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, Jake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
It’s August, which means we’re exactly halfway between the chaos of the draft and free agency and the start of training camp. In other words, not much is going on right now.
But that doesn’t mean that the Red Wings will start the 2019-20 season with their current roster intact. There’s still plenty of time for Steve Yzerman to shuffle players around to produce the ideal roster for the coming season.
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings coverage team shares their take on what’s to come from a roster management standpoint. Before the 2019-20 regular season kicks off, will the Red Wings sign, trade, or waive anyone? Or will Yzerman keep the status quo?
Tony Wolak: Status Quo
Much to the chagrin of many Red Wings fans, I believe Yzerman will keep the roster as is heading into the new season. There may be a bit of shuffling between Detroit and Grand Rapids, but all of the players with NHL contracts will be a part of the Red Wings roster.
This means Jonathan Ericsson, Trevor Daley, Justin Abdelkader, and a handful of other veterans as part of the 23-man roster that will take on the Nashville Predators on Oct. 5, barring injuries, of course. In fact, I’d wager that there will be at least two injuries stemming from training camp or preseason action that will cause regulars to miss time. Remember when Detroit’s blue line was ravaged by various ailments last season?
The lack of activity will not be a result of complacency. Early on, Yzerman stated that he wants to move slowly and give himself time to evaluate Detroit’s prospect pipeline and where the organization is in the rebuild.
This will likely continue into the regular season – it takes time to get a feel for 60-plus players competing across the globe. But once the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline starts to approach, watch out for calculated moves from Yzerman with the goal of progressing the rebuild.
But as for this summer, there’s no need to shake things up yet. Let Yzerman get situated and allow the team to play some meaningful games before firing up the hot stove.
Rachel Anderson: Status Quo
Yzerman is a calculated man and, in his first season as general manager of the Red Wings, he’s not likely to make many more moves before the season kicks off.
Between the draft, free agency, and existing prospect re-signings, he’s managed the pieces the team has available to lay the groundwork for observation during the 2019-20 campaign. He’s a patient man and I don’t believe he’ll make any impetuous decisions prior to training camp kicking off in September. If Yzerman does make anymore moves, it’ll be a result of the annual NHL Prospect Tournament, signing undrafted free agents who make an impression.
Since his reintroduction to the team earlier this year, he has been stressing the importance of trusting the process. Re-signing Dominic Turgeon, Joe Hicketts, and Dominik Shine—all with Griffins right now—tells me he wants a bit more time before moving them elsewhere or finding their replacements. Yzerman sees something in the current talent pool and I believe he will focus on drawing that out.
Granted, there are a few contracts many would like to be well rid of, but trusting the process is going to be the team’s motto for the foreseeable future. Even with the great captain in charge, he’s not going to be blowing a bunch of money, making sudden trades, or firing coaches any time soon.
Jake Rivard: Potential Buyout?
Unpredictability has been a theme of Yzerman’s front office career. While serving as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he bought out the contract of fan-favorite Vincent Lecavalier and traded Lightning icon Martin St. Louis without a second thought. If Yzerman continues his scorched-earth policy in Detroit, expect to see a buyout of an older player like Jonathan Ericsson.
Buying out Ericsson would free up the defensive logjam a bit, giving someone like Dennis Cholowski or Madison Bowey a chance to earn a full-time roster spot. Additionally, Niklas Kronwall’s potential return may add even more chaos to the defensive pairings, leaving very little wiggle room within the roster.
According to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator, buying out Ericsson’s contract would only cost the team $1.4 million a year for two years – a small price to pay to let someone like Cholowski shine. Despite this, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Yzerman sticking to his guns if nothing noteworthy happens before the end of the buyout period.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.