After recently announcing that they would be without forward Thomas Vanek for longer than expected, the Detroit Red Wings face a challenging situation. Vanek’s condition has been downgraded to “week-to-week,” which likely means that nobody realistically knows when he will be able to return. He’s missed the last three games, and instead of merely leaving an empty spot on the roster, there may be a better idea out there.
If Vanek’s ability to play in the near future is in serious doubt, the team should consider placing him on long-term injured reserve. According to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, placing a player on the LTIR list requires him to miss at least 10 games and 24 days. By placing a player on LTIR, the team is then able to receive some relief against the salary cap. Detroit would need that relief against the cap if they wanted to make any kind of roster move regarding a temporary stop-gap for Vanek.
By placing Vanek on LTIR, the team would then have the ability to call up a familiar name in Anthony Mantha, who currently leads the Grand Rapids Griffins with seven goals in seven games. Mantha, a big bodied forward, was a long shot to make the team out of camp after the signing of Vanek. He scored two goals in the 10 games that he played with Detroit last season, and of the seven goals he has scored for the Griffins this season, four have come on the power play. Sound familiar? It should, as Vanek is in a similar position with Detroit. He is currently tied with Darren Helm for the team lead in goals (four), and has contributed a total of four power play points to this point.
If Vanek was to be placed on LTIR, the team would admit that he would not be playing in the next 10 games. But, if they aren’t sure that he will be able to or not, wouldn’t you rather see that space used by a player so similar in nature?