Breaking Down Red Wings’ Acquisitions

Boy, that escalated quickly. Before long, the Red Wings made a splash on the first day of free agency by signing Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, Darren Helm, Alexey Marchenko, and a few minor league free agents.

Now, the Red Wings have a logjam of forwards on the roster and further moves are expected. But until then, what can the Red Wings and fans expect from the new players on the roster? Read on about what these players will bring to the table.

Frans Nielsen

With free agency in full swing, the Red Wings made their splash by signing former New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen to a six-year deal with a $5.25 million AAV. In Nielsen, the Red Wings get a two-way center with strong offensive upside and the ability to play both power play and penalty kill minutes.

In Brooklyn, Nielsen played second fiddle to John Tavares down the middle. In Detroit, he’ll play a similar role, but get more impact minutes with Henrik Zetterberg aging and Dylan Larkin not quite ready for full-time responsibility as a center yet. And compared to other “top” free agents, his $5.25 million AAV is very reasonable. The term of the deal might be a little long, but he could always be dealt in the later years if the Red Wings cannot afford his cap hit compared to his production.

Over the past three seasons, Nielsen has averaged 51 points and only missed seven games in that span. And in last year’s playoffs, the Dane had six points in 11 games. This numbers are solid, yet unimpressive at first glance. What should be noted is that Nielsen only plays on the same line as Tavares on the power play. All other even strength points are scored without relying entirely on others. Nielsen has been the anchor of his own line.

Finally, Nielsen has been deadly during the shootout (42 goals in 82 career attempts), which bodes well for the Red Wings considering their shootout woes.

Thomas Vanek

In Ken Holland’s second major move of the day, he signed recently bought out Thomas Vanek to a one-year contract worth $2.6 million. Vanek joins the logjam of top-nine forwards on the Red Wings roster, but also brings a rare feature: he shoots right-handed. The only other forwards to shoot right-handed on the roster are Luke Glendening and Teemu Pulkkinen.

Don’t let Vanek’s buyout concern you, though. The Austrian winger scored 41 points for a putrid Minnesota Wild offense last season in 74 games. And 12 of those points came in 21 games coached by current Red Wings associate coach John Torchetti. Vanek was bought out because the Wild were in a cap crunch and his $6.5 million cap hit was first on the chopping block.

When Vanek starts in Detroit, expect him to play third line minutes and contribute to the power play as well. His right-handed shot will give the power play a different look next year.

Steve Ott

Well, Ken Holland said he’d add size to the lineup, right? Neither Nielsen nor Vanek are known for their physical presence, so the Red Wings also signed veteran forward Steve Ott on July 1st.

While many will debate which roster management style works best—playing the top twelve skilled forwards or deploying lesser skilled role players—the Red Wings will have another forward to play the penalty kill and fourth line minutes in Ott. His contract can also be buried in Grand Rapids if he does not make the team out of camp. If Ott does make the team, fans can expect a heart-and-soul player that will give his all in a grinding role every game.

Re-Signed Red Wings

The signings started before noon for the Red Wings when they re-signed speedy forward Darren Helm to a five-year contract. Helm will come back to Detroit with a $3.85 million AAV and likely play third line minutes for the Red Wings. It’s entirely possible Helm could have earned more on the open market, considering Pittsburgh rode team speed to the Stanley Cup. But having Helm in the lineup will make the Red Wings that much better in the speed and grinding dimensions of the game.

Also re-signing with the Red Wings was restricted free agent defenseman Alexey Marchenko. The Russian two-way defenseman signed for two years and will come with a $1.45 million AAV. Detroit is expecting Marchenko to take a leap next season along with Brendan Smith and Danny DeKeyser and become a staple on the blue line.

Minor League Signings

Not to be forgotten, the Red Wings also signed three free agents to compete for a roster spot in camp, but ultimately play for Grand Rapids next season. Matt Lorito, an undersized forward from the Devils organization comes to the Red Wings after scoring 54 points in 71 games with the Albany Devils. Detroit also signed Ben Street, a former University of Wisconsin teammate of Brendan Smith. After going undrafted, Street has excelled in the AHL for a number of teams. In 293 AHL games, Street has 237 points and has two assists in 29 NHL games with the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche. These two players will likely fill the roster left by the departed Jeff Hoggan and Joakim Andersson for the Griffins.

Finally, the Red Wings signed goaltender Edward Pasquale for organization depth. This likely spelled the end for Tom McCollum in Detroit. The former first round pick is an unrestricted free agent, and with Pasquale and Jake Paterson competing for playing time behind Jared Coreau, McCollum will likely be with a new organization next year.

What are your thoughts on the Red Wings’ acquisitions? Share your opinion and comment below.