Jonathan Ericsson

NHL free agent defensemen Dustin Byfuglien Andy Greene
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Byfuglien and other veteran NHL free agent defensemen with unclear futures

After covering forwards and goalies, let’s close things out with a look at fringe veteran NHL free agent defensemen.

Before we start, note that this isn’t about top defensemen available. Alex Pietrangelo likely only stands on the fringe between a huge contract or just a very big contract. Also, the sheer glut of defensemen means a lot of borderline players will either be off this list, or merely mentioned in passing.

A lot of stuff to consider with Buff

Going to an earlier post, health questions limit Corey Crawford‘s earning potential. Those issues loom even larger for very large defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

After missing the 2019-20 season, it’s unclear how close Byfuglien can be to full-strength. Most of all, Byfuglien must decide if he even wants to come back. And at what cost.

Being that Byfuglien turned 35 on March 27, he’d need a 35+ contract. That could be a Byfuglien-sized sticking point if the defenseman wants term in any deal.

All of that aside, even a compromised version of Byfuglien towers over many of the fringe options.

Other reasonably prominent fringe NHL free agent defensemen

Let’s go over a few of them, while Cap Friendly features a more expansive list that drives home the glut.

  • Mike Green — There were times when it felt like criticisms were way, way too harsh for Green. (Maybe it was fury at the fauxhawk?) The temperature’s changed in 2020, though. Most of the people who bashed Green have moved on to (insert latest offensive defenseman who might win a Norris). But there are just enough teams with nostalgia for Green that he might get a chance in his reduced, 34-year-old form. Consider the Oilers trading an actual draft pick for Green during the past deadline if you need evidence.

While Green’s defensive game slips with age, he also doesn’t provide that zip on offense, either.

It’s sadly not too surprising to see Green — and some other fringe veteran NHL free agent defensemen — at the bottom of the ranks of this GAR chart from Evolving Hockey:

worst GAR NHL free agent defensemen Evolving Hockey
via Evolving Hockey
  • While Green’s fellow 34-year-old defenseman Roman Polak plays a different style, he also finds himself in the dregs of that list. It’s even more common for some NHL GM to talk themselves into a hard-nosed Polak than it is for them to believe Green could rekindle his scoring touch, too. Both ideas seem ill-advised, although if you need to appease an old-school coach, maybe you throw them a bone by giving Polak a very cheap contract (that you can bury or get rid of)?
  • It was tough not to chuckle when the Islanders spent a second-round pick to acquire Andy Greene.

That’s not really a knock against Greene, generally speaking. He has some value as a defense-first defensemen. Instead, it’s just that the Islanders felt the need merely to add more of the same.

This isolated impact chart from Hockey Viz reinforces those points well enough:

Andy Greene iso NHL free agent defensemen
via Hockey Viz

Regardless, if the Islanders are willing to spend a prominent pick on Greene, the 37-year-old will probably draw some attention. By the muted expectations of this quantity-over-quality group, you could do worse … if you don’t pledge much money or especially term.

(There’s an argument that Greene is viable enough not to be fringe. Still, his advanced age makes it seem reasonable to list him.)

  • If your team must have someone like Polak, how about Justin Braun? The 33-year-old doesn’t bring offensive value, but he’s more useful defensively.
  • My guess is that there will be at least some market for Ron Hainsey. At 39, it’s fair to wonder how much Hainsey has left in the tank. That’s also a fair question for most of the veteran NHL free agent defensemen we’re discussing.

Veteran free agent NHL defensemen lightning round

  • I usually cut these lists off at 30+, but Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian are two 29-year-old defensemen who’ve garnered more attention than I’d usually expect. Maybe they will again? Teams can get pretty desperate for defense.
  • I haven’t mentioned Kevin Shattenkirk until now because I feel like anyone who observed his work in 2019-20 would give him a low-risk contract. But just in case, the 31-year-old would be a standout if he’s “fringe” material.
  • There are plenty of defensemen who might retire as much for health reasons as a lack of interest. Factor in age, too, and you could mark that box for defensemen including Jonathan Ericsson, Jay Bouwmeester, Deryk Engelland, and maybe Andrej Sekera.
  • Again, there are quite a few middling options who may ride meager name recognition. Teams have regularly inflated the value of 33-year-old Michael Stone, for instance.
  • Are Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber still NHL defensemen? GMs will decide that too.

(In case you’re wondering, Zdeno Chara‘s calling his own shot, and expected to be back. So that’s why he didn’t get a mention only now.)

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.

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.

Wednesday Night Hockey: Who will Red Wings, Wild sell before deadline?

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Red Wings and Wild aren’t currently sitting in playoff spots, but there’s several reasons why this will be an intriguing matchup. If both teams miss the postseason, they’ll have several key assets to sell off before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Which players could these teams put on the market? The Red Wings have a few rentals they could send to various contenders. Wild GM won’t have the luxury of making many “easy” rental deals between now and the deadline. A lot of his players are under contract beyond this season. Will the Wild be able to make multiple hockey deals? Can they find a way to get younger in a hurry?

One of the expiring contracts on the Wild roster is Mikko Koivu. It just doesn’t seem likely that they would move him at this point. Even though he’s 35, he’s been with the Wild his entire career and he probably won’t be going anywhere unless he wants to anyway.

Let’s take a deeper look at who both teams might make available:

Trevor Daley – D – Red Wings: 

Daley missed four games with an undisclosed injury earlier this month, but he’s managed to return to the lineup for the last three games. The 36-year-old is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. He has two assists in 25 games in 2019-20. He could be an intriguing depth addition for any team looking to add a bottom-pairing defender to their roster. Daley can provide the Red Wings with a 15-team no-trade list.

Mike Green – D – Red Wings: 

Green is expected to miss a couple of weeks after suffering an injury against Colorado earlier this week. The veteran isn’t nearly as productive as he was during his days with Washington, but he could provided some depth on the right side of a contender’s defense. He has just eight points in 41 games, but he’s averaging over 21 minutes of ice time with the Wings this season. Green has a full no-trade clause until Feb. 1. After that date, he submits a list of 10 teams he doesn’t want to go to. Like Daley, he’ll be a UFA at the end of the season.

Jonathan Ericsson – D – Red Wings:

Ericsson is another potential rental for a team looking to add a depth player. He’s been limited to just nine games this year, which limits his already limited value on the trade market. The 35-year-old also has a limited no-trade clause that prevents him from being dealt to 19 teams of his choosing. If the Wings can move him, it won’t be for very much.

Andreas Athanasiou – W – Red Wings: 

It’s been a tough year for Athanasiou. Not only has he missed the last 10 games with a lower-body injury, he’s also been a lot less productive when he’s actually in the lineup. After scoring 30 goals and 54 points last season, the 25-year-old has five goals and 19 points in 36 games this year. Athanasiou is scheduled to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so the Wings shouldn’t be in a rush to trade him. Even though he’s having a down year, he should be able to net the team some significant assets.

Jonas Brodin – D – Wild: 

Sometimes, you gotta give to get. This draft class is considered to be one of the deepest we’ve seen in years. If the Wild want to accumulate more draft capital, they’ll need to trade someone with some heavy value. Brodin doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but he’s a reliable defender that would be a welcomed addition on many teams. The 26-year-old has 20 points in 49 games. He has another year remaining on his contract at a reasonable cap hit of $4.166,667 million. If the Wild want to move him, multiple teams will be interested.

Ryan Donato – W – Wild: 

Donato was a big part of the trade that sent Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins last year. Unfortunately for the youngster, things haven’t worked out that well in Minnesota. He’s been a healthy scratch on four different occasions this year and he’s been on the fourth line recently, too. Donato has a year left on his current contract (he’ll earn $1.9 million) before he becomes a restricted free agent. He’s still only 23 years old. Someone out there will be interested in taking him on if the Wild want to unload him. Donato was the 14th player mentioned on Frank Seravalli’s Trade Bait board.

Marcus Foligno – W – Wild: 

Foligno isn’t known for his offensive skills, but he’s actually picked up eight points in his last eight games. The 28-year-old has the frame that a lot of teams are looking for for a Stanley Cup run (he’s 6-foot-3, 228 pounds). The veteran has one more season remaining on a contract that pays him $2.875 million. If Guerin wants to move him, he’ll find takers.

Jason Zucker – W – Wild:

Zucker’s been on the trading block since last year when former GM Paul Fenton clearly made him available. The 28-year-old has 13 goals and 27 points in 39 games this season. He missed time with a lower-leg injury, but he’s been back for five games now. Zucker can submit a 10-team no-trade list and he has three years remaining on his deal at $5.5 million per season. Trading him in-season won’t be easy.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will have the call from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Pre-game coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET, hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.

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.

Rangers roll past stumbling Red Wings: 3 takeaways

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The New York Rangers recorded two power-play goals and one shorthanded tally in a 5-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday Night Hockey.

Tony DeAngelo, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome each scored in a three-goal second period as the Rangers picked up their fourth win in the previous six outings. Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves, including 16 in the final frame in his first start since October 27.

Valtteri Filppula scored Detroit’s lone goal, and Jimmy Howard stopped 26 shots but the Red Wings fell to 1-11-1 in their last 13 games after suffering a fourth consecutive loss.

Rangers spread the wealth

The Rangers benefited from a complete team effort against the Red Wings as five different skaters found the back of the net and 11 members of the Blueshirts recorded at least one point.

Three different goal-scorers lit the lamp in an explosive second period, before Greg McKegg and Artemi Panarin sealed the deal in the final frame.

The Rangers appear to be on the right track since an embarrassing loss against the Boston Bruins. The club has picked up impressive victories against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators before a slip up against the Ottawa Senators earlier this week.

Howard falters against the Rangers

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has performed at his best against the Rangers throughout his career. He entered the game with a 10-3-3 record against New York coupled with a 1.77 GAA and 0.948 save percentage. Prior to the matchup on Wednesday, the two teams have played one-goal games in 14 of the previous 15 matchups

But on Wednesday, Howard allowed five goals on 31 shots, as the Red Wings’ four-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden was snapped.

The 35-year-old goaltender was born in Syracuse, NY, and grew up a Rangers fan.

Swedish influence lessened in Detroit

When the Red Wings took the ice Wednesday, it was odd to see only two Swedish-born players in the lineup, Christoffer Ehn and Patrik Nemeth. Whether it was Nicklas Lidstrom, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall or others, Detroit always had a strong Swedish influence during an incredible streak of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs 25 straight seasons.

Earlier this week, the final Swedish connection to the 2008 Stanley Cup champion team, Jonathan Ericsson, cleared waivers and will remain within the organization. Darren Helm is the only player on the active roster that was a part of the organization when they hoisted the cup that season.

As Steve Yzerman attempts to help the Red Wings become an elite organization once again, he would be wise to follow the blueprint that was successful the previous few decades.

Note: Following the game on Wednesday, Detroit shipped Jacob De La Rose to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Robby Fabbri.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

PHT Morning Skate: Perry on facing Ducks; Kakko’s frustrations

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.

Corey Perry on facing his old mates Thursday night: “It’s going to be exciting to see everybody. There’s a lot of good memories. A lot of good hockey people with that organization. You are going to have lifelong friends forever when you are there that long. We still keep in contact with certain people.” [NHL.com]

• How Ralph Krueger has helped turn around the 2019-20 Sabres. [ESPN]

• Will the Sabres fade away as they did last season? [The Hockey News]

• The Senators have recalled Logan Brown, reuniting him with childhood friend Brady Tkachuk. [TSN]

Artem Anisimov (two weeks) and Colin White (3-5 weeks) will miss some time for the Senators with injury. [Silver Seven Sens]

Kaapo Kakko was on the first line at Wednesday’s practice as he looks to change his fortunes with the Rangers. [NY Post]

• Luca Sbisa has been claimed on waivers by the Jets. [CP via Winnipeg Free Press]

• Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson cleared waivers. What now for him? [Free Press]

• With the Heritage Classic this Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN), a look at the best jerseys from the Canadian outdoor game’s history. [Hockey by Design]

• Cracks are starting to show in the Oilers’ good start. [Sportsnet]

• Interesting read on sleep science and the Blue Jackets. [Blue Jackets]

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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.