Detroit Red Wings lock up Michael Rasmussen long-term

The Detroit Red Wings extended Michael Rasmussen for four years on Tuesday.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings came to terms with forward Michael Rasmussen on a four-year contract extension that averages $3.2 million per season.

Rasmussen, 24, hasn't exactly grown into the offensive center the Detroit Red Wings hoped he'd become when they drafted him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Level Draft. The towering 6-foot-6 forward projected as a top-nine forward with 20-25 goal potential coming out of the Western Hockey League with the Tri-City Americans. During his three-year junior career, Rasmussen notched back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons, totaling 81 goals and 157 points through 161 games. He exploded during the WHL playoffs in 2017-18, when he recorded 16 goals and 33 points over just 14 games.

If you recall, after being drafted by Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings, the organization elected to keep him in Detroit as a 19-year-old rather than sending him back to junior for his final season. Rasmussen had a solid camp for the Red Wings, and his massive WHL playoff outburst led Holland to believe that he'd benefit more from staying in Detroit rather than going back to junior. Unfortunately, it was one of those cases where the player had outgrown the junior level but could not be assigned to the AHL because he still had junior eligibility, leaving Detroit with the choice of keeping him or sending him back. There were growing pains in year one for Rasmussen, but he totaled eight goals and 18 points as a rookie while averaging just over 12 minutes per night. He'd spend most of the following season in Grand Rapids with the Griffins before returning to the Red Wings as a regular in 2020-21 as a 21-year-old.

The Detroit Red Wings signed Michael Rasmussen to a four-year contract extension.

Although he isn't filling the net like the offensive forward you'd hope to draft in the top ten, Rasmussen is contributing to the Detroit Red Wings in various ways. His plus-11 rating on the season leads all Red Wings' forwards. He's often utilized on Detroit's shutdown line, playing against the top line of Detroit's opponents. He also brings an element of versatility to the Red Wings with his ability to play as a center or on the wing. Lately, he's been playing on Detroit's top line alongside captain Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond. That change came after the Red Wings lost the first two games on their most recent road trip. Head coach Derek Lalonde went to the blender after the losses to Edmonton and Vancouver, and it seemed to work because the Red Wings ripped off back-to-back victories to close the trip against Calgary and Seattle. Before his promotion to the top unit, Rasmussen had been excelling playing on the third line with Andrew Copp and Christian Fischer.

Rasmussen is on pace for a career-high 16 goals this season. To this point, he's recorded 11 goals and 23 points over 55 games. He's averaging a career-high 15:10 per night and is maintaining a Corsi For Percentage of 43.8. His 1.7 points per/60 minutes this season is down from 2.1 last year, but his 14.9% shooting percentage this year is the best of his career. Again, although he hasn't grown into the offensive force many had hoped (myself included), the former first-round selection is helping the Red Wings in other ways.

In addition to his checking role during even strength play, Rasmussen is often called upon to work as a penalty killer and a significant reason why the Detroit Red Wings have produced the 8th-best penalty kill (82%) in the league. Rasmussen does an excellent job using his size and reach to protect the puck, and he works the walls well down low. He's an effective forechecker, but I would like to see him put his head down and use his raw power to drive the net more often than we've seen over the past couple of seasons.

On the surface, this seems like a very fair deal for both sides. The Detroit Red Wings will be expected to allocate a significant amount of their off-season funds to pending restricted free agents Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond. Plus, if they hope to re-sign forward Patrick Kane, a couple of pending free agents like David Perron and Shayne Gostisbehere could become expendable. The Red Wings will need to lean on the likes of Rasmussen and pending RFA Joe Veleno for 'cheaper' depth production.