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Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill confirms Fabian Brunnstrom try-out

This morning, Aftonbladet’s Tomas Ros reported that the Wings have signed Fabian Brunnstrom to a try-out (and again, thanks to Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy for the tip) as the 26-year-old forward attempts to regain his footing in the NHL, and Wings assistant GM Jim Nill has confirmed the news to the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema...

“Things just haven’t gone the way he wanted to. He actually approached us and said he’d like another opportunity,” Nill said. “He knows now what it takes to be a pro after it probably caught him a little off guard being a younger guy from Sweden. I think he just said, ‘You know what, if I’m going to have a chance to be a pro maybe I can do it in Detroit.’ We said, ‘You’re welcome to come and try out,’ and he accepted.”

The 26-year-old became just the third player in NHL history to notch a hat trick in his debut on Oct. 15, 2008 against Nashville, and tallied 17 goals, 12 assists and a minus-8 rating in 55 games as a rookie in 2008-09. But he had just two goals and nine assists in 44 games the following season and had trouble adjusting to NHL hockey. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound left wing was traded to Toronto last season for forward Mikhail Stefanovich, but never played for the Maple Leafs. Instead, he appeared in 35 games for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, where he had four goals and 10 assists.

The Red Wings’ 23-man roster is set. There is no room for any additions without moving a player. Brunnstrom would have to beat out somebody in training camp or the preseason—Jiri Hudler would be the most likely candidate, but even that is unlikely to happen—to earn a contract, unless the team suffers a long-term injury before the season.

“It’s up to the player coming in. It’s much like Mikael Samuelsson or Dan Cleary, who came to camps on tryouts five, six, seven years ago,” Nill said. “The opportunity is there, it’s just how you play. If he comes in and plays well and is better than somebody else, then we’ll make things happen. It’s performance-based. If he’s somebody that can help us win games, then he’s going to be in the mix. But we’ll let that play itself out.”

It’s unclear if Brunnstrom could wind up with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“I really haven’t talked to him about that,” Nill said. “His focus is to come here and make the Red Wings and we’ll go from there.”

As well as the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan:

“It’s about competition, and if he comes in and plays better than someone else, we’ll find a place (for him),” said Jim Nill, the Wings’ assistant general manager. “Things probably haven’t gone as he would have liked, but this is an opportunity.”

Brunnstrom, 26, signed with the Dallas Stars after a much-hyped free-agent tour and scored three goals in his first NHL game. He wound up with 17 goals and 12 assists in his rookie season in 55 games. But Brunnstrom, who’s 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, only had two goals and nine assists in 44 games with Dallas the following season, and last season was traded to Toronto. Brunnstrom, though, never played for the Maple Leafs, spending the season with Toronto’s minor league team (four goals, 10 assists).

“The big thing is consistency, we want to see consistency out of him,” Nill said. “He understands now what it takes to be a pro at this level. He maybe didn’t understand that coming out of Sweden. He’s in the same boat that Mikael Samuelsson or Danny Cleary were, guys coming in on pro tryouts. It worked out for those guys.”

Brunnstrom likely won’t make the Wings, but could give the organization some valuable depth The Wings already have 13 forwards on one-way contracts and Cory Emmerton is out of minor league options and would have to be exposed to waivers if he were to be sent down.

Nill said there has been no discussion as to the possibility of Brunnstrom playing in Grand Rapids if he doesn’t make the Wings.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Brunnstrom agreed to head to the AHL as he’s rebuffed very serious through-the-press flirtation with and contract offers from Farjestads BK and HV71. He wants to get back to the NHL, and even if he doesn’t do so as a Red Wing, doing so with the team via establishing himself as a scoring forward again, even at the AHL level, could help him find an NHL job somewhere.

In other words, regardless of whether Brunnstrom forces the Wings’ hands and they have to either move or waive somebody to accommodate him on their roster, whether they sign him to a two-way deal and he’s eventually plucked off waivers or whether he simply signs a few pro try-outs with the Grand Rapids Griffins and earns the opportunity to reestablish his status as a top talent, there’s virtually no risk for the Wings and nothing but reward for both the team and Brunnstrom. Smart smart move.

Update #1A: Sorry for the delay in posting this…it was Monday chore time with the mom, who needed adult child supervision…

And update #1B: Yes, as Greg Wyshynski suggests, Chris Chelios, who was in attendance at Dennis Rodman’s induction into the pro basketball hall of fame, is indeed just that tan, as Yahoo Sports’ Michael Silver noted.

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Your mom needs you, don’t sweat it. Should the Wings hope that he’s “just good enough” to send to the AHL and yet clear waivers then? It sounds like the other 3 scenarios (he makes the team and have to bump someone off the roster, he doesn’t make the team and refuses the AHL, he’s not consistent enough to even assign to Grand Rapids) aren’t as realistic. If he ever gets good enough to make the team, then who do you trade? I’m not sure, but it sounds like a lot of forum posters are thinking of someone with the initials JH. My guess, he goes to Grand Rapids, gets called up in December/January due to injury, impresses (I hope being around these Swedes will help), then the decision is made to keep him up in Detroit.

Posted by Bugsy on 08/16/11 at 12:44 AM ET

Primis's avatar

Good move by the Wings.  I’m not at all taken by Brunnstrom, but they have absolutely nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain if he gets his head screwed on straight.

Wings have had decent luck with bringing guys in for tryouts after all.

How odd that the Brunnstrom Sweepstakes a couple years ago resulted in the Wings getting Leino, and now getting their shot with Brunnstrom anyways.

Posted by Primis on 08/16/11 at 01:05 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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