I’ve used this analogy in the past: the NHL is like the autobahn; if you sputter or slump for any amount of time, there is a possibility that you will quickly fall down the pecking order or even become an afterthought. I am not suggesting Detroit Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen is an afterthought, but he certainly needs to contribute more offensively in the coming months than he has through the first two of the season.
Rasmussen, 24, seems like a big year for the former first-round selection. His towering 6-foot-6 frame provides some much-needed size to the Red Wings lineup that now has plenty of playmakers with smaller statures. Earlier in the year, there had been rumors of a contract extension in the works for Rasmussen, but nothing has materialized yet for the pending restricted free agent. He’s in the final year of his three-year, $4.38 million contract. Although he had been a significant piece to Detroit’s middle-six, his role appears to be settling in as more of a bottom-six forward and perhaps even a fourth-line contributor in the coming days. It’s not exactly where a franchise likes to see a player they invested a first-round selection on ‘settle in.’
Rasmussen is not the most impactful pending restricted free agent general manager Steve Yzerman, and the Detroit Red Wings likely intend to haggle with ahead of next season. Star defenseman Moritz Seider and winger Lucas Raymond are also pending restricted free agents, along with Joe Veleno. Speaking of Veleno, there is a chance he passes Rasmussen in Detroit’s lineup in the coming weeks; it will depend on who comes out of their scoring slump first. The Detroit Red Wings landing Patrick Kane gives head coach Derek Lalonde yet another weapon to work with upfront. Kane will skate as a top-six forward, leaving David Perron to team up with a combination of Andrew Copp and Rasmussen or Veleno. Personally, I’d like to see Daniel Sprong up with Copp and Perron, but the Red Wings seem content using the creative winger as a fourth-liner who also helps on the second power-play unit.
Veleno’s production has since slowed after a wild outburst in mid-October. Veleno, 23, enjoyed a hot stretch where he totaled five goals and six points over seven games. He’s recorded just two assists over his last 13 games since. It’s eerily similar to last season. Veleno went through these types of scoring slumps last season. He went pointless for a 20-game stretch from mid-February to the end of March. He also went goalless for 25 consecutive games.
The Detroit Red Wings need more production from Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen has totaled two goals and six points on the season. He recorded a goal and two assists over the first ten games of the season and has continued that trend, notching just one goal and two assists through his past 12 contests. He’s a plus-5 on the season and has willingly embraced a checking role, but he’s averaging over 15 minutes of ice time per night. He’s just not creating enough offense to play those types of minutes. Last season, he totaled ten goals and 29 points over 56 games and skated to a plus-2 rating. Rasmussen’s Relative Corsi For Percentage during even-strength situations so far this season has settled in at -4.2, the second-worst rating of his career. His 1.1 points per 60 minutes is the poorest offensive production of his career. His 6.7% shooting percentage is the second worst of his career. These are all reasons to be concerned, knowing that the Red Wings vastly improved their roster ahead of this season compared to the ones they’ve skated out onto the ice in recent years.
Again, it will be interesting to see what Lalonde does once Kane joins Detroit’s lineup. It seems as though Andrew Copp will slide down to the third line, bumping either Veleno or Rasmussen to the fourth group. The odd man out of the lineup will likely be Christian Fischer. Fischer will likely rotate in with Klim Kostin on the fourth unit.