The Malik Report
by George Malik on 09/29/13 at 05:11 PM ET
Updated at 6 PM: While I was trying to get some sleep, the Red Wings got busy starting to clear roster space, placing Cory Emmerton on waivers and Darren Helm on the LTIR, demoting a gaggle of players to Grand Rapids (my gut feeling remains that Nathan Paetsch will be signed to a 2-way deal once the Wings back off the 50-man roster limit) and pondering other moves to knock the roster down from 25 to 23 players--assuming that Emmerton and his $533K salary is either picked up or heads to Grand Rapids, and assuming that adding Helm's $2.125 million cap hit to the LTIR will allow the Wings to clear $2.658 millinon off their cap figure (and Capgeek estimates that the Wings are over the $64.3 million cap by $2.387 million).
The Free Press's Helene St. James asked Ken Holland why the Wings chose to waive Emmerton, not sure whether the Wings will place Jonas Gustavsson and his $1.5 million salary on the LTIR given his groin issues, or whether the Wings will place Patrick Eaves and his $1.2 million salary on the LTIR due to his sprained MCL and sprained ankle...
One issue that could arise, though, is in goal. Jonas Gustavsson is dealing with a sore groin, and if he won’t be ready by Wednesday, when the Wings open against Buffalo, the team would have to make cap space to bring in Petr Mrazek. Gustavsson, with a salary of $1.5 million, can be placed on injured reserve, but unless it’s long term, that only creates a roster spot, not salary space. Mrazek’s cap hit is $790,000.
Emmerton could be attractive as a pickup for another team. He’s 25, serviceable as a fourth-line center and penalty killer, and makes just over $500,000. If he isn’t picked up by noon Monday, he’ll be assigned to Grand Rapids.
“We like Cory, he’s done a nice job, but someone has got to go on waivers,” general manager Ken Holland said today. “We feel with the way Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan have played, if we need, one of them can get the job done short-term.”
Joakim Andersson helped make the decision by coming in last season and doing a bang-up job centering the third line. Putting Emmerton on waivers also indicates that sending down Gustav Nyquist, who doesn’t need waivers, will be a last resort.
LTIR requires a minimum stay of 24 days or 10 games. Holland said “we believe Helm will be back in three weeks,” though that may be optimistic. Helm missed all exhibition season with a sore groin, after missing last season with a sore back that still bothers him. Helm has played just one game the last 18 months, and whenever he does return, will need need time before he’s back at full speed.
The other dominoes center on Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo, who has been bothered by a bruised shoulder is considered close. Eaves has a sprained knee, so he and his $1.2 million cap hit are likely to end up on LTIR, too.
MLive's Ansar Khan spoke with Holland and offered a roster picture as well, noting that regular IR = no roster space created. Assuming that Gustavsson and Eaves aren't "far away"...
If that's the case, the club likely would send forward Gustav Nyquist to Grand Rapids, at least temporarily. Nyquist is one of two players (defenseman Danny DeKeyser the other) who is exempt from waivers. Sending him down would clear $950,000 from the cap.
The status of right wing Jordin Tootoo (bruised shoulder) will be determined today. Holland said he is close to returning but might start the season on short-term IR.
Holland said nobody else will be waived before the start of the season. The Red Wings open Wednesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
Emmerton filled the Red Wings' fourth-line center spot the past two seasons, but he would not have had a place in the lineup once Helm returned because Joakim Andersson solidified his place in the lineup with a strong rookie season. He will center the third line until Helm returns. The Red Wings can use Riley Sheahan or Luke Glendening in the fourth-line center slot in the meantime.
“With the development of Joakim Andersson, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, we think they're guys who play in the fourth line role,'' Holland said. “In order to get cap compliant this is one move we had to make.''
I'm going to be impolite here: Emmerton may be 25 and he may have solid-enough faceoff stats, but the honest-to-Gordie truth in my opinion is that Emmerton's preseason performance cost him his job. The fact that he's a natural center is swell and all, and the fact that he kills penalties makes him useful, but the 6,' 191-pound center didn't show up to training camp having added enough upper-body strength to not get overpowered in corners.
When you're "not big," you've got to prove that you can deal with the bump and grind, and with Glendening and Sheahan looking to steal Emmerton's job, Emmerton's faceoff percentage was middling at best and his effort didn't illustrate any more desire to push, shove or move the puck up ice with urgency.
Glendening is slightly smaller, but he's a speedy skater who plays with a boulder instead of a chip on his shoulder, and while Sheahan's preseason performance wasn't overwhelming, I've never seen a player show more heart, grit or ability to play far above his "performance envelope" by displaying first-line center's playmaking skills, remarkable defensive aplomb and leadership galore at the prospect tournament.
Long story long, winning faceoffs and playing "solidly" on a nightly basis doesn't make you irreplaceable.
They Red Wings hope Emmerton clears because it will give them more depth in Grand Rapids.
“In the short term we'll be a little challenged until Helm gets back,'' Holland said.
While DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose didn't share any quotes from Holland in his article confirming the moves, his status as the "official word" offers an intriguing take on the situation...
The 25-year-old Emmerton is a good depth forward with instructive two-way skills, however, the Wings have an abundance of forwards with similar acumen stockpiled in their minor-league system. Emmerton, who has 12 goals and seven assists in two full seasons with the Wings, is no different than Grand Rapids prospects Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, making him somewhat expendable under the new collective bargaining agreement, which trimmed team salaries by nearly $6 million. Sunday’s move clears a roster spot and deducts $533,000 from the Wings’ cap.
The Red Wings’ roster currently stands at 25 players, including 16 forwards, and they’re approximately $1.9 million over the cap. Center Darren Helm, who has played one game in the last 18 months, will be placed on long-term injured reserve on Monday. The moves clear two roster spots and removes $2.65 million in cap space.
If Emmerton clears waivers, the Red Wings can reassign him to their AHL Affiliate in Grand Rapids.
With Emmerton waived and Helm on LTIR it may be the move the Wings need to make before Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, if forward Patrick Eaves (MCL, ankle sprain) and backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin) begins the season on LTIR.
If Eaves and Gustvasson only goes on short-term, they'll need to clear salary to recall rookie goalie Petr Mrazek. In that case, forward Gustav Nyquist could begin the season, temporarily, in Grand Rapids.
The Detroit News confirmed the moves...
Emmerton played in all 48 games last season, scoring five goals and three assists with a minus-1 rating.
And the Windsor Star's Bob Duff spoke with Holland:
[Helm's] played one game in 18 months, he’s just starting to get up and running,” Holland said. “He’s had a couple of practices, but it’s going to take a while. Tomorrow we’ll assess what other moves we have to make.”
Both forward Patrick Eaves (knee/ankle) and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) will be reassessed Monday by team doctors. If either were to be placed on LTI, it would clear enough space to get the Wings under the US 64.3-million salary-cap limit. There’s also a chance that forward Jordin Tootoo (shoulder) will be placed on the 14-day injured reserve list.
“If they go on long term we got lots of (cap) space,” Holland said. “If only Helm is on long term, we’ll be tight until Gustavsson gets back.”
If not, the club may be forced to temporarily send forward Gustav Nyquist to AHL Grand Rapids in order to fit under the cap. At this point, Nyquist is not required to clear waivers to be sent to the minor leagues, but if he were to play two more NHL games, then he would have to be placed on waivers in order to be shipped to the minors.
Nyquist's played preseason games like his life's depended on strong game-to-game performances. In the seven out of eight games I watched, when Nyquist was on the ice, he was intense, he was speedy, he made plays, was dangerous offensively, was smart defensively, and he looked strong and smart in terms of going into corners or taking hits and emerging with the puck on his stick.
Holland also indicated no other players would be placed on waivers. “Today was a move to position ourselves to be cap compliant tomorrow,” Holland said, allowing that he hopes Emmerton clears waivers.
"If he clears we know what he can do,” Holland said. “If he’s claimed he’s off the books, if he’s not claimed we have the ability to send him down.” In the short term we’ll be a little challenged (at centre) until Helm gets back.”
Eventually, the Red Wings will have to move two more bodies to get under the 23-man roster limit. It appears that Jordin Tootoo's real-world status as having 2 years and $4 million remaining on his contract despite a $1.9 million cap hit doesn't make him exempt from a salary-dump move, in no small part because, as MLive's Khan noted, the Wings' players, coach and management have repeatedly stated that the team doesn't need to have a dedicated enforcer in the lineup to compete in the scrappy Northeast Division:
“The guys in here, it doesn't bother a lot,'' Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We just like to go out and play and focus on what we do. We like when it's a little bit rough, a little physical, because when you play like that the skill comes out.''
Said Drew Miller: “There are some bigger heavyweights maybe in the East right now than there are in the West. But I don't really see a heavyweight guy fighting a non-heavyweight guy, so I don't think there's that to worry about.''
The Red Wings have some players who will fight, like Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, Jordin Tootoo and Jonathan Ericsson, but scrapping isn't this team's style. Over the past 13 seasons, the Red Wings have ranked last in the league in fighting majors 10 times and second-to-last on three occasions, according to hockeyfights.com. During that time they've won two Stanley Cup titles, reached the finals on one other occasion and are the only club to have made the playoffs every season.
“I know what we’re going to do, and that’s play like we’ve always played,'' coach Mike Babcock said. “That seems to have done pretty well for us.We believe that toughness is toughness on the puck. You have to have the puck. I like 12 forwards that can all skate and handle the puck and I like six (defensemen) that can skate and handle the puck.''
The Red Wings have had designated tough guys in recent years, like Aaron Downey and Brad May. But Holland does not like using a roster spot on a one-dimensional player.
“I think it’s more important to try to have players (on the fourth line) who can kill some penalties and maybe take some hard minutes away from our top players,'' Holland said. “If they can do that and chip in a few goals, I think we’re going to be a better team.''
Tootoo is probably gone once's he's healthy, and the same is true regarding Patrick Eaves. Regrettably, the Wings can't move Mikael Samuelsson without his permission, and demoting his $3 million salary would only clear a roster spot and a marginal amount of salary...
And, for better or worse, the coaching and management staff created this mess by re-signing Daniel Cleary to a 1-year, $1.75 million contract. Without Cleary on the roster, the Wings were a about $600,000 and 2 men over the roster limit.
Cleary hasn't impressed in the preseason, either--instead, Todd Bertuzzi's looked like someone who understands that channeling some of his former offensive aplomb while playing a little meaner, a little nastier and a little more intense on each and every shift is all that will keep him from either sitting and/or playing in Grand Rapids.
While I am loath to quote Bleacher Report, I can only say that the Wings' decision to re-up a player with degenerative knee issues and a history of chronic groin problems played out like a bizarre reality show, as Greg Eno suggests--though Eno is praising Cleary for following his heart instead of his wallet:
The Flyers offered Cleary a three-year deal worth about $7.75 million. The catch was that it wasn’t a guaranteed contract; Cleary would be brought in, officially, on a tryout basis. But there was little doubt among NHL people that Cleary would make the Flyers, who aren’t chopped liver. The Red Wings bussed their way to Traverse City for training camp. Cleary had a plane to catch—to Philadelphia.
This is where the story changes from the typical. Cleary’s eight years with the Red Wings tugged at him. Eight years of wearing the Winged Wheel on a player’s chest has often meant that it sinks into the heart. Never was this more true than with Cleary.
Push came to shove and Cleary couldn't get on the plane bound for Philadelphia. So he didn't. Instead, Dan Cleary drove, on his own dime, to Traverse City—with little more than hope and an impromptu sales pitch. He wanted to be a Red Wing again.
This is not how it usually works. The free agent isn’t supposed to court the team. But Cleary couldn't go to Philadelphia, which is another team that could win the Stanley Cup this season. He was a Red Wing, period.
Now, all he had to do was get Holland and the Red Wings to offer him a contract.
The Red Wings wanted Cleary, and Cleary wanted the Red Wings. But wanting something and getting it isn’t always possible when you’re working with a tight budget and a full roster. Cleary and the Red Wings talked it over in the rink at Traverse City, while the signed players were skating, no doubt aware that Cleary was in the building, meeting behind the scenes.
So the Red Wings decided that loyalty trumps cap and roster sense, and Tomas Tatar, who will not be traded, turned several shades of gray when he heard that the team brought Cleary back.
We know that the Wings will suffer injuries over the course of the regular season, like every team does, and as such, carrying 14 NHL-ready forwards tends to make sense...But keeping the 35-year-old Cleary hurts the Glendenings and Sheahans, the Jurcos, the Jarnkroks, the Pulkkinens and especially the Tatars and Nyquists.
Samuelsson's Folly alone has yielded an immovable object who's the Wing that played most certainly like someone who has no idea how endangered his job may be...
And Samuelsson's status is perhaps the same as Tootoo and Eaves, with a, "The Wings will also have to eat part of his salary" caveat as a Wing until other teams suffer catastrophic injuries (the truth is that every team's going to suffer injuries as soon as the puck drops on Tuesday) and the team can dump players and salary to other franchises in need.
I hope the Cleary signing pays off, because its present-day status looks like another case of the super-loyal Wings being willing to screw the cap-and-roster pooches for sentimentality's sake.
I'm also loath to criticize the coaching and management staff because I tend to assume that they have their jobs for a reason, that their educated guesses trump ours for good reasons, and that there's no point in playing Armchair Coach/GM.
This afternoon, however, I'm really wondering whether re-signing Cleary was worth this mess. I like Daniel Cleary quite a bit, but this armchair GM doesn't believe that staying loyal to a 2008 Cup-winner was worth sitting a Nyquist, Tatar, Glendening, Sheahan or an Emmerton for sentimentality's sake.
Update: The Macomb Daily's Chuck Pleiness penned an article which includes a meaty interview with Holland:
“In order to get cap compliant this is one move we had to make,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Sunday after the move. “First off, let’s see if [Emmerton] clears. If he clears we know what he can do. If he’s claimed he’s off the books, if he’s not claimed we have the ability to send him down.”
If Emmerton, 25, isn’t claimed the Wings plan to send in to Grand Rapids. Holland also said that Darren Helm (back) will be placed on long-term injured reserve to begin the season, which sheds another $2.125 million off the salary cap.
“He’s played one game in 18 months, he’s just starting to get up and running,” Holland said. “He’s had a couple of practices but it’s going to take a while.”
Players placed on short-term injured reserve (minimum seven days) provide no cap relief, but it does open up a roster spot, while long-term trips (minimum 10 games and 24 days) provide cap relief. If the Wings place Gustavsson on short-term IR, they’ll need to free up more cap space because his $1.5 million salary will count against cap and Petr Mrazek’s salary of $790,000 would also count.
That scenario would more than likely get Gustav Nyquist sent to Grand Rapids to begin the season, at least temporarily. His cap his is $950,000. Nyquist and Danny DeKeyser are both exempt from having to clear waivers to go back to the minors.
“Tomorrow we’ll assess what other moves we have to make,” said Holland, who added no one else will be placed on waivers.
Rosters must be set by 5 p.m. on Monday. The Wings open the season Wednesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
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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.