Monthly Archives: July 2016

Wings, Mrazek meet in the middle, sort of, to avoid salary arbitration


DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings and Petr Mrazek met in the middle, sort of, and thus were able to avoid an arbitration hearing on Wednesday.

The Wings signed Mrazek to a two-year deal worth $8 million prior to his arbitration hearing which was scheduled for 9 a.m.

Mrazek had asked for $10 million over the next two seasons, while the Wings offered $5.85 million over the same period.

If the Wings had reached arbitration with Mrazek it would have been the first time since they did so with Ray Sheppard in 1995.

In 2009, Detroit did go to arbitration with Jiri Hudler, but that was a unique case. Hudler left to play in Russia before the hearing took place.

Detroit also avoided an arbitration hearing with Danny DeKeyser, who signed a six-year deal worth $30 million on Tuesday.

Mrazek, 24, made $737,500 last season.

He will remain a restricted free agent after the deal expires.

Detroit’s goalie tandem has a combined salary-cap hit of $9.3 million over the next two seasons.

Jimmy Howard is entering his fourth year of a six-year deal that has a salary-cap hit of just under $5.3 million a season.

Mrazek won the starting job from Howard midway through last season when he led the league in goals-against average and save percentage in January (7-1-1, 1.32 goals-against average, .953 save percentage). He then lost the starting job after he struggled the final two months of the regular season, getting pulled five times in a span of 14 starts.

The Wings are now just over $4.2 million over the $73 million NHL salary cap.

They do however have cap relief coming once they place Johan Franzen ($3.95 million), Joe Vitale ($1.16 million) and Teemu Pulkkinen ($612,500) on long-term injured reserve at the start of the season.

The main sticking point appeared to be comparable contracts.

Mrazek has played one full season in the NHL and looking a dollar amount the Frederik Andersen got when he signed a five-year deal worth $5 million a season.

Mrazek is three years away from unrestricted free agent status, while Andersen is one year removed from it.

Andersen is 77-26-12, with a 2.33 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the regular season. He’s 17-9 in the playoffs, with a 2.34 GAA and .916 save percentage.

Mrazek, who was taken 141st overall in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL draft, has a career record of 46-30-8, with a 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage in the regular season. He’s 4-6 in the playoffs, with a 1.88 GAA and .931 save percentage.

DeKeyser gets six-year deal worth $30 million to remain with his hometown team


05-02-2013-danny-dekeyser-4_3DETROIT >> Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser realizes how special it is to be able to play for your hometown team.

And he’s going to get to do so for the next six seasons.

On Tuesday, the restricted free agent signed a six-year deal worth $30 million to remain with the Wings.

“Today just kind of makes me realize how lucky I am and how special of an opportunity I have to play here,” DeKeyser said. “It’s just a place I like to play. I don’t want to go anywhere else and I was pretty happy that we were able to work with Kenny (Holland) and get a deal done. So I’m just excited about it.”

DeKeyser, who was born in Detroit, graduated from De La Salle and grew up in Macomb Township.

“Anybody who is from Michigan I’m sure has grown up a big Red Wings fan just like myself,” DeKeyser said. “It’s been great for me to play here.”

DeKeyser had an arbitration meeting hearing scheduled for Thursday.

“It was kind of up in the air for a little bit, but I would say the last week or so is when I kind of figured out that it wasn’t going to arbitration, so as time was kind of winding down toward that date I wasn’t really too concerned about it actually going there.”

DeKeyser, 26, is coming off a two-year contract with a salary-cap hit of $2.187 million.

He had eight goals and 12 assists in 78 games last season and averaged the second most amount of ice time on the team.

“Two years ago I had 31 points and I had some power play time,” DeKeyser said. “This year my point total was down, but led the D in goals, so I thought that was a pretty good accomplishment to do that.

“I didn’t have any power play time this past year so sometimes it’s hard to pick up those extra points when you’re not playing on the power play,” DeKeyser added. “Whether I’m on that or not it doesn’t matter, I’m just going to do my role, five-on-five and penalty kill and if I do get a chance on the power play I’m comfortable playing that as well. I don’t know if I’ll get to 40 or 45 points without playing the power play, but it’s a possibility that’s for sure.”

In 234 career regular season games DeKeyser has 14 goals and 61 assists with plus-minus rating of plus-27. His playoff numbers aren’t great with just a goal, an assist and a minus-8 rating in 19 games.

“I just try to move the puck well, play solid defensively, chip in some points or goals here or there when I can,” DeKeyser said. “Just try to be a good team player and do things that help the team win. Just be a steady defenseman.”

DeKeyser continues a trend of late in the NHL of young, talented players getting long-term deals to remain with the team they started their career with.

“I think it’s such a good fit for both the player and the team,” DeKeyser said. “That’s what you see happening in some of these cases because a player gets comfortable in one spot. Guys don’t like to be bouncing around from team to team. They like to have some stability, so as long as it matches well with the team and the team is happy with how the player has produced and how he has done for the team then if it makes sense for both sides that’s why you see some of these deals happening more often and guys not getting to unrestricted free agency too much.”

Along with locking up DeKeyser, Luke Glendening and Darren Helm to long-term deals this offseason, the Wings added Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott on the first day off free agency to help try and fill the void left by Pavel Datsyuk.

“I definitely think there are some good possibilities for us here,” DeKeyser said. “Losing Pavel hurts. There’s nobody that’s going to be able to replace him. There’s no single guy that can replace him. We got some veteran forwards that have proven in the past can score goals and help out teams. I’m real excited to see what these guys can do and help us out. We have some young guys that will be taking some bigger steps here as well.

“Like I said, losing Pav hurts, but we’re just going to try and move on and do the best that we can without him because that’s the only thing we can do,” DeKeyser continued. “I think we’ll be fine. I think we have the potential to have a really good season.”

DeKeyser, who’s getting married in September prior to training camp, was one of the NHL’s most sought-after free agents coming out of Western Michigan. He chose to join the Wings in March 2013 over a handful of other teams and he quickly became one of their top defensemen.

In three seasons at WMU, DeKeyser, who was undrafted, appeared in 118 games and had 12 goals, 37 assists and 107 penalty minutes.

Penguins’ Oleksy, Wings’ Larkin and other NHLers to skate in all-star game

(MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)

(MIPrepZone photo gallery by David Dalton)

If there was any time to have an all-star game for the Eastside Elite Hockey League it was this year.

And that’s just what founder Steve Oleksy of the EEHL is going to do.

“We have a lot of high-end guys this year and I thought it’d be a unique way to draw some attention to the league as well as raise some funds for the Mount Clemens Hockey Club,” Oleksy said. “All the proceeds are going back to the kids in the organization.

“I think it was a win-win situation,” Oleksy continued. “Guys are really excited about it and it gives guys a little something extra to play for in the league.”

The game will take place Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Mount Clemens Ice Arena.

This is the eighth season Oleksy, who was a member of the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins this past season, has run the league.

All eight years it has been run out of Mount Clemens Ice Arena.

“It’s going to be a great event,” Oleksy said. “I would really love to sell the place out. All the guys are really looking forward to it.”

The players selected to represent the EEHL, whose alumni include the likes of Detroit Red Wing Danny DeKeyser, Tampa Bay Lightning Matt Taormina and Vlad Namestnikov, Ottawa Senator Andrew Hammond and Hobey Baker winner Andy Miele, were chosen by a team vote.

Each team collaborated to choose the top three players from the other 11 teams in the league, besides their own, to play in the All-Star game.

“This helped avoid any fights in the locker room,” Oleksy laughed.

Twenty of the EEHL’s top players and four goalies will be picked to participate.

The top vote getters from the EEHL were Garret Ross, Matt DeBlouw, Shawn Szydlowski, Austin Grzenia, Alex Kile, Namestnikov, Oleksy, Thomas Apap, Taylor Fernandez, Brandon Hawkins and Nick Betz.

The goalies will be Charles Williams, Max Milosek, Jake Theut and Andrew Hammond.

Detroit Red Wing Dylan Larkin has also committed to play and a few others are trying to arrange their schedules to do so as well along with a couple of the Red Wing alumni players.

“Guys are really amped up and it’s kind of a cool feeling for me to be the guy to tell them they made the team,” Oleksy said. “They’re really taking is serious so how they have to play better to make it. It’s cool that they feel this way about it.”

Former EEHL player, Cooper Anstett, is flying in from Nashville where he’s embarking on a music career to do an acoustic set. His song, “Move,” is featured in a Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers commercial.

Anstett played in the league last season.

Oleksy wants to elect team captains and conduct a live draft over social media prior to the game.

Four hundred tickets were printed for the event. They’re $10 a person and kids five-and-under will get in free.

Tickets can be picked up at Mount Clemens Ice Arena or by emailing where they will be left at will call.

Along with vendor booths setup with products fans can demo, there will be 50-50 raffles and fans can bid on the player-worn jerseys after the game.

Along with an 11-team EEHL men’s division, there’s a four-team women’s division and a four-team Tier II division, which consists of midget and high school aged players.

The women’s division is in its fourth year and this is the second season for Tier II, which Olesky uses as a “call-up system” if a men’s roster needs a player or two.

“I love to watch the guys and the success they have,” Oleksy said. “It’s really fun to be a part of it.”

Goalie Cam Johnson, who’s participating in the league again this season, won a NCAA National Championship with the University of North Dakota this past season.

The league wraps up the first week of August.


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Wings land their Plan B … Frans Nielsen


DETROIT >> When Steven Stamkos decided to return to Tampa Bay the Detroit Red Wings had to turn to Plan B.

That led them to Frans Nielsen.

Nielsen got a six-year deal at $31.5 million, an average of $5.25 million a season.

Nielsen, 32, was the two-way center the Wings were looking for in free agency.

He’s a left-handed shot.

In 81 games last season, Nielsen had 20 goals and 32 assists. He had a plus-1 rating with 12 penalty minutes while averaging 17:43 in ice time.

In 11 playoff games he had three goals, three assists and was a minus-3 in 21:42 of ice time.

For his career, Nielsen has 119 goals and 230 assists in 606 games. In 24 playoff games, he’s totaled four goals and six assists.

Nielsen is a good playmaker and can play on the power play and penalty kill.

Detroit had a ton of interest in Stamkos but was never given the chance to speak to him.

Stamkos, who took less money (eight-year deal worth $8.5 million a season), would have been the most coveted unrestricted free agent in some time had he hit the market at noon Friday.

Helm gets answers he wanted and re-signs with Wings … five years, $19.25 million


DETROIT >> When Darren Helm was cleaning out his locker at the end of the season it sounded like his chances or re-signing were slim.

That all has changed.

Helm, 29, signed a five-year deal worth $19.25 million.

Helm, who’s coming off a four-year deal that had an average cap hit of $2.125, used the free agency interview period that began on Saturday to speak with other teams. He chose however to work on a long-term deal so he could remain in Detroit.

“It was definitely a different year,” Helm said during the Wings’ locker cleanout at Joe Louis Arena. “I think a lot of other guys experienced the same issues. It’s something I’ll have to decide. I know there are a couple guys I need to talk to, (coach Jeff Blashill and general manager Ken Holland), and see where everything is headed and where I see myself fitting into this organization or where they see me fitting into this organization then I’ll have to make some tough decisions.”

Helm had 13 goals and 13 assists in 77 games last season, which is seven points less than he had in 75 games a year ago.

The team approached Helm’s agent during training camp about signing an extension, but he got injured and missed the entire preseason and first four games of the regular season which put talks on the back burner.

That disappointed Helm.

“I’m not sure yet,” Helm said when asked if he wants his role expanded on the team. “There’s lots of different … I don’t’ know what I’m looking for here … it’s just a little tougher bouncing around from line to line.

“Winning is a big part of it,” Helm added. “I want to win. I really don’t mind playing on the bottom lines as long as there’s that respect factor. You get opportunities in different situations. If that looks like that’s the case that I’ll get to play in those situations that I feel that I can play in then I’ll be happy. If not and they tell me right away that’s not going to happen then I may not want to stay.

His former coach, Mike Babcock, once called Helm the best third-line center in the NHL.

He’s a fast skater that can play on a top-six scoring line or versatile enough to play a checking role.

“There are situations where I definitely wasn’t happy this year when I was playing and I wasn’t too happy when those situations arose,” Helm said. “So I want to see why that happened as often as it did and make sure I find a place that it won’t happen often.”

Helm has missed time with numerous injuries, including groin, concussion, forearm, back and knee.

Helm, who was taken in the fifth round (132nd overall) of the 2005 draft, played just seven regular season games in the 2007-08 campaign and then 18 more in the playoffs, playing a key role in the Wings winning the Stanley Cup.