As the focus across the NHL begins to shift from free agency and the draft, teams now have a pretty solid understanding of what their rosters will look like to begin training camp. For the Detroit Red Wings, the reality is that they have a potential over-abundance of bodies in their forward corps.
According to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, all NHL teams must be in compliance with the league’s roster restrictions before the regular season begins. That rule also states the teams cannot have more than 23 players on their active rosters, while only 20 can dress for a game (18 skaters and two goaltenders). With the likelihood of forwards Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale spending the entire season on long-term injured reserve, this is the current stable of forwards on the Red Wings roster:
Henrik Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Tomas Tatar, Thomas Vanek, Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller, Dylan Larkin, Tomas Jurco, Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen, Steve Ott, Luke Glendening, Martin Frk and Andreas Athanasiou.
Even if the team would choose to keep three extra forwards on the active roster (with a rotating healthy scratch system), they’d still have an excess of two. That scenario also seems unlikely, as they would likely choose to keep (at least) one extra defenseman around in case of any last-minute injuries.
So, what do the Red Wings do with this log jam at forward? It seems that we can safely pencil in a few names such as Zetterberg, Nielsen, Nyquist, Tatar, Abdelkader, Helm, Vanek, Larkin, and Sheahan to the roster. Athanasiou and Mantha will play the season on two-way contracts (could be sent to the minors without having to clear waivers), but also impacted the roster in positive ways last season. Frk, who is out of minor league options, is a promising prospect who would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the minors. Pulkkinen, who only played in 36 games last season (six goals, six assists), was recently signed to a new one year contract and is currently expected to miss at least the beginning of the season after shoulder surgery. Glendening was recently signed to a four-year extension, and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Miller, who was also recently signed to a new one year contract, was brought back to solidify the team’s penalty kill. Ott was brought in as a free agent to add toughness and grit to the lineup.
Perhaps the team is stockpiling forwards to make a big splash in the trade market? It’s no secret that Detroit is in dire need of a top-two defenseman. Jurco’s name has been floated in trade rumors (as have others) in recent months, but nothing has transpired on that front to this point.
With a surplus of names up front for the Wings, and no clear resolutions in sight, it will remain an interesting topic of discussion as the summer rolls on.