Detroit Red Wings Rumors: Expect Dan Cleary and Little Else


Grab your torches and pitchforks: the Detroit Red Wings won’t be bringing anyone new aboard. I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it.  The field is weak, and despite the preview I wrote yesterday, I’ve been reading and re-reading about what the Wings are looking for. The smoking gun came courtesy of Ted Kulfan at the Detroit News: 

"The NHL draft weekend came and went with no trades by the Red Wings, and don’t expect them to be active in unrestricted free agency this week."

Holland and company are not going to commit for very long (think Stephen Weiss) or get into a bidding war over a player that wouldn’t get nearly as much money in an above average free agency group. Any player looking for a long rich deal will not wear the Winged Wheel.

Next: Red Wings Re-sign Brendan Smith

There were all sorts of rumors hovering around Detroit prior to the draft. Would they trade up? Trade down? Package a pick and a prospect to get a big scorer? Top 2 d-man? Despite the smoke screens, the Red Wings were pretty straight forward.   From Ansar Khan on May 31: (Bolds are mine).

"Holland stressed that much of the club’s improvement must come from within. They need young roster players like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Petr Mrazek to take the next step. They hope sniper Teemu Pulkkinen, who is out of options, can establish himself as an NHL player. They will see if players like Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, Andreas Athanasiou and Dylan Larkin will push for jobs in training camp.“Let’s see what young players are ready to play full-time in Detroit,” Holland said. “Part of it (improvement) has to be internal, the development of these young players. Can we make a move that makes us a little better? That’s what we’ll explore over the next month.”But, he added, “We tried to do some things in the last 2-3 years and in many cases our kids were better than the moves we made."

He’s looking at you, David Legwand.

Despite this proclamation,  trade rumors persisted. Again, the Red Wings were pretty straight forward. From Helene St. James on June 24th (quotes from Assistant GM Ryan Martin):  

"“July 1 is as bleak as it’s ever been, so the only way to change the makeup of your team other than July 1 is via trade, and therefore, I think there is a lot of chatter, names being thrown around. There are some pretty high-end names being thrown out. If we were to engage in a scenario like that and picks were changing hands as an option to move up, I don’t really see that happening.”"

Again, bolded text was my emphasis. The Red Wings all but telegraphed that they weren’t going to do a thing. Even a week earlier. Last season, the Red Wings whiffed on every single free agent attempt. Holland responded by re-signing Kyle Quincey , and well, all hell broke loose. Follow that link and it chronicles it well. Now, I was in the same company as those angry fans, perplexed the Red Wings would re-sign a defenseman who wasn’t worth the price. But what options did they have? Honestly? 

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Quincey responded with a solid season, but still a little below his rich deal. To wit, here’s a signing the majority liked.  And here we are today:

"Weiss has struggled the past two seasons after signing a five-year, $24.5 million free-agent contract on July 5, 2013. Weiss was brought in to fill the second-line center spot vacated by Valtteri Filppula’s departure to Tampa Bay but finished the 2015 playoffs as a healthy scratch."

The first link was from Winging it in Motown, who merely commented on the then-signing. The comments following were pleased with it. As time marched on, it turned out to be one ugly beast. When you find out that Mike Babcock not only pushed for Weiss and the eventual Dan Cleary hand-shake deal, well, how do you blame Kenny for being gun shy? 

“My program has been one of loyalty, and there’s good things and bad things that go with that. Way more good, in my opinion.”

Which brings us to Cleary. He’ll be back. Just deal with it. He won’t be wearing a suit and tie. No, he will get his chance to win a spot in Detroit, and after the younger, faster kids beat him out, he will most likely be sent to Grand Rapids.  If Jeff Blashill holds on to him, well, his honeymoon with the fans will end faster than a Red Wings playoff series over the past two seasons.

Like the majority of fans, I think it’s time to set sail on Cleary. It has been that way for several seasons. But look at it from Kenny’s point of view. How big of a d-bag would he be if he went back on that promise–whether or not he wanted to bring him back? I know the arguments on the other side of the coin. I’ve made them, too. But Kenny might stand to lose more than just a broken down Cleary if he bailed on that hand shake deal. After all, it is a business. (Continued after poll)

I know this isn’t what anyone wants to hear prior to free agent signing. I know that Mike Green and Cody Franson are out there. They are the right handed, top 4 d-man so many have on their armchair checklist. But they will come at a higher price, and probably at a longer duration than the Wings are comfortable with. In addition to those reasons, Holland prides himself on loyalty.

It’s time to read between the lines. This team, as many have clamored for in the past few seasons, will be about the kids. You hire the guy who coached them to a Calder Cup title, and is known to be a player’s coach. You pass on trades that overreach. You don’t overpay in the open market.

If that right person or deal comes along, then sure, it’ll happen. But they won’t force anything. Holland as always erred on the side of caution since the Cap Era began. There is no reason to believe otherwise.

Where does that leave us? We’re about to find out just how good the kids really are.