In the days leading up to the NHL Expansion Draft, many teams around the league will attempt to work out deals with Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee prior to finalizing their protection lists.
The Detroit Red Wings are not going to be one of those teams, according to a candid Ken Holland.
“I’m not prepared to pay any future assets to protect players on our team,” the Red Wings GM told Boomer and Pinder on Sportsnet 960 Wednesday. “We’re submitting seven [forwards], three [defencemen] and one [goalie] and when we submit that list then [McPhee has] obviously the decision to make which player he’s going to take off our roster.”
Holland explained that it’s possible he pulls off a trade with one of the other 29 teams between now and Saturday at 3 p.m. ET when a league-wide waiver/trade freeze goes into effect until June 22 at 8 a.m. ET—the only exception to this freeze is teams are allowed to make deals with Vegas during the window.
“I’ve talked to pretty well all of the managers over the last couple of weeks. I got a good sense of what’s out there,” Holland said. “There’s lots of talk. Certainly George McPhee is running this time of the year right now. I think teams are making decisions whether they’re going to do deals with George to try to protect their assets or they’re trying to do deals with other teams, so it’s certainly an interesting time.”
Holland already knows which of his players will be exposed.
“We’re going to go 7-3-1. If nothing happens on the trade front from now until Saturday we’re ready to go,” he explained. “We know what we’re going to do from a protection standpoint. We’ll let Las Vegas pick a player off our team and we’ll reassess where we’re at after they pick that player.”
The most difficult expansion decision surrounding the Red Wings was what to do with their goalies.
One or both of Detroit’s netminders, Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek, will be exposed and Holland also has Grand Rapids Griffins goalie Jared Coreau to consider.
“It’s a tough decision because Jimmy’s 33 and Mrazek’s 25 so obviously there’s a big difference,” Holland said. “That’s part of the reason I’m working the phones talking to teams out there that might have interest in goalies to see what we might do, or do we just stay as is?”
The Red Wings are in a state of transition after failing to qualify for the post-season for the first time since 1990.
“We’re trying to go younger and we’re trying to sort of rebuild our team,” Holland said. “In the summertime over the next two to three weeks we’re looking to try to make our team a little bit better, not spending any future assets, but to try to get back in the mix to compete for a playoff spot.”
Holland traded away Thomas Vanek, Brendan Smith, Tomas Jurco and Steve Ott this past season as he stockpiled picks he can use over the next two drafts.
Despite missing the disappointing 2016-17 campaign, there is still optimism surrounding the long-term future of the organization. The Red Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich., won the Calder Cup Tuesday and Holland praised the performances of Evgeny Svechnikov, Tomas Nosek and Dominic Turgeon among others.
Tyler Bertuzzi, a second-round pick of the Red Wings in 2013 and the nephew of Todd Bertuzzi, won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP.
“He’s probably a player hoping he’s going to make our roster in training camp but certainly he’s going to be a Red Wing,” Holland said of the 23-year-old.
Another Red Wings prospect Holland singled out was Joe Hicketts, an undrafted blueliner that made an impression on Team Canada at the most recent world junior hockey championship.
“He’s undersized but he has a lot of will and determination so you can never rule out people that have a lot of passion and will and determination,” Holland added.
Of all the AHL players mentioned above, Nosek is the only one they will risk losing to Vegas.