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, Raymond Harrison, Jake Rivard, and Tony Wolak are the muckers who makeup THW’s forechecking unit and sound off on Red Wings topics.
General manager Steve Yzerman spared no expense at the 2019 Entry Draft, shocking spectators withthe selection of German defenseman Moritz Seider at sixth overall. A few weeks later, he made a splash in the free agency pool, signing forward Valtteri FIlppula, defenseman Patrik Nemeth, and goalie Calvin Pickard.
He made his first-ever trade as general manager last week, sending a fourth-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Adam Erne. While each of these signings have brought a new face to the Red Wings roster, who stands out among them? Who will be the biggest boon for a team in the midst of a rebuild?
In this week’s edition of The Grind Line, The Hockey Writers’ Red Wings team will make their selection for their most valuable new addition to the roster. Will it be a familiar face looking to cement their role as a veteran presence, or a former rival ready to make a name for themselves?
Jake Rivard: Adam Erne
Yzerman’s first-ever trade should come as no surprise to Red Wings fans. Erne was one of Yzerman’s former second-round picks while he was general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year, he had somewhat of a breakout season, scoring seven goals and 20 points in just 65 games. With a new roster and a new opportunity to grow, Erne seems poised to earn more time on the ice and more chances to remind us why he was drafted so high.
Erne, at just 24 years old, has plenty of gas left in the tank. He’s a gritty, energetic forward that brings a level of excitement to his game that’s reminiscent of Tyler Bertuzzi. He’s hard-hitting, hard-playing, and unafraid to stand in the face of danger.
The potential for this trade to go down as a one-sided deal is practically stacked in the Red Wings’ favor. With Erne, the Red Wings have a low-risk, high-reward chance for a younger player to blossom into a highly capable bottom-six forward.
Devin L: Valtteri Filppula
Here’s the deal: this isn’t the same Filppula that Red Wing fans grew to love from 2006 to 2013. He’s far from a second line center, now a better fit in the bottom six. Forty points is the optimistic expectation, though 30 is more realistic.
However, the addition of Filppula provides competition down the middle. A pass-first player like Filppula is an optimal center for Andreas Athanasiou, granted head coach Jeff Blashill believes he’s best suited on the wing. It also increases the chance that #2 prospect Joe Veleno begins his season in Grand Rapids, easing his transition to the pro game.
A one-year deal would have been preferable, but a two-year deal doesn’t constrict Detroit in any meaningful way. He could be used as trade bait in the future as a useful asset for the rebuilding Red Wings. Otherwise, the fact that Filppula signed to “come home” shows that he wants to be here. It’s good to have those guys, especially as the team’s young players immerse themselves in Detroit’s storied history.
Thomas Fournier: Calvin Pickard
I’ve been a fan of Calvin Pickard since he joined the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche. When he was taken as the first player by the Golden Knights, Pickard was expected to serve as backup behind the legendary Marc-André Fleury. Unfortunately, on Oct. 3 of the 2017-18 season, his fate was sealed. The Golden Knights picked up Malcolm Subban off waivers, and lost Pickard shortly after to the same waiver system that lost him his position as backup.
Pickard will be the starting netminder of the Grand Rapids Griffins, adding depth to Detroit’s goaltending system as a serviceable backstop to a stacked Griffins roster. Barring any injuries or trades, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pickard spend the majority of the season in Grand Rapids. As of now, the Red Wings’ tandem of Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier seems to be a lock.
If Howard or Bernier suffer any injuries, Pickard will be the first call-up to serve as the backup until further notice. This may also occur if Yzerman finds a way to trade Howard – a possibility that shouldn’t be ruled out. Pickard could also be a difference-maker in the development of the Red Wings’ goaltending talent as well. He could be a mentor to Filip Larsson, the Red Wings’ number one goaltending prospect and backup in Grand Rapids. Overall, Pickard will have an influence on the team in a subtle, yet highly efficient manner.