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).
Are the Detroit Red Wings a team moving up courtesy of a young core led by Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser, and Petr Mrazek? Or are they a fading dynasty having already lost former leaders like Nicklas Lidstrom and on the brink of watching the two stars they have left head off into the sunset?
“Who’s going to replace Pav?” head coach Mike Babcock asked, per NHL.com’s Аrpon Basu. One of the best two-way forwards in the game, Pavel Datsyuk will turn 37 in July. Henrik Zetterberg will celebrate his 35th birthday in October.
“Our team is not as good as it was,” Babcock also noted, according to Postmedia News’ Michael Traikos.
That’s hard to dispute. Detroit has only won a single playoff series in its last four campaigns after reaching the Stanley Cup Final in back-to-back years in 2008-09. They won it all in 2008. Once Zetterberg and Datsyuk are gone or even just less effective, will the Red Wings start missing the playoffs entirely? Do they have anyone on their roster capable of filling that massive void?
Certainly the future isn’t all fire and brimstone for Detroit. The players mentioned off the bat have proven to be solid contributors and with their help, Detroit both made the playoffs and gave Tampa Bay a run for its money in the first round. The fact that the Red Wings came within a hair of advancing can’t be just brushed under the rug.
That being said, Babcock has raised legitimate points, and it will only add fuel to the speculation that the highly regarded coach will walk as a free agent this summer. Babcock didn’t confirm anything tonight, but Edmonton, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Toronto, and likely others would certainly be eager to sign him if he’s available.
Niklas Kronwall met with reporters on Wednesday, making his first comments since being suspended for Game 7 of the Tampa Bay series for a charge on Bolts forward Nikita Kucherov:
One guy not interested in talking about the Kronwall suspension was Detroit head coach Mike Babcock, who’d only say “I think if I talk about Game 7, then I won’t get fined.”
As for tonight, Kronwall won’t be the only veteran d-man out of the lineup. Marek Zidlicky has been sidelined by a concussion, forcing Detroit to ice a six-man defensive unit comprised of:
Jonathan Ericsson — Alexey Marchenko
Danny DeKeyser — Kyle Quincey
Brendan Smith — Jakub Kindl
Replacing veterans Kronwall and Zidlicky will be tough. The pair combined to play over 41 minutes in Monday’s Game 6 loss in Detroit.