What’s The Grind Line? Apart from the once-famous line of Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and either Joe Kocur or Darren McCarty, The Grind Line is also The Hockey Writers’ weekly column about the Detroit Red Wings. Rachel Anderson and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics
The offseason is never lacking in roster moves throughout the NHL. The Red Wings have already made a handful, including re-signing defenseman Dylan McIlrath, signing promising prospect Joe Veleno and adding coveted Finnish defenseman Oliwer Kaski.
Under general manager Steve Yzerman’s lead, the new Detroit era has already started to come into clearer view. With the summer just beginning, the Red Wings have time on their side for the inevitable additional transactions.
In light of the recent moves, The Grind Line decided to take a shot at what we would do in the offseason. We discuss who we would pull up from the Grand Rapids Griffins, who we would trade and what current roster spot is dead weight.
Rachel Anderson – Filip Hronek
Filip Hronek earned a few looks this season. He had an incredible rookie campaign with Grand Rapids, and continued the trend during his 2018-19 season. Detroit needs a faster team – it’s what Yzerman is aiming for – and that’s one of Hronek’s many talents.
He’s an offensive-minded defenseman with very fast instincts and playmaking ability. He proved his worth while with Detroit this past season, earning 23 points in 46 games. He is capable of taking on enormous amounts of ice time and fits well with the pace of the game. Among the many talented skaters lurking in the shadows at the AHL level, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hronek was one of many to get the call up full-time in the 2019-20 season as the younger, faster era begins in Detroit.
Tony Wolak – Joe Hicketts
There are plenty of options here, but Joe Hicketts needs to start the 2019-20 season with the Red Wings. When comparing Hicketts’ two cameos with the Red Wings—the team’s first eight games and last three—the blueliner looked like two different players. In the latter contests, Hicketts played with much more poise and was trusted to play 20-plus minutes each game.
Heading into next season, the feisty defenseman cannot be sent down again without passing through waivers first. Hicketts may not be more than a third-pairing defenseman, but he presents a better option to man the blue line than some of Detroit’s regulars.
Rachel Anderson – Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard has shown a slow regression, due in large part to the injuries and tandem-style goaltending popular among NHL teams these days. Ending 2018-19 with a 3.07 goals-against average, it was the cherry on top of the playoff-less Red Wings. Howard hasn’t quite run his talent pool dry, however, and could render a good return if unloaded to another team. He’s obviously got seasons worth of expertise, but if the Red Wings can relieve some cap space or pick up another draft pick in return, they’d be better off for it.
Tony Wolak – Trevor Daley
“Trade bait” may not be the best phrase to describe Trevor Daley, but the defenseman needs to be moved. The Red Wings have too many third-pairing defensemen on the roster. He comes with a strong pedigree, proven playoff experience and slick skating that could be useful for a team likely to contend next season. Plus, his $3.17 million cap hit is palatable, especially if the Red Wings retain part of it.
Rachel Anderson – Jonathan Ericsson
Detroit has a lot of defensive potential at the AHL level and expensive and non-productive contracts are log jamming a world of potential. Ericsson’s no-trade clause limits the Red Wings to 19 of 31 possible teams, but with a $4.25 million cap hit, it’d be worth trying to get rid of. He’s cumbersome and doesn’t produce as much as the present day game demands – five points total in 2018-19. With a higher demand for an offensive defenseman, Ericsson is at the back of the pack when it comes to meeting that need.
Tony Wolak – Justin Abdelkader
It’s no secret that Justin Abdelkader did not pull his weight during the 2018-19 season. Six goals and 19 points is just not enough for a middle-six forward making $4.25 million through the 2022-23 campaign. Abdelkader needs to find his wheels, scoring touch and physicality before he enters Milan Lucic territory.
I am a Detroit Red Wings prospect journalist for Access Hockey MI covering the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye prospect development. Draft analyst for USHL hockey with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.