At noon today, Jordin Tootoo’s career as a Red Wing came to an end, at least for now. The league’s only Inuit player cleared waivers today, per Darren Dreger of TSN, with no team willing to take on his $1.9 million cap hit for this year and next. It’s no secret that Ken Holland had been shopping Tootoo for quite some time. Now with no one willing to take him, even if they had to give up nothing but cap space to get him, his future is up in the air.
For a guy who’s primary skill set relates to fighting, Tootoo played in a lot of games for the Wings. Over two seasons with the Wings, last year’s shortened significantly by the lockout, he played 50 games and racked up 8 points and 83 penalty minutes. The fans have loved him since he first arrived and many are sad to see him leave.
His coaches can’t say enough good things about him (although if you were hoping someone would claim him you certainly wouldn’t want to tarnish his name before they did so). Mike Babcock said that Tootoo has “done nothing wrong” and that the team simply has too many right wingers right now. Between his comments on Tootoo and some comments last month that he didn’t know why Tatar wasn’t in the line up, you can sort of get the feeling that Babcock isn’t entirely too happy with how the team is being built right now.
As of right now the Wings are the highest-spending team in the league, so this move brings some much needed cap relief. Even though they’d be in much better shape if someone claimed Tootoo, the Wings stand to make $925,000 in cap space by assigning Tootoo to the Wing’s minor league affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. However, Ken Holland said that he won’t be assigned to Grand Rapids immediately after clearing waivers. They are likely to sit down with Tootoo and talk about his future a bit before making a move, which won’t be 100% necessary until Ericsson returns to the line up, November 15th at the earliest.
Some pointed out that this could be the opportunity to call up Gustav Nyquist, but Ken Holland was quick to point out that there’s “No chance” of that happening. According to George Malik, such a move would likely require clearing out another forward, likely to be either Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves.
Such roster moves were bound to happen this year. A number of factors made them inevitable, including signing Dan Cleary to a team with too many forwards already, as well as a shrinking salary cap coming into this season making trade partners significantly limited. This likely isn’t the last move by the Red Wings in attempt to get some breathing room under the cap, as they only reason they’re cap compliant now is the Long Term Injured Reserve status to Ericsson, in addition to the injury to Brendan Smith.