Waivers Could Again be Problematic for Red Wings

As it presently stands, the Detroit Red Wings have 31 players on their preseason roster who would require waivers if they were to be sent down. That number doesn’t include possible fourth-liner Tyler Bertuzzi, who does not need waivers to be sent to Grand Rapids, still unsigned Andreas Athanasiou, or P.A. Parenteau.

In order to reach the 23-player roster limit for opening night and be salary cap compliant, the Red Wings will need to make some moves. Among which is the possibility of quality players being exposed on waivers. And for the second year in a row, Detroit could be losing talented prospects for nothing because of their roster construction.

Last Season’s Losses Via Waivers

This time last year, Detroit was in a similar predicament. They ended up exposing Teemu Pulkkinen and Martin Frk on waivers. Both were claimed – Pulkkinen by Minnesota and Frk by Carolina. Meanwhile, grinding-type players Drew Miller and Steve Ott were given roster spots.

Martin Frk of the Detroit Red Wings.
Martin Frk (Ross Bonander/THW)

The Red Wings were lucky to reacquire Frk after Carolina placed him back on waivers following a ten-game stint. Back in Michigan, the winger helped the Griffins capture the Calder Cup and is now competing to make the Red Wings or face waivers once again.

Present-Day Issues

Red Wings defenseman Ryan Sproul
Ryan Sproul (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Frk isn’t the only bubble player at risk of being lost on waivers this season. In addition to heavy-shooting Czech forward, Jared Coreau, Ryan Sproul, and Matt Lorito all need to clear waivers before they can be assigned to Grand Rapids. The four face an uphill battle to make the Red Wings even if another player is moved to create cap space.

It’s possible Sproul starts the year on injured reserve in an attempt to avoid the inevitable. He failed his physical in training camp six months after suffering a serious knee injury. When he’s healthy, Sproul will likely have seven defensemen ahead of him on the depth chart and several players in Grand Rapids pushing for NHL ice time.

Coreau and Lorito are in the same boat, but don’t have injuries to delay a move. Both are blocked by a number of full-time NHL players at their respective positions. Like Frk, Lorito also has Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov ahead of him on the offensive depth chart – players who can move back-and-forth freely between Detroit and Grand Rapids.

Impact on Red Wings & NHL

While it’s a shame that the Red Wings stand to be in a position where they could lose a quality player or two, other NHL teams are also facing a similar circumstance. For example, both Dallas and Vegas have a glut of defensemen who can’t all make their NHL roster. Though Detroit could lose someone, they could also scoop another player who was exposed.

The issue with the Red Wings is that a few likely candidates to make the team over these bubble players shouldn’t have NHL spots in a perfect world. Contracts previously handed out by the Red Wings stand in the way of that best-case scenario roster. The reality is that dead money against the salary cap is factored into roster decisions—along with overall talent—because of how close Detroit is to the upper limit. You can’t just trade bad contracts anymore. As a result, good players are exposed to waivers.