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Anthony Mantha ready to fight to ‘earn the jersey’

DETROIT >> Last year at this time, Anthony Mantha had a realistic shot at making the Wings’ roster out of training camp.

This year it appears he’ll be a longshot to do so.

“Realistically, I think it’s going to be a struggle for him to make the team,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “I use the word “earn the jersey.” You’ve got to come in and take a job.

“We probably got 14, 15, 16 forwards we think can legitimately fight for a spot on the team,” Holland continued. “I’m not even sure if Anthony is in that group.”

His attempt to make the Wings out of camp was slowed considerably after getting his skate caught in a rut and suffering a fractured right tibia during a rookie tournament game in Traverse City.

That sidelined him all of training camp, where he was slated to get some time on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Mantha, who was taken by the Wings 20th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, struggled in his first season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, scoring 15 goals and to go with 18 assists in 62 games.

This came on the heels of scoring 57 goals and 63 assists in 57 games for Val d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was also named the CHL’s Player of the Year.

At the Wings’ annual development camp in Traverse City, which began Friday, Mantha gets a chance to re-establish himself as a player that’s close to making an NHL roster.

“I’m here a little bit more confident than last season,” Mantha said. “I need to keep showing stuff to the organization in this camp and I need to come in September and be ready for a fresh new start. My goal is the same, to play in the NHL, so I need to come here and be ready and have a better season for sure.

“It was difficult, especially right off the bat like that after coming off a great season,” Mantha continued. “It’s a fresh start right now and I hope it’s going to go upward from here on.”

His lack of offensive production didn’t go unnoticed and Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano made it known saying the organization was “very, very, very disappointed” in Mantha’s performance.

“I didn’t really listen to his comments,” Mantha said. “We were in playoffs. I talked to (Jeff Blashill) a little bit and he just told me to keep playing my way. So we tried to just keep that aside.”

Then reports surfaced as Detroit prepared for the draft and free agency that Mantha was no longer untouchable and could be available in a trade if the right offer came along.

“As for the trade rumors, if they wanted to trade me, they would have and if not, I’m still here and my goal is still the same,” Mantha said. “I want to play for Detroit.

“It’s part of adversity,” Mantha added. “You need to build through it and come out stronger. I was telling myself, I had the rest of the playoffs to show them wrong and I tried building off of that. I had a few good games, a few bad games in playoffs but that’s part of hockey.”

But Mantha struggled in the playoffs as well, scoring just two goals to go with two assists in 16 games.

And know he finds himself in the second tier of players like Andreas Athanasiou and Tomas Nosek to make the Wings out of camp.

“We think they are going to be Red Wings,” Holland said. “Are they going to be Red Wings in September? They got to come in and knock somebody out of a job.”

The Wings have 11 forwards under contract for next season and four more restricted free agents to sign before camp opens.

Mantha also has fallen behind Dylan Larkin on the depth chart.

“It always has been,” Mantha said when asked if his expectation this year will be to make the Wings’ roster out of camp. “I won’t lie. This is the same this year. I need to come here and maybe try playing a few exhibition games. I’ve only had one in two camps so far so I obviously aim for quite a few exhibition games this year and build off of that and try to make the lineup for sure.”

With additions of Green and Richards, Blashill now has limitless options

DETROIT >> If Jeff Blashill wanted options heading into training camp, he’s got them now.

With the addition of free agent defenseman Mike Green and veteran forward Brad Richards on the first day of free agency Wednesday, the options are endless.

“You’d rather have more options than not enough,” Blashill said Thursday at Joe Louis Arena prior to departing for development camp in Traverse City. “Obviously by adding those two guys that gives us more options, more abilities to do different things.

“It puts a premium on guys playing great in order to earn their different spots in the lineup and I think that’s a positive thing,” Blashill continued. “We were happy with the outcome, but we also understand it’s one day. We were able to acquire a couple guys that can really help us, but we have lots of work ahead of us.”

Early on it appears that Green, who’s a right-handed shot that the Wings have coveted since last offseason, will be paired with Danny DeKeyser.

Green, who signed a three-year deal worth $6 million a season, can run a power play and will rack up the points.

He’s not air-tight defensively, but it doesn’t concern Blashill because of how the Wings’ system is set up.

“I think their skill sets matchup,” Blashill said. “I think both guys can help each other and that’s a positive. I think the other thing is the best D-zone coverage is breaking the puck out of your own end and both guys skate really well and can break the puck out so that could be a good combo.

“I thought with Mike, he’s got a unique skill set,” Blashill added. “He’s different than a lot of defensemen on our team. We have some great, great quality D, but he brings an offensive ability beyond probably most of the guys.”
Mike Knuble, who was an assistant coach last season in Grand Rapids under Blashill, knows Green, 29, well from his time in Washington with him.

“He had a lot of great things to say about him as a person and as a teammate so I think that’s a really good fit,” Blashill said.

Green is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

Richards, who signed a one-year deal worth $3 million and could earn an extra $1 million if he meets playoff bonuses, is a number two center ice man, but could slot up to number one if Pavel Datsyuk isn’t ready to being the season after ankle surgery.

“Throughout his career he’s proven to be a top couple line center,” Blashill said. “That’s something I thought going into free agency if we can add somebody that could give us that potential that would be a positive thing. He can do that.

“He’s been a great power play guy his whole career,” Blashill continued. “He’s run it from up top. He also has the ability to play off the half wall. It gives you opportunities to have what Detroit had last year, two real good units and if you have two real good units I think you can really be successful instead of relying on one and kind of having a half unit. That’s our goal going in is to have two real strong power play units and he’ll be a big part of that and then five-on-five I think he can really help us.”

Richards, 35, won a Stanley Cup with Chicago this season and also won one with Tampa Bay in 2004, when he also was named the playoff MVP. He won the Lady Byng for sportsmanship that same season.

Richards scored 12 goals and had 25 assists in 76 games with Chicago. He turned it up in the playoffs with three goals and 11 assists in 23 games.

“I just went back and looked at his scoring over the last number of years and in my opinion I don’t think he’s slowing down,” Blashill said. “I think he’s still got a lot of great hockey in him. He’s been a great playoff guy. This organization has a lot of Cup experience, but within our locker room that not only just won a Cup, but has won two Cups.

“This gives you flexibility with a Riley Sheahan,” Blashill continued. “Riley can play the wing, he can play center. It gives you more flexibility with a lot of those guys. It allows us an opportunity to have a couple more good players than we did before the beginning of (Wednesday).”

The Wings now have 20 players signed, 11 of which are forwards, for nearly $65 million. That leaves them just under $7 million under the $71.4 million cap.

The Wings still have restricted free agents Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro to sign this year, while factoring in the cost of re-signing Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, DeKeyser, Sheahan and Petr Mrazek in 2016.

Oleksy signs with Penguins because it was his ‘best opportunity’ to make an NHL roster

DETROIT >> Steve Oleksy has already been on a roster with one of the current greats – Alex Ovechkin – in the NHL.

He can add another one to that list – Sidney Crosby.

The unrestricted free agent defenseman inked a one-year, two-way deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

“It’s incredible,” said Olesky, who had offers from other teams. “I think I’m only going to one of a couple players to get a chance to be in the same locker room with both of those guys. They’re two of the best players in the world. To learn what I have from Ovechkin and now to get a chance to learn from Sid and his approach to the game that’s something I’m going to take with me long after my playing career.”

Olesky, 29, will make $575,000 when he’s in the NHL and $250,000 in the American Hockey League.

He’s guaranteed $325,000.

It’s a nice raise for the L’Anse Creuse North graduate, whose average AHL salary over the last three seasons was roughly $107,000. His NHL salary was $525,000.

“It’s always nice to have a couple options,” Olesky said. “The biggest reason I signed with them was the opportunity. Everything I’ve looked at and weighing all the options I had I felt Pittsburgh was my best opportunity.

“The organization has a strong passion to win and that was very attractive as well,” Olesky continued. “They’re continually trying to get better and are constantly in the mix as a contender.”

Oleksy, a L’Anse Creuse North graduate, had spent the last three seasons in the Washington Capitals’ organization, appearing in 62 regular-season games scoring three goals to go with 16 assists. He was also a plus-15 and 86 penalty minutes.

The right-handed blue liner also appeared in seven playoff game registering just an assist and a minus-1 rating.

Olesky, who has also played in the East Coast Hockey League and International Hockey League, is a rugged defenseman that isn’t afraid to drop the gloves.

Olesky totaled seven fighting majors in the AHL last season according to hockeyfights.com.

He’s got six fighting majors in the NHL during the regular season and four more during the preseason.

Olesky went undrafted out of Lake Superior State University in 2009.

After minor pro stints that took him to Las Vegas, Port Huron, Toledo, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, Oleksy played in his first NHL game on March 5, 2013, and registered an assist in just over 10 minutes of ice time against the Boston Bruins.

Quote of the day … Brad Richards

DETROIT >> Brad Richards on whether he feels if the Wings are strong Cup contenders.

“They have a lot of young talent with great leadership. I watched their Game 7 this year, they probably deserved to win that game, I mean, that’s hockey. So, they’re one game away from maybe making a run. You don’t know as you get through a round and gain momentum you never know. So I’ve always been a fan of watching Datsyuk, Zetterberg play and I know they maybe getting a little older, but they’re still elite players that can lead a team through a deep run. You just look at that, so when I was picking teams I wanted to try and make another run and I think I’ve got a good chance here.”

Quote of the day … Mike Green

DETROIT >> Mike Green on whether he fielded many offers before choosing Detroit.

“I talked earlier in the week with Ken and you know, it was my first conversation and from that point on I was really intrigued with what he had said. Everything was very positive on his end and on my end and in my head. When it came down to today I was pretty confident with if there was an offer from Detroit that I would move forward and we really didn’t really take advantage of any other offers. So I was set in Detroit.”

Wings will be Richards’ third Original Six team he’s played for

DETROIT >> Original Six franchises and Brad Richards seem to go hand-in-hand.

On Wednesday, Richards signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Detroit Red Wings on the first day unrestricted free agents can sign with teams.

He could earn an extra $1 million if he meets playoff bonuses.

Richards, 35, won the Cup with Chicago this season after being bought out by the New York Rangers.

He also won the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004 and was named the playoff MVP. He also won the Lady Byng for sportsmanship that same season.

Richards scored 12 goals and had 25 assists in 76 games with Chicago. He turned it up in the playoffs with three goals and 11 assists in 23 games.

Detroit now has 20 players signed, 12 of which are forwards, for approximately $65 million. That leaves about $6 million under the $71.4 million cap.

The Wings still have to sign restricted free agents Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro, while factoring in the cost of re-signing Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan and Petr Mrazek in 2016.

The Blackhawks got Richards after the Rangers bought him out after just three seasons of a nine-year deal with New York.

The Rangers will pay Richards, who also played for Dallas, $3.05 million this year and $5.05 million next year and then $1.05 million for each of the following nine seasons until 2025-26.

In 14 seasons with four teams, Richards, who has just missed eight games of the last four seasons, has 288 goals and 616 assists in 1,058 games. In 141 playoff games he has 36 goals and 68 assists.

Wings get that coveted right-handed, power-play specialist defenseman in Mike Green

DETROIT >> The Detroit Red Wings have finally got their right-handed shooting defenseman that can quarterback the power play.

The Wings inked former Washington Capitals blue liner Mike Green to a three-year deal at $6 million a season.

The deal fits perfectly for the Wings, who might not have been willing to give Green a longer term. And they weren’t ready to get into a bidding war for his services.

Detroit now has 19 players signed for approximately $62 million. That leaves about $9 million under the $71.4 million cap.

The Wings still have to sign restricted free agents Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro, while factoring in the cost of re-signing Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan and Petr Mrazek in 2016.

Detroit has been in the market for a right-handed offensive minded defenseman since last season.

The knock on Green is he doesn’t play hard.

He can run a power play, will rack up the points, but he’s not air tight defensively.

He’s going to make up for it on the other end because he’s going to generate points so it’s a little big give and take.

Green, 29, is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman.

He’s spent his entire 10-year career with the Capitals where he totaled 113 goals and 247 assists in 575 regular season games. Fifty-two of his goals came on the power play.

In 71 playoff games, Green had nine goals, six on the power play, and 26 assists.

Green, who had a career high 31 goals in the 2008-09 season, slipped down the Capitals’ depth chart, falling to a third pairing, after they signed Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik last summer.

He averaged just over 19 minutes of ice time, which was the lowest since his first full season in the league, 2006-07. He scored 10 goals and had 35 assists in 72 games.