Brendan Perlini

What is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook?

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Detroit Red Wings.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

This is kind of an odd situation at the moment because the players with the longest contracts and biggest financial commitments are players that probably do not actually fit in with the long-term direction of the team.

For example, here is the list of players that are actually signed to contracts beyond this season: Dylan Larkin, Filip Zadina, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Patrick Nemeth, Alex Biega, Danny DeKeyser, and Jonathan Bernier.

Out of that group, Larkin and Zadina (who is still on an entry-level contract) are the only ones that are under the age of 28.

Nemeth (who is 28) is the only other player under the age of 30.

Mantha, Bertuzzi, and perhaps Fabbri all figure to stick around for a while and are still under team control as restricted free agents this summer, but they are not technically signed yet.

All of that leaves general manager Steve Yzerman with a fairly clean slate to build from. He also has a couple of really interesting building blocks in Larkin, Mantha, and Zadina.

Larkin and Mantha may not be superstars, but they are still very good top-line players in the prime of their careers, and in Larkin’s case signed to a long-term deal. Mantha will need a new contract this summer but has blossomed into a potential 30-goal, possession driving power forward. Zadina is still a bit of a mystery, but he probably has the most potential of any young player in the organization and has flashed the ability that made him one of the most sought after goal-scoring prospects in his draft class.

Long-Term Needs

When you miss the playoffs four years in a row and are having one of the worst seasons in the modern history of the sport it is safe to say that you have a lot of needs at pretty much every position.

That is the case with the Red Wings.

More specifically, they need impact players.

They need a superstar forward they can build around and make the centerpiece of this entire thing. Maybe they will get some draft lottery luck and get the top pick, which is always a good place to start. It would also be helpful if Zadina blossomed into the top-shelf goal-scorer he was projected to be (and you should not give up on that possibility).

They also need a lot of long-term help on defense.

Moritz Seider, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, is their best defense prospect, but he is probably a ways away from contributing as a top-pairing player.

Perhaps the biggest long-term hole in the organization though is in net. Howard and Bernier are both over the age of 31 and neither is likely to be standing in the crease for the Red Wings’ next playoff team. That goalie is also probably not in the organization right now.

Long-Term Strengths

It might just be the simple fact that they have a very successful and very good general manager that has a lot of resources to work with.

The salary cap situation is not perfect, but it is also not as bad as it looked a year or two ago. They have a couple of contracts they might like to shed (Nielsen, Abdelkader, DeKeyser) but it is nothing that is crushing them at the moment and there is some long-term flexibility there.

Along with having the best odds for the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, they also have 18 draft picks over the next two years, including seven in the first two rounds (two first-round picks, five second-round picks) in those classes.

That comes after making 11 selections in the 2019 class, including four in the first two rounds.

The best way to find NHL talent in the draft is to give yourself more chances at finding a player (more picks) and the Red Wings are overflowing with them. That helps increase the odds in your favor a bit.

Larkin and Mantha should also be viewed as strengths because both players are good enough and young enough to stick around in Detroit and play in meaningful games for the team. Larkin is one of the league’s fastest players, has great underlying numbers, and has become a 60-point player every year. The only thing that has stopped Mantha from being a 30-goal player the past two years has been injuries. There are a lot of positions that need to be addressed, but they have the right person in charge to do it and some pieces to work with.

More:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings
Biggest surprises and disappointments 

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking at the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit Red Wings

Record: 17-49-5 (71 games), eighth place in Atlantic Division
Leading Scorer: Dylan Larkin 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

  • Acquired Brendan Perlini from Chicago Blackhawks for Alec Regula
  • Acquired Robby Fabbri from St. Louis Blues for Jacod De La Rose
  • Acquired Eric Comrie from Arizona Coyotes for Vili Saarijarvi
  • Acquired Kyle Wood from Carolina Hurricanes for Oliwer Kaski
  • Traded Mike Green to Edmonton Oilers for Kyle Brodziak and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick
  • Traded Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner to Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner, 2020 second-round draft pick, and 2021 second-round draft pick

Season Overview

Everyone had to know this was going to be a tough season for the Detroit Red Wings.

They are in the middle of a complete teardown and rebuild and had already missed the postseason three years in a row. The roster was already short on impact talent and depth when the season began, and it was a given that even more talent was going to be traded away during the season.

But it was still difficult to imagine things being this bad.

The Red Wings not only have the worst record and worst goal differential in the league this season, they were on track to be one of the worst teams in the modern NHL era.

They have won just 17 out of their first 71 games, putting them on pace to win only 19 this season. Since 1990 there have only been 11 teams that failed to win at least 20 games in a season (excluding lockout shortened seasons), and out of that group most of those examples were early expansion seasons for teams like Ottawa, Atlanta, and San Jose.

At the time of the NHL’s season pause they had a minus-122 goal differential for the season, by far the league’s worst. The next worst team? The Ottawa Senators at minus-52. That minus-122 mark is among the 20-worst marks in NHL history through the first 71 games of a season.

For the season they are 31st in goals scored, 31st in goals against, 31st in shots on goal per game, 31st on the penalty kill, 31st in total shot attempt share at even-strength, 29th on the power play, and 27th in shots on goal against per game.

In other words, this particular version of the Red Wings has performed at a level that is comparable to some of the worst expansion teams in NHL history. They are not an expansion team.

That is not to say that the entire situation is hopeless long-term. They do have some intriguing young players to build around, they have stockpiled draft picks, they will have the best shot at landing the top pick in this year’s draft lottery, and Steve Yzerman is one of the most respected executives in the league. He helped turn the franchise once as a player. Now he has a chance to do it as the general manager.

Highlight of the season so far

There are actually a couple! If you wanted, you could point to Anthony Mantha‘s four-goal game against the Dallas Stars back in early October. But we are going to go with their two — TWO! — different wins over the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins are the NHL’s best team this season and running away with the Presidents’ Trophy. They have lost just 14 games in regulation. Two of those losses have come against a Red Wings team that has won just 17 games.

This is why they play the games.

More:
Red Wings biggest surprises and disappointments
What is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking at the 2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago Blackhawks

Record: 32-30-8 (70 games), seventh in the Central Division, Out of Playoffs
Leading scorer: Patrick Kane 84 points (33 goals and 51 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

• Traded Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights for Malcolm Subban, Slava Demin, 2020 second-round pick.
• Acquired T.J. Brennan from the Philadelphia Flyers for Nathan Noel.
• Shipped Erik Gustafsson to the Calgary Flames for a 2020 third-round pick.
• Traded Graham Knott to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Joseph Cramarossa.
• Acquired Alec Regula from the Detroit Red Wings for Brendan Perlini.
• Sent Aleksi Saarela to the Florida Panthers for Ian McCoshen.

Season Overview:

The Blackhawks didn’t get off to the greatest of starts in 2019-20. They began their campaign with a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Czech Republic and then came home to play seven consecutive games at the United Center. How did those games go? Well, they only managed to win two of the seven. When October was all said and done, the ‘Hawks had a 3-6-3 record.

They managed to rattle off a four-game winning streak in November, but quickly followed that up by losing five of their last six games to close out the month.

Get the picture?

There was no semblance of consistency with this edition of the Blackhawks. Sure, they still have an elite talent in Patrick Kane and, yes, Jonathan Toews is still a really good player. They also have Dominik Kubalik, who scored 30 goals in his first year, and Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Brandon Saad. Those are all talented players, but the entire roster just doesn’t stack up with the elite teams in the Western Conference anymore.

Their defense still features Duncan Keith, but the unit got old in a hurry. Keith has played a lot of hockey, Seabrook was struggling badly before being shut down with an injury and the acquisition of Calvin de Haan and Olli Maata helped, but not enough.

Management has to decide what the next step is for this group. It’s always tempting to “go for it” when you have Kane, but the supporting cast just isn’t strong enough. Can they make it work by tweaking the roster, or is this a team that needs a major overhaul?

Whenever the off-season starts, they’ll have to address the goaltending position too, because Corey Crawford isn’t getting any younger and he’s scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st. He had been playing well down the stretch, but he’s become a question mark when it comes to staying healthy.

Big decisions are coming.

Highlight of the Season:

Kane has been one of the few bright spots on the ice for the this team and he continued to pile up incredible numbers throughout the season.

On January 19th, in a game against the Winnipeg Jets, Kane picked up a secondary assist on Saad’s goal late in the third period. That point allowed the Blackhawks forward to reach the 1,000-point club.

MORE BLACKHAWKS:
Biggest surprises and disappointments

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.

PHT Morning Skate: Flames land top NCAA free agent; Rielly wins in transition

Flames land NCAA free agent Connor Mackey, Colton Poolman, Morning Skate
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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• The Flames recently signed two NCAA players to bolster their defense: Connor Mackey and Colton Poolman. Frank Seravalli goes into detail on the Flames’ “two-year pursuit” of Mackey. Seravalli deemed Mackey the No. 1 NCAA free agent available this spring, making Mackey quite the get for the Flames. (TSN)

• Oilers GM Ken Holland spoke with Mark Spector about resolving the situation with Jesse Puljujarvi, which will be a challenge whenever there’s an actual chance to address it. In that same piece, Ken Hitchcock praised Puljujarvi as at least a useful third-line type player, while admitting he isn’t sure Puljujarvi will end up being more than that. (Sportsnet)

• Lou Lamoriello answered fan questions on the Islanders website, which meant a lot of Lou-like non-answers, sometimes comically so. (Yes, he even briefly discussed his fascination with lower jersey numbers.) Later on Sunday, we’ll ponder Lamoriello saying the Islanders would match a Mathew Barzal offer sheet. There’s other noteworthy information, though. The Islanders expect Johnny Boychuk and Casey Cizikas back if play resumes this season/playoffs, while Adam Pelech should be ready for training camp before 2020-21. (Islanders)

• Could the Penguins actually keep their first-round pick from the Jason Zucker trade if the season isn’t completed? Pensburgh goes over that, and in doing so, lays out some of the tricky questions the NHL would face if COVID-19 forces more than just a pause for 2019-20. (Pensburgh)

• Helene St. James hands out best and worst awards for the Red Wings. In doing so, St. James posits that Justin Abdelkader will be waived and sent to the AHL in 2020-21. (Detroit Free-Press)

• Steve Simmons went looking for a phone number in an old phonebook, and found himself pausing to remember several names from the past. (Steve Simmons)

• How Malcolm Subban and Brendan Perlini could make strange history for the Blackhawks. Could Subban end up having the shortest “career” with the Blackhawks ever? (Chicago Sun-Times)

• Andrew Berkshire takes a look at defensemen who excel at that transition game, with Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly leading the pack. (Sportsnet)

• Fun 2020 NHL Draft angle from McKeen’s Hockey: the most polarizing prospect from each region, starting with Antonio Stranges in the OHL. (McKeen’s Hockey)

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.

Kassian offered in-person hearing for kicking Cernak

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UPDATE: Kassian has been suspended seven games.

Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian has been offered an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his kick on Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Given the play in question, it’s not surprising to see the Department of Player Safety want to have a face-to-face with him. That means his suspension could be more than five games.

Kicking with a skate blade is a matter the NHL has to take seriously. Thankfully, Cernak wasn’t cut on the play. The NHL will usually factor injury into the length of the suspension, but this is one of the cases where they shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter that Cernak was fine after the play. The league has to send Kassian and others the message that using your skate blade in that way is totally unacceptable.

He attempted to justify his actions postgame, but it didn’t make him look any better.

“He was holding my leg, it was reactionary, I was just trying to get him off me, kick him off me,” Kassian said after the game, per the Edmonton Sun. “I was just trying to get my foot loose. I was laying there for a while, a couple of seconds, so I was just trying to pull my leg out.

“If I kicked him hard, I think he would have flew back or the ref would have called a penalty. I was trying to get off and pull my leg off. He was holding me and Archie down, I didn’t even know where the puck was I was trying to pull my leg up and get up.”

Over the course of the last little while, two players have been injured by blades. Red Wings forward Brendan Perlini was forced from a game against Buffalo after he caught a Henri Jokiharju skate to the face. Meanwhile, Islanders forward Casey Cizikas was sliced on the leg by Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov. Both these incidents were accidental, but they’re an important reminder that a skate blade can do some serious damage.

To make matters worse for Kassian, he’ll be considered a repeat offender in the Department of Player Safety’s eyes. He was suspended two games last month for being an aggressor in an altercation with Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. Regardless of how you feel about that incident, you can’t take this one lightly.

“I knew right away when he was on the ice he kicked me,” Cernak explained. “I think he was little bit mad and I asked him what was wrong with him, because that’s not a right play to do on the ice and he didn’t say nothing, so I don’t know. He kicked me right in the chest, so luckily that wasn’t higher.”

Yesterday was a tough day for the league. Many were left puzzled after Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara received nothing more than a $5,000 fine for cross-checking Habs winger Brendan Gallagher in the chops. Teammate Brad Marchand‘s spear on Jeff Petry resulted in the Bruins forward getting four minutes in penalties, but no supplemental discipline either.

Using your skate in that manner just can’t happen. The league needs to make an example out Kassian in this situation.

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.