Youthful Wings, Nyquist and Tatar, could lose playing time or even a roster spot with Cleary returning

TRAVERSE CITY – The chances of Gustav Nyquist avoiding starting the season in Grand Rapids were pretty unlikely when training camp began.

Those chances just got even worse with the signing of Daniel Cleary, Thursday.

With Cleary signing a one-year deal worth $1.75 million that puts the Wings at 26 players under contract for this season, three over the roster limit. And 17 of those are forwards, which they only expect to carry 14.

“I don’t think too much about it,” Nyquist said about the distinct possibility of beginning the season with the Griffins in the American Hockey League. “I just have to show I want to be on this team and earn a spot. That’s my mindset.”

But the math just doesn’t add up when thinking about Nyquist, 24, making the Wings.

Darren Helm will more than likely begin the season on injured reserve so that’s one spot.

Nyquist is the only forward that doesn’t have to clear waivers and be exposed for other teams to scoop up before being sent down to the minors.

Defenseman Danny DeKeyser also could be sent down without having to go through waivers, but that would leave Detroit with just six defensemen.

The other possibility is trading away a forward or two or just simply waiving one of them. Those candidates include, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves and Mikael Samuelsson.

The Wings tried to deal Tootoo back to Nashville this offseason, but were unable to.

Cory Emmerton appears safe with Helm injured since they’ll need a fourth line center.

“There’s a chance he could go to the American League,” Holland said. “He’s a good player. We want to win. We’re going to try to ice our best team against Buffalo.”

Despite not playing an entire season with the Griffins last year, Nyquist led them with 58 points in 60 games.

“I don’t want to say I expect anything, but I’m going to obviously do my best to earn a spot on this team,” Nyquist said.

Nyquist, who had three goals and three assists in 22 regular season games a year ago, was part of a pretty formidable third line late in the season with Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner. He had two goals and three assists in 14 postseason games.

“I’ll just have to make it an even harder decision for them to make, show them what I’ve got,” Nyquist said.

Nyquist is two NHL games played away from losing his waiver-exempt status.

Tomas Tatar is another young player that could find be watching from the sidelines or dealt because of the numbers game.

“Both played well for us last year,” Holland said. “We like them both. Tats was the AHL (playoff) MVP with 16 goals. That’s a lot of goals in a league where it’s hard to score. Certainly, the expectations are they’re going to be on the team.”

But unlike Nyquist, Tatar is out of options.

“They always have lots of guys here and it’s a big battle for, let’s say, one spot,” Tatar said. “Even when you play good it’s really hard for them to change something when they still have option to send you down. This year it’s a little different for me, but I’m still going to battle for my ice time and I want to make sure I play real good in camp and show I deserve more ice time.”

Tatar, 22, spent four seasons with the Griffins. He had four goals and three assists with Detroit a year ago.

“I have been waiting for that chance a little longer (than most),” Tatar said. “This year I got the chance and I try to show I belong here.”

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