want Zadina to jump straight from the draft to the NHL?

Personally, if I were running the Red Wings, I’d err on the side of letting Zadina develop elsewhere for a simple reason: Detroit could get better value out of Zadina’s entry-level contract if they let it slide for a season.

Frankly, few outside of the Red Wings organization believe that this team has a strong chance of competing in 2018-19. And, really, a strong rookie season from Zadina could actually land this team in unenviable hockey purgatory; if he sniped in, say, 25 goals, it might help Detroit be competitive enough to avoid the best draft lottery odds, but weak enough to miss the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Generally, that’s the worst of both worlds for a team that needs to rebuild.

It’s a significant consideration for a franchise that seemingly must be dragged kicking and screaming into truly embracing a rebuild.

The anticipation was that the Red Wings’ free agent plan would be at odds with a rebuild, and that essentially came to fruition when they re-signed Mike Green and gave Thomas Vanek some no-trade power with his one-year deal. The Detroit Free Press’ Shawn Windsor did a good job of capturing the frustrations of many Red Wings fans after those signings.

Really? The fanbase bemoaned. More veterans? More inexplicable use of cap space? More of the Wings getting in their own way?

Indeed, it’s easy to see why fans want fewer roadblocks for prospects to turn into more NHL-ready players. After all, is there really that much upside to signing Vanek, who’s already 34? Landing the sniper makes sense for a team that needs that one last, mercenary piece. It’s not as logical for the Red Wings, especially if they really can’t move him during the trade deadline.

So, that’s not so great for prospects trying to elbow their way in, such as Michael Rasmussen, a towering forward Detroit selected ninth overall in 2017. That said, it could be a blessing in disguise if Vanek’s presence helps the Red Wings take a slow-and-steady approach with Zadina.

From a pure team-building standpoint, the Red Wings would likely be best suited to see Zadina’s entry-level deal kick in starting in 2019-20. By then, they’d be that much deeper into their rebuild, with more clarity about aging veterans such as Henrik Zetterberg and more knowledge of what they have in the likes of Rasmussen. Perhaps they’d also add another blue chipper in the 2019 NHL Draft, and maybe a better one if they shipped Zadina to the AHL or junior, depending upon how all of that would shake out.

Of course, there’s another element to consider. When a team is rebuilding, it’s crucial to maintain hope for fans.

With a still-new-arena, Zadina could serve as a draw for fans, even those with low hopes for 2018-19.

Sure, people will share highlights of Zadina on social media, even if those clips are coming from a lower level. That’s already happening.

Plenty of people will prefer seeing those moments in the flesh, and against the highest level of opponents, so there’s also that to consider.

It’s not the easiest call to make. On one hand, the Red Wings made their bones by drafting and developing, frequently finding gems in later rounds. On the other, those days are feeling more and more distant, with recent history showing management decisions that leave a lot to be desired.

The good news is that Zadina might be the sort of prospect where even the wrong move wouldn’t sting too badly. It’s plausible that he’s just that good, and getting him to the NHL ASAP could work out perfectly well.

Either way, these are the types of questions the Red Wings need to be examining beyond mere gut reactions, unless they want this rebuild to drag on far longer than expected.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators assistant GM Randy Lee resigns

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It’s been an off-season to forget for Randy Lee. After being charged with two counts of harassment stemming from an incident involving a 19-year-old shuttle bus driver in Buffalo, he decided to resign from his position as assistant GM of the Sens (he also served as their farm team’s general manager) on Tuesday evening.

“My suspension has given me more time to spend with my loved ones than ever before. For the past 23 years, my family has taken a back seat to my career. My focus now is on putting them first,” Lee told the Ottawa Sun.

“At the same time, I have to think about my obligations to the hockey team. They need an assistant general manager who can focus completely on the coming season. Until this matter is behind me, however, I’m not in a position to that.”

The Senators have already announced that they’ll begin their search for Lee’s replacement immediately. Finding someone to step in right away may be easier said than done at this point. Most teams may not be willing to give Ottawa permission to speak to some of their employees. Promoting from within the organization might make the most sense for now.

Lee spent 23 years with the Senators. He spent four years as the team’s assistant general manager. He also served as director of hockey operations, director of player development, conditioning coach and video coach during his time in the organization.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Devils go ‘heritage’ route with 2018-19 third jersey

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It’s third jersey season and on Tuesday the New Jersey Devils were the latest NHL team to unveil an alternate look for the 2018-19 campaign.

They’re going old school and bringing back the white, red and green uniforms that they wore for a 10-year period between 1982 and 1992. The team is calling it a “heritage” jersey and SportsLogos.net pointed out why:

A “heritage uniform” can only be worn a maximum of six times per season and can be scrapped after one year while a third or “alternate” uniform must be worn a dozen times and for at least three seasons. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

How about those gloves?

Devils

The Devils say they will wear this uniform four times at Prudential Center this season, and considering they’re the white jerseys and not the reds from that era, maybe there’s a chance we see them during a few road games.

What do you think? Already have visions of Stephane Richer, John MacLean and Ken Daneyko dancing in your head?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Three questions facing Ottawa Senators

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Ottawa Senators.

1. What happens to Erik Karlsson?

It’s only normal that we mention Karlsson’s name a few times thorughout PHT’s Ottawa Senators Day. After all, he’s the face of the franchise, one of the best players in the league and he and his family have been the victims in a pretty strange scandal involving former teammate Mike Hoffman and his fiancee.

Karlsson has been eligible to sign an extension since July 1st of this year, but he hasn’t done so. Based on everything that’s been reported over the last few months, the Sens came close to trading him to the Vegas Golden Knights minutes before February’s trade deadline. In the end, the deal fell through.

Many expected Karlsson to be dealt before the draft, at the draft or around free agency, but Sens general manager Pierre Dorion obviously hasn’t found a deal he’s willing to accept from another team. Ottawa also reportedly made the Swede a contract offer which was below market value. As you can see, he didn’t accept that, either.

So what happens now? It’s mid-August, and a deal hasn’t been made. Either the Sens continue holding out for the best possible return, or they hope that by trading Hoffman, they’ve given themselves a shot at bringing Karlsson back.

For that to happen, owner Eugene Melnyk is going to have shell out some serious coin over the next few years. And, of course, they have to pray to the 28-year-old is willing to look past all the warts and deficiencies of his current team.

The ending to this story should be interesting.

2. Should they keep Brady Tkachuk for the whole season?

Just a few days ago, Tkachuk announced that he was leaving Boston University after just one season. Many people assumed that this meant he was going to turn pro no matter what, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Sure, he can stick with the Sens all season or he could even spend the year playing in the minors. But his junior hockey rights belong to the OHL’s London Knights, which means he could be heading there if things don’t work out in Ottawa.

Do the Sens really want to expose Tkachuk to what’s happening in their locker room right now? Do they want place him in a situation where he’s part of a team that loses more than it wins? We’ll find out in the fall. But in the end, if they feel he’s good enough to play a regular role in an NHL lineup right away, they should keep him.

[2017-18 review | Under Pressure: Pierre Dorion | Breakthrough: Thomas Chabot]

The key will be to see what kind of role Guy Boucher is willing to give him in his first season. Boucher doesn’t tend to trust rookies very easily, so if he doesn’t plan on utilizing him in a top-nine role and giving him some time on the man-advantage, there’s really no point in keeping him in the NHL.

3. Do they have to make a strong push for a playoff spot just because they don’t own their first-round pick in 2019?

The simple answer is no. There’s no point in sacrificing future assets just to make sure the Colorado Avalanche don’t get the first, second or third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. If the Sens happen to be competitive (against all odds) that’s one thing, but they can’t move youngsters for veterans or hold on to some of their potential unrestricted free agents instead of trading them for pieces.

The fact that they dealt their first-round pick away stinks for them. They just have to live with it now. There’s nothing they can do about. If they’re out of the playoff hunt early and they realize they can’t re-sign Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and/or Erik Karlsson, they have to unload them.

Even if they’re in the chase for a playoff spot, they can’t afford to lose all those guys for nothing. It’s a really delicate situation Dorion and Melnyk are in right now because the organization appears to in shambles and a lot of their key players aren’t locked in to long-term deals.

Sens management can enter the season with a plan, but the players have all the cards right now. There’s no need to do something drastic right now. If they happen to get back on track with this group of players, that’s great. More power to them. That just appears to be unlikely at this point.

They can’t get sucked into chatter about not having their own pick. That’s not a reason to go all in. They have to live with the consequences of making a trade that simply didn’t work out. No one could have predicted that the Duchene deal would have turned out like this. They Sens felt like they had a shot to go for it, so Dorion pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal early on the season. Often, we find out that certain trades or moves don’t work. That’s what happened here. Don’t make it worse by trying to get short-term results.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Building off a breakthrough: Thomas Chabot

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Ottawa Senators.

There’s been a lot of doom and gloom around the Ottawa Senators over the last year. After being one goal away from making it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the Sens totally fell apart after they made an aggressive trade for Matt Duchene last year.

Finding positives in a lost season isn’t always easy, but Thomas Chabot certainly took a positive step in his development. The 21-year-old got his first extended look in the NHL and he managed to put up a respectable nine goals and 25 points in 63 games.

He averaged 17:31 of ice time during the regular season, but he finished the year by playing over 20 minutes in 10 of his final 12 contests. Even though he’s far from being a finished product, Chabot has shown that he has all the necessary tools to become an impact blueliner at the highest level.

Sens head coach Guy Boucher trusted Chabot enough to pair him with Erik Karlsson last season (the two played almost 400 minutes together). Having one of the best defensemen in the NHL by his side definitely helped the youngster grow. Without Karlsson by his side, Chabot had a CF% of 44.82 percent. With Karlsson, that number jumped up to 52.93 percent. That’s a significant difference.

“I’ve been following the (Karlsson) situation closely,” Chabot said, per NHL.com. “And I’d obviously like for him to stay with us. I had the chance to play with him last season and I learned so much from watching him work. He’s talented at everything he does. Even his own teammates, we sometimes can’t believe the plays that he makes.

“He’s a mentor to me, I’m trying to model my playing style after his. He’s also a really cool guy outside the rink.”

Losing Karlsson would hurt Chabot and the Senators, but it looks like he’ll eventually be playing for a different organization, so they’ll have to face reality sooner or later. But losing Karlsson will also mean that this blue line will become Chabot’s. He’s the one who has the most upside, which means they’ll need him to take charge.

[2017-18 review | Under Pressure: Pierre Dorion | Three Questions]

Parting ways with a franchise player like Karlsson is never ideal for any organization. In this case, at least the Senators can say that they have a potential stud waiting in the wings. Is he ready for that kind of responsibility right now? Probably not. But at least they can rest a little easier knowing that they have a potential number one defenseman coming.

No matter what moves are made, they’ll need Chabot to take another positive step forward in a hurry. He’ll have to find a way to avoid that sophomore slump that many second-year players go through when they get to the NHL.

As bad as things look in Ottawa, at least they can say they have a young building block on defense.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.