The start of the NHL season is a week away. The Detroit Red Wings have slowly been trimming their roster over the past few days and are currently down to a 30-man roster. Seven more players still have to go, along with $2.7 million in salaries to be in compliance with 2013-14 season salary cap.
This problem has been known for a while now, but it looks like the Red Wings may have found a solution to their problem. Perhaps not the best solution, more like delaying the inevitable.
Injuries to Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Jordin Tootoo, and Jonas Gustavsson give Detroit the option to place all of them on the injured reserved to start the season. By doing so, the cap issue is fixed and the Wings would only need to send three move players back to their AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids.
So by my calculations the Wings’ roster would look something like this:
Justin Abdelkader – Pavel Datsyuk – Henrik Zetterberg
Johan Franzen – Stephen Weiss – Daniel Alfredsson
Gustav Nyquist – Joakim Andersson – Tomas Tatar
Todd Bertuzzi – Cory Emmerton – Daniel Cleary
Bench – Drew Miller, Mikael Samuelsson
Injured Reserve – Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Jordin Tootoo
Grand Rapids - Willie Coetzee, Teemu Pulkkinen
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Kyle Quincey – Jakub Kindl
Brendan Smith – Danny DeKeyser
Bench - Brian Lashoff
Grand Rapids - Adam Almqvist
Bench - Petr Mrazek
Injured Reserved - Jonas Gustavsson
The positive highlights for this roster include no more AHL drama for Gustav Nyquist as he would certainly stay up with the Wings and get to play on the youth line with Andersson and Tatar. Cory Emmerton gets playing time with veterans, whether that’s Bertuzzi, Cleary, Miller, or Samuelsson, until Darren Helm is completely ready to make his long-awaited return. Lastly, young and upcoming goaltender Petr Mrazek will get his chance to learn and watch Jimmy Howard as his backup until Gustavsson returns from his groin injury.
However, this can only be a temporary solution. Helm is a heavy question mark for when he will be ready to play. Nyquist can only play two more games at the NHL level before he loses his waiver-exempt status. Tootoo’s shoulder injury, at the moment, seems rather minor and he could be ready come October 2nd. The only safe bet is the fact that Gustavsson will be out a few weeks, and as soon as he is healthy he will take back his spot on the roster from Mrazek.
These four key injuries could help sort out the Red Wings’ roster issue for now. But once everyone is healthy again, this problem will only become worse. Nyquist will have to clear waivers to be sent down, which wouldn’t happen so his spot would be sealed up. Emmerton will probably be shuffled to the bench when Helm is ready. Eaves and Tootoo won’t have any room on the roster by the time they are healthy. It’s going to be the same issue in depth they have now, except Nyquist takes away an extra spot on the roster they could still use if they decided to send him down to Grand Rapids to start the season.
So, is it really in the Red Wings best interest to play this injury game?
Short term: yes. Long term: no.