NHL Expansion Draft: Detroit Red Wings Primer

NHL Expansion Draft: Detroit Red Wings Primer

Detroit Red Wings expansion draft primer

The Red Wings are not in a terribly vulnerable position when it comes to the expansion draft, since they have a number of veterans with sizable cap hits that they can expose with Vegas having little or no interest in claiming them.

Detroit’s consecutive playoff streak ended last season and it is expected that GM Ken Holland will attempt to quickly reset their roster moving into the new Little Caesars Arena. Part of that reset may be to get Vegas to take a big cap hit to free up space for some summer additions.

Forward Decisions

Detroit has only Frans Nielsen (signed as a free agent last summer) with a no-movement clause and benefit from the fact that Dylan Larkin and Evgeni Svechnikov are exempt. Team captain Henrik Zetterberg is 36-years-old and has four years left at over $6 Million per season, but reasserted his place as the Wings best forward with a 68-point campaign. Gustav Nyquist had a disappointing year, but will be protected, along with Tomas Tatar, Justin Abdelkader, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou.

The Wings will likely expose Darren Helm, Luke Glendening and Riley Sheahan. Helm and Glendening (who underwent ankle surgery after the season) are signed through the 2020-21 season and did not reach double figures in goals. Sheahan had a disastrous year, scoring twice in 80 games and was rumored to be on the block at the trade deadline.

Defense Decisions

Detroit will protect veteran Mike Green and Danny DeKeyser, but have a decision to make as to who will take up the third and final spot.

Green (who makes $6 Million in the final year of a three-year contract) will be shielded in part because former Washington GM George McPhee would be tempted to claim the former Capitals blueliner and also because he could have significant value as a rental at next season’s trade deadline after scoring 14 goals last season.

DeKeyser registered only 12 points in the first year of a six-year, $30 Million contract, but is the best of a crumbling Wings defensive corps.

Holland has a trio of young blueliners in Nick Jensen, Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet and will protect one of them over aging veterans Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson. Jensen is signed for another two seasons at less than $1 Million, while Sproul is under contract for one more year. Ouellet is a restricted free agent this summer.

Both Kronwall (36) and Ericsson (33) played less than 60 games due to injuries and make over $4 Million for another two years, which makes them unlikely to be claimed by Vegas.

Goaltender Decisions

The Wings goaltending situation has been problematic for years, with Jimmy Howard and an inconsistent Petr Mrazek alternating as the club’s #1.

Howard has two more years at $5.3 Million per season and has had trouble staying healthy, but did put up much better numbers (.927 save percentage in 26 games) than Mrazek (.901 in 50 games). The 25-year-old Czech has one more year at $4 Million and the short term of his deal may be the swaying factor of which goalie Holland will protect.

Projected protected players and their cap hits


Henrik Zetterberg – $6,083,333 through 2021

Frans Nielsen (NMC)  – $5,250,000   through 2022

Gustav Nyquist – $4,750,000 through 2019

Justin Abdelkader – $4,250,000 through 2023

Anthony Mantha – $863,333 through 2018

Andreas Athanasiou  – $628,333  RFA

Tomas Tatar – $2,750,000  RFA


Mike Green – $6,000,000 through 2018

Danny DeKeyser – $5,000,000 through 2022

Nick Jensen – $812,500 through 2019


Petr Mrazek – $4,000,000 through 2018

Likely Expansion loss for Detroit

The scenario that fits Vegas best in regards to the Wings is to pick a veteran player who they can flip to another team. There are not many young assets from the Detroit unprotected list that will entice McPhee, but a contending team might find interest in one of the veteran forwards hoping for a bounce back year or a defenseman if they know he can stay in the lineup for another year or two.

The three most likely selections off the Red Wings roster are Sheahan, Glendening and Kronwall.

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