DETROIT – Simply put, Cory Emmerton was a victim of a numbers game.
The Wings placed the fourth-line center on waivers Sunday to trim $533,333 off their salary cap.
“In order to get cap compliant this is one move we had to make,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview Sunday after the move. “First off, let’s see if he clears. If he clears we know what he can do. If he’s claimed he’s off the books, if he’s not claimed we have the ability to send him down.”
If Emmerton, 25, isn’t claimed the Wings plan to send in to Grand Rapids.
Holland also said that Darren Helm (back) will be placed on long-term injured reserve to begin the season, which sheds another $2.125 million off the salary cap.
“He’s played one game in 18 months, he’s just starting to get up and running,” Holland said. “He’s had a couple of practices but it’s going to take a while.”
The Wings are currently three players over the roster size of 26 and roughly $2.4 million over the salary cap.
Those two moves help get them under the cap, but another player move still needs to be made and they have many options.
Patrick Eaves (sprained MCL and ankle), Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and Jordin Tootoo (shoulder) all are sidelined with injuries.
Eaves and Gustavsson appear headed to the IR, but it’s not determined if it’ll be long-term or short-term stints for them. Both will be re-examined by doctors Monday.
Tootoo is the closest to returning, but he could also begin the season on short-term IR.
Players placed on short-term injured reserve (minimum seven days) provide no cap relief, but it does open up a roster spot, while long-term trips (minimum 10 games and 24 days) provide cap relief.
If the Wings place Gustavsson on short-term IR, they’ll need to free up more cap space because his $1.5 million salary will count against cap and Petr Mrazek’s salary of $790,000 would also count.
That scenario would more than likely get Gustav Nyquist sent to Grand Rapids to begin the season, at least temporarily. His cap his is $950,000. Nyquist and Danny DeKeyser are both exempt from having to clear waivers to go back to the minors.
“Tomorrow we’ll assess what other moves we have to make,” said Holland, who added no one else will be placed on waivers.
Rosters must be set by 5 p.m. on Monday. The Wings open the season Wednesday at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
Joakim Andersson will be the team’s third-line center until Helm returns. Riley Sheahan or Luke Glendening could serve as the fourth-line center until Helm gets back.
“In the short term we’ll be a little challenged (at center) until Helm gets back,” Holland said.
The Wings hope Emmerton, who was taken 41st overall in the 2006 draft, clears waivers to provide depth in the organization. In parts of three seasons he had 12 goals and seven assists in 121 games.