Steve Yzerman

Red Wings plan to hold training camp in Detroit next season

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DETROIT — The Red Wings plan to hold their training camp for the 2020-21 NHL season at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced the decision Monday to stay home instead of going to Traverse City, Michigan, where the team usually trains. He said it was made after consulting with health experts.

Yzerman also announced the cancellation of the 2020 NHL Prospect Tournament and Training Camp Golf Classic. Both events are expected to return to Traverse City next year.

“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff is our top concern,” Yzerman said.

Red Wings have shot to win NHL lottery to draft Lafreniere

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The once-proud Detroit Red Wings hope to win the NHL draft lottery, giving them a shot to select Canadian Alexis Lafreniere.

Detroit desperately needs a boost after easily being the worst team in the league during the pandemic-shortened season that was put on ice in March.

Lafreniere, an 18-year-old winger, is the consensus top prospect available and appears to be talented enough to potentially help next season and for years to come.

The Red Wings and the rest the league will find out Friday night which team will be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to take him.

Detroit has an 18.5% chance of having the No. 1 pick overall in the draft, on a day to be determined, after trailing every NHL team by at least 23 points and finishing 61 points behind the league-leading Boston Bruins.

The Ottawa Senators have 13.5% and 11.5% chances to spoil the Red Wings’ plans to have Lafreniere in the lineup with two non-playoff spots in the draft, including San Jose’s from the Erik Karlsson trade.

The Red Wings had a league-low 17 wins in their 71-game season. Detroit trailed every team in the league by at least 23 points and finished 61 points behind the NHL-leading Boston Bruins.

The Los Angeles Kings (9.5%), Anaheim Ducks (8.5%), New Jersey Devils (7.5%) and Buffalo Sabres (6.5%) are the other teams not in the 24-team expanded playoff with a chance to draft Lafreniere.

Eight other teams that do not advance will also have an opportunity to take one of the top players as part of the league’s revamped plans announced last month.

“Very creative solution that the league came up with,” Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said. “I either wanted to be a playoff team or a lottery team, but I didn’t want to be both and I didn’t want anybody else to be both. “This complicated, two (phase) lottery system actually does make a lot of sense and it could mean a lot of intrigue.”

If one of the league’s bottom seven teams wins the lottery, that team will have the No. 1 pick. If one of the other eight teams gets the luck of the draw in the lottery, the No. 1 selection will be sorted out after a second phase of the process on another date to be determined.

Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman did not sound as if he was fond of the format.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” Yzerman said. “You knew the league would do what it felt they needed to do to make it work.”

Ottawa, meanwhile, seems to like the how the lottery shapes up. The Senators have chances to get difference-making players to end a three-year postseason drought that is the franchise’s longest since it was an expansion team in the 1990s.

“We’re very happy with how it will proceed,” Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said. “We know we’re going to get two players in the top six in the worst-case scenario.”

The Sabres have had a standing reservation at the draft lottery for the past nine years, in which they own the NHL’s longest active playoff drought and are one short of matching the league record.

It’s a stretch in which Buffalo has had a revolving door at the coach and general manager positions. Ralph Krueger is Buffalo’s sixth coach over the span, and newly hired Kevyn Adams the fourth general manager of the franchise.

For any of the teams with a shot to take Lafreniere, a seemingly special player will be on the way.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound-Lafreniere had 114 goals and 297 points in 173 games in the Quebec Major Junior League. He also captained Canada’s gold-medal-winning team and earned MVP honors at the world junior championships earlier this year.

Fabbri wants to return to Red Wings; Should feeling be mutual?

Robby Fabbri Red Wings future free agency
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Robby Fabbri keeps making his point clear: he wants to return to the Detroit Red Wings. The pending RFA told the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan as much on Wednesday, while admitting that it’s ultimately the Red Wings’ call.

“That’s something out of my control right now,” Fabbri told Kulfan regarding Red Wings negotiations. “Everything has been great since the first day I came to Detroit. It’s a great organization, great group of guys, a great opportunity here, so it’s definitely a place I want to be and play for as long as I can.”

Fabbri added that he “couldn’t be happier” playing for the rebuilding Red Wings. And, again, it’s something he’s hammered on before. The 24-year-old noted to the Detroit Free-Press’ Dana Gauruder that his girlfriend and dogs have been delighted, too.

(You know what they say: happy girlfriend and dogs, happy life?)

If Fabbri got his way, the Red Wings would hand him an extension for a at least a few years. The forward hopes for more security than the one-year “prove it” deals he’s settled for in recent seasons. Fabbri would be even happier if he could stick at his “natural position” of center. (Detroit tried him out as a center at times in 2019-20.)

“I am definitely hoping and excited to get off the back-to-back one-year contracts but that part of the game is for my agent to talk to Yzerman about,” Fabbri said to Gauruder in late May. “I’ll leave that up to them and just control what I can control …”

This begs a natural question, then. Should the Red Wings want Fabbri back? Let’s consider the circumstances.

Should the Red Wings bring Fabbri back?

It really is something to consider how different circumstances were for Fabbri in Detroit than in St. Louis. Certainly, the teams were wildly different. The Blues are the defending Stanley Cup champions, while the rebuilding Red Wings rank as one of the worst teams of the salary cap era. But that disparity opened the door for Fabbri to rejuvenate his career.

Fabbri with Blues:

After two-plus injury-ravaged seasons, Fabbri suited up for nine Blues games in 2019-20. He managed one goal and zero assists, averaging just 9:42 TOI per game. This marked easily the low point of his Blues years, as even in 2018-19, Fabbri averaged 12:39 per night when he could play (32 GP).

All things considered, the Blues trading Fabbri to the Red Wings for Jacob De La Rose made a lot of sense. For all parties, really.

The Red Wings understandably hoped to see glimpses of the rookie who managed a promising 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games in 2015-16.

What Fabbri brought to the Red Wings

Generally speaking, Fabbri delivered nicely for the Red Wings.

He scored 14 goals and 31 points in 52 games, seeing his ice time surge to a career-high 17:16 per game. Fabbri’s .60 points-per-game average represented another career-high, up slightly from his previous peak of .57 per contest in 2016-17 (29 points in 51 games).

M Live’s Ansar Khan refers to the Fabbri trade as GM Steve Yzerman’s best so far with the Red Wings. Maybe that qualifies as faint praise (so far), but in general, it seems like Fabbri fit in nicely.

What should Red Wings do?

The Red Wings have a few options.

Forgive a bit of front office cynicism, but the shrewdest strategy might be to pursue a “pump and dump” during the trade deadline. Part of Fabbri’s production came from playing with players like Dylan Larkin, so maybe Detroit could be sellers at the trade deadline and get max value for Fabbri?

After all, while Fabbri looks pretty solid relative to some other Red Wings on this Evolving Hockey GAR chart:

Fabbri GAR Red Wings
via Evolving Hockey

Things look less promising if you dig deeper. Heck, consider how Fabbri compares to Jacob De La Rose at even-strength in this Evolving Hockey RAPM chart for some perspective:

Fabbri vs. Jacob De La Rose Red Wings
via Evolving Hockey

(Either way, if Jeff Blashill is a traditional coach, he might grumble at Fabbri only winning 39.4 percent of his faceoffs. Fair or not, as that’s only a small part of playing center.)

Yet, even handing Fabbri some term can make moderate sense.

The Red Wings may need some time for this rebuild to really revv up. Fabbri’s young enough at 24, and he’s also been through quite a bit in his career. Any player struggling in development can look to Fabbri as evidence that you shouldn’t give up.

And, in the meantime, Fabbri can pitch in some scoring for a team that figures to badly need it.

All things considered, it makes sense for the Red Wings to bring back Fabbri in some fashion. Considering the injury headaches Fabbri went through, it’s also easy to root for him — plus his girlfriend and their dogs:

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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.

Red Wings to retain Blashill as head coach for 2020-21 season

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What do you get when you lead a team to five playoff games in five seasons as head coach? An extension, it appears.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman said that he is not interested in making a coaching change at this time. Jeff Blashill’s contract expired after this season and the team had seven days to pick up the option to extend it.

“My remarks and thoughts on the head coach, Jeff Blashill, haven’t changed from February,” Yzerman said. “I have no plans on making a coaching change at this time.”

It’s not clear how long Blashill’s option is for, but he’ll at least be behind the Red Wings’ bench whenever the 2020-21 NHL season begins.

[NHL announces return-to-play plans]

The Red Wings finished dead-last in the league this season with a 17-49-5 record as of the March 12 pause. That lack of success puts Detroit in the best position (18.5%) to win the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft lottery.

Blashill took over following Mike Babcock’s departure in 2015. After making the Stanley Cup playoffs in his first season, the Red Wings have failed to qualify for the postseason the last four springs. Detroit has compiled a 153-194-52 record with him behind the bench — that’s only 20 more wins than the Golden Knights, who entered the NHL with the 2017-18 season.

There are a number of unknowns about the 2020-21 NHL schedule and how it will be affected by the current coronavirus pandemic. Yzerman’s thinking for keeping Blashill on might be that it would be difficult to implement a new voice/system during such a time, especially if the Red Wings’ next game isn’t until December. If Blashill’s option is only for one season, that would allow the GM to buy more time before potentially making a longer-term change if little progress continues to be made on the ice.

“I think it’s unfair to judge him based on our record at this time,” Yzerman said, “and quite frankly, we need to improve the team for anybody to truly critique or assess the coaching staff. We need to improve the team.”

MORE:
Looking at the 2019-20 Red Wings
What is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook?
Red Wings’ biggest surprises and disappointments

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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.

NHL makes case to teams for early-June draft

The NHL laid out to all 31 teams on Friday its case to hold the 2020 draft in early June.

In the memo, which Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on, it notes that the league would need a month to prepare for the virtual draft, which could lead to a decision this week. The  Board of Governors will hold a Monday conference call to discuss.

The 2020 NHL Draft was originally scheduled to be held June 26-27 in Montreal, but those plans were postponed in late March.

“There are complications. There’s no perfect solution,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said on Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio. “We think there are benefits to having the draft in June, including the fact that it’s a necessary piece of league business that has to transpire at some point and time, and our clubs are as ready for it now as they would be at any other time — and probably better prepared than they would be in the fall.”

Part of the league’s pitch is that if the 2019-20 season is completed, it would leave a tight timeframe to get the off-season schedule (draft, free agency) done before the 2020-21 campaign would take place, which potentially could be in December.

“We don’t want to have a situation where we’re shoehorning a draft lottery or a draft into a very short window of time, which we may be faced with,” Daly said.

Three main areas

There are three key topics that the league focused on. First, points percentage as of the March 12 pause would determine the draft order. Second, the lottery would go back to the old system for this season only, meaning no lotteries for each of the top three selections — only one for the top pick with teams able to move up four places, at most. That would end up with the Red Wings, who have already clinched dead last, picking either No. 1 or No. 2 overall.

The third area, which will be tricky, is dealing with conditional draft picks. The league said it would propose solutions and the teams involved would have a week to come up with an acceptable alternative for both sides or take the NHL’s idea. For example, the Sharks acquired a 2021 third-round pick as part of the Brenden Dillon trade. If the Capitals win the Stanley Cup this season that third-rounder will move to this year’s draft. It would be up to Doug Wilson and Brian MacLellan to work out a suitable resolution.

It’s still unknown how the NHL will determine the playoff format for this unique season. Will it be the traditional eight from each conference or an expanded field? Imagine if a team wins the draft lottery and months later lifts the Cup?

What about trades? One of the highlights of draft weekend is Commissioner Bettman stepping to the podium and alerting the crowd, “We have a trade to announce!” after the chorus of boos.

Here’s what the league is thinking, via ESPN.com:

The memo also addresses a critical concern for teams: their ability to make trades during the draft. Typically, teams use the draft to begin “resetting” their rosters ahead of free agency and other offseason activities. That includes making trades that help alleviate salary-cap problems. By holding the draft before the season is completed, teams would be unable to trade players from their rosters due to trade-deadline and playoff-eligibility restrictions.

According to Daly, the NHL did an analysis of the past five seasons that indicated roughly one-half of the trades made at those drafts “would still have been permissible in the context of an ‘early Draft.'” The memo states that there were 106 draft-day trades conducted, and 64 of those deals still would have been able to happen had the draft been held before the completion of those seasons.

We’re coming up on two months without hockey and the league sees this as a marketing and financial opportunity.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for fan engagement. Fans have been missing NHL hockey for a month and a half. It’ll be three months when we get to June,” Daly said.

GM reaction

As for feedback? Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman said during a Fox Sports Detroit Facebook Live chat he’s no fan:

“My thought is why would you do that? Why would you need to do that?,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are affected. Obviously, the draft position hasn’t been established. We don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs in some cases. So there’s a lot of questions and ultimately, if [the draft] needs to be done prior to, we’ll figure it out but at this time my own opinion is I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season, if we do conclude the season.”

Clarity is coming, but we still sit, wait and wonder when we’ll see the puck drop again.

MORE: Issues to resolve by keeping NHL draft in June

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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.