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Wings lockup Nyquist, a player they’re “building around”, for four years at $19 million

DETROIT >> Gustav Nyquist is one of the players the Detroit Red Wings are building around.

On Friday, the restricted free agent forward cashed in because of that.

Nyquist avoided going to salary arbitration after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $19 million.

“He’s really coming into the prime of his career,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “I don’t even know if he’s in his prime yet.

“The next four years will be important years in Gustav Nyquist’s career,” Holland added. “He’s homegrown, developed by us, he’s a good person, he wants to be a Red Wing, wants to be in Detroit.”

The four-year deal, which buys two years of Nyquist’s unrestricted free agency, has an average salary-cap hit at $4.75 million. He will earn $4 million this season, $4.25 million in 2016-17, $5.25 million in 2017-18 and $5.5 million in 2018-19.

In the final two years of the deal, Nyquist, who turns 26 on Sept. 1, has a full no-trade clause.

Nyquist, who was selected by the Wings with the last pick in the fourth round (121st overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, is now the third-highest paid forward on the team behind Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

Nyquist burst onto the scene during the 2013-14 season.

After beginning the year in Grand Rapids because he didn’t have to clear waivers in order to be assigned there, Nyquist was recalled and promptly scored two goals in his first game.

He finished with 28 goals, six of which came on the power play, and 20 assists. He also was a plus-16.

Last season, in 82 games, Nyquist had 27 goals, 27 assists and was a minus-11. Fourteen of his goals were on the power play.

“It’s a league with I think less than 20 players scored 30 goals,” Holland said. “Gus had 28 goals in 57 games two years ago. To get 28 goals once is a nice accomplishment. To do it in back to back years in this league is tremendous.”

Just 15 players reached the 30-goal mark a year ago.

“When I look at what Gus has produced the last two years, you add in his age, and you look around the league, how hard it is to score,” Holland said. “In college and the American League he’s produced offense. We went back and forth and found a solution that got us two years of his unrestricted free agency. It’s a contract that’s fair for the player and the club.”

But like many of the younger Wings, Nyquist has struggled in the postseason.

“As I reflect back through the years on some of our players, it took a while to translate that regular season success into the playoffs,” Holland said. “Last year we had seven-game series, the year before five games, it’s hard to evaluate players on five games and seven games, that’s why you play an 82-game schedule. It gives players and opportunity to show what they can do. You get evaluated on a short body of work (in the playoffs). You need more games to get comfortable to do what you do.”

Nyquist has three goals, four assists and a plus-1 in 30 playoff games.

Pavel Datsyuk also struggled early in his career in the postseason, registering just three goals in his first 42 playoff games.

“Two years ago when we had a lot of people injured he was a key in helping us get into the playoffs,” Holland said. “He’s been through some playoff runs. He’s continued to develop as a player.”

Detroit has 23 players signed, 14 of which are forwards, at just over $71 million.

Once the Wings sign restricted free agent forwards Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen they’ll just be over the $71.4 million salary cap.

Teams can be 10-percent over the salary cap until the day before the season begins, which will give the Wings enough time to decide if Pavel Datsyuk (ankle surgery) and Johan Franzen (concussion) will be able to start the season or head to injured reserve.

Detroit could also free up cap space via a trade or sending a player to Grand Rapids.

“We’ve got to get to camp, let it play itself out and pick a team,” Holland said. “With the additions we made on July 1, we’re a little deeper than last year. We’re hoping for a competitive training camp.”

On the first day of free agency, the Wings added defenseman Mike Green and forward Brad Richards.

Blashill sees some untapped offensive potential in Smith

DETROIT >> When new Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill was asked if Brendan Smith had some untapped offensive potential his answer was quite clear.

“I think Brendan has that ability to do that,” Blashill said. “You have to see where the whole puzzle fits at camp. He’s somebody I know that’s done that in the past because he’s done that for me in the American (Hockey) League.”

Because of his offensive potential, Smith was selected by the Wings in the first round (27th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Smith had 26 goals and 61 assists in three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, where he quarterbacked the Badgers’ power play.

In his final season, he totaled 15 goals and 37 assists.

Smith also had nice offensive numbers in roughly two and a half seasons in Grand Rapids, with 27 goals and 59 assists in 152 games. Eleven of those goals came on the power play.

But under former coach Mike Babcock, Smith was never viewed as an offensive defenseman and also never got power play time.

Most of that likely had to do with Smith’s defensive inadequacies which included poor decisions on when to pinch and his tendency to turn the puck over.

During the first two games of the Wings’ Western Conference semifinal series with Chicago in 2013, you saw the best and the worst of Smith and it prompted this quote from Henrik Zetterberg a day after their 4-1 win.

“He creates a lot of stuff, sometimes for both teams,” Zetterberg said with a slight grin. “He’s young, he’s still learning. He learns every game. It’s nice to see he had a bounce back game.”

Late that regular season Smith, who was called on to play a huge role after Nicklas Lidstrom retired and Brad Stuart was traded, found himself a healthy scratch for two straight games after Babcock wanted him to look after the puck better. Prior to his benching he had gone five consecutive games by registering a minus-1 rating.

Last season, Smith had another memorable blunder in the next-to-last game of last regular season. He batted a puck that was in play while on the bench.

Smith, 26, was benched by Babcock for the final regular season game and the first two of the playoffs.

Despite the addition of Mike Green and Brad Richards, Blashill still sees a possibility of Smith getting power play time on the blue line.

“I think Brendan’s best offensive ability is kind of roaming around below the tops of the circles,” Blashill said. “If he’s a weak-side guy on the power play, going to the net a lot, he can retrieve pucks because he’s quick, he’s strong, he’s competitive. He’s got good offensive instincts once he gets below the tops of circles.”

Smith has 10 goals and 37 assists in 195 career regular-season games with the Wings and two goals and three assists in 24 playoff games.

“I know at Wisconsin he was on his off-side hitting one timers,” Blashill said. “That’s something we’ll explore going into camp. I think the positive thing for us you’d rather have more guys that can do it than not enough. I think we have more guys today than we had yesterday. That’s a real positive from the competition standpoint and from the production standpoint.”

Smith, who was a restricted free agent, recently signed a two-year deal with an average salary-cap hit of $2.75 million a season.

His last two-year deal had an average cap hit of $1,262,500.

Smith’s name was floated at last year’s trade deadline when the Wings had talked about obtaining Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

Larkin could make Wings’ roster if Blashill wants him

DETROIT >> Dylan Larkin will make the Detroit Red Wings’ roster out of training camp on one condition: if new coach Jeff Blashill wants him in the lineup.

“My take on Larkin would be he’s got to be in our top 12,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “Coach Blashill’s got to say to me, ‘I want him in the lineup.’ He’s not going to be our 13th, 14th forward. Realistically, just to put him on the fourth line and play eight minutes, I think he’s a real good young player with a lot of potential.

“He’s going to be real important to our franchise as we go forward,” Holland continued. “We want to make sure we do what’s right for him and us. If he comes and is a legitimate top-nine forward we’re going to find a way to get him in the lineup. If he’s less than that then we’ll sit down as an organization and decide.”
All the speculation began when the Waterford native decided to leave the University of Michigan after one season and sign a three-year entry level contract with the Wings.

After signing the deal he joined the Grand Rapids Griffins, playing on an amateur tryout contract, just in time for their Western Conference finals series with Utica.

In six games he had three goals and two assists under the watchful eye of Blashill.

“I thought he did a great job,” Blashill said of Larkin’s stint with the Griffins. “I think sometimes with a young player you look at them and get excited about what they could be and you see that potential. With him I thought he stepped right in our lineup and helped us win hockey games at the toughest moment with only three teams left in the American Hockey League. There were lots of guys that will play in the NHL on that ice so I thought he did a great job.

“It’s a tiny sample size,” Blashill continued. “He’s seemed to have passed all the tests in terms of small sample sizes, the World Championships, World Juniors, his freshman year at Michigan. He’s going to be a real good player, we’ll see when.”

Larkin, who slipped to Detroit at 15th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, is regarded as the Wings’ top prospect, even ahead of Anthony Mantha, who struggled his first year as a pro in Grand Rapids.

“I still have a lot of work to do and still have a lot of hockey to play so I’m just trying to focus on the development camp and get better for the training camp,” Larkin said. “I think I want to make the jump. I signed for a chance to play in the NHL and after my time in Grand Rapids, I’m more than comfortable spending time there. The coaches they brought in and the players we have we’re going to have a good team again.”

Larkin, who’s a two-way center, was the unanimous winner of the Big Ten’s freshman of the year award, leading the conference’s first-year players in goals (15), assists (32) and points (47) in 35 games with the Wolverines. He also was a plus-18.

He also led Michigan with 15 power play points (six goals) and with 151 shots on goal.

At the World Juniors, he led Team USA in goals (five), points (seven) and tied in plus-minus (plus-seven) in five games, which helped Larkin earn a spot on the U.S. World Championship roster, where he had an assist in 10 games.

“We’ll see in camp how ready he is to make an impact,” Blashill said. “Like Ken said, can you make an impact? If you can make an impact and make our team better that’s great. If we’re not convinced of that then let’s let him continue to grow as a player so when he does come here he can make an impact right away. I think everybody saw that happen with Gustav Nyquist. That’s a great example of a guy, people said he should have been up early, I don’t know, all I know is when he came up he made an immediate impact and continues to so I think that’s the right formula.”

Larkin, who is very competitive and plays a 200-foot game, back checks hard and is conscientious defensively, won’t be disappointed if the team decides to have him play a full season with the Griffins.

“I think Grand Rapids, if I’m there for the whole year or most of the year or however long, I’ll develop better with the younger group of guys and the new coach that I’ve heard great things about,” said Larkin, who doesn’t turn 19 until July 30. “I think I need to get stronger. I think every player can always get stronger in the weight room and physically stronger. You can always be better in the defensive zone. That’s something I’m working on, faceoffs and little details.”

Ferraro gets deal done

DETROIT >> The Wings came to terms with Landon Ferraro on a one-year, two-way deal for $600,000.

Ferraro will get $175,000 if he’s assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

He’s guaranteed $200,000.

If Ferraro, who turns 24 on Aug. 8, doesn’t make the team out of training camp he’ll have to clear waivers to be assigned to the Griffins.

Playing well enough in a three-game audition to end the regular season, where he notched his first NHL goal in the finale at Carolina, Ferraro dressed for all seven games of Detroit’s first-round playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Ferraro, who will compete for a fourth line spot in training camp, scored a career-high 27 goals and had 15 assists in 70 games in his fourth season in Grand Rapids.

The Wings, who took Ferraro with their first pick (32nd overall, second round) in 2009, like his speed and forechecking ability.

Nyquist lone Wing to file for salary arbitration

DETROIT >> Gustav Nyquist has sped up the process of getting a contract done with the Detroit Red Wings.

The 25-year-old restricted free agent forward filed for salary arbitration Sunday.

He was one of 23 players to file for salary arbitration.

Arbitration hearings will take place from July 20 through Aug. 4 in Toronto and all decisions are due by Aug. 6.

The Wings’ other two restricted free agents – Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen – didn’t file.

Nyquist, who is no longer eligible to sign an offer sheet from other teams, will continue to negotiate with the Wings.

Nyquist, who turns 26 on Sept. 1, appears in line to receive a similar deal Tomas Tatar signed last season, three years at $2.75 million. He had a yearly salary-cap hit of $950,000 each of the last two seasons.

Nyquist burst onto the scene during the 2013-14 season.

After beginning the year in Grand Rapids because he didn’t have to clear waivers in order to be assigned there, Nyquist was recalled and promptly scored two goals in his first game.

He finished with 28 goals, six of which came on the power play, and 20 assists. He also was a plus-16.

Last season, in 82 games, Nyquist had 27 goals, 27 assists and was a minus-11. Fourteen of his goals were on the power play.

Nyquist, like many of the Wings’ younger players, has struggled in the postseason. He has three goals, four assists and a plus-1 in 30 games.

Detroit normally gets a done with players that file prior to the actual hearing.

Brendan Smith was the last Wing to file in 2013, but got a deal done prior to the hearing.

Jiri Hudler was the last Wing to get to the hearing in 2009.

However, Hudler signed a deal with the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dynamo Moscow just prior to his arbitration case was heard.

Hudler received a two-year deal via the arbitrator at an annual salary cap hit of $2.875 million.

Hudler spent just one season in the KHL before returning to the Wings where the played out a two-year deal prior to signing with the Calgary Flames.

The last one prior to that occurred in 1995 with Ray Sheppard, who lost his case. He was awarded a one-year deal worth $1.55 million, which was $400,000 short of what he requested and $200,000 more than the Wings had wanted.

Sheppard, who demanded a trade and was dealt to San Jose a month later, had scored 30 goals in 43 games. He had totaled 84 goals combined the two seasons prior.

Detroit has 21 players signed, 12 of which are forwards, at just over $65 million. That leaves just over $6 million left under the $71.4 million cap.

Will the Wings retire No. 91?

DETROIT >> Let the debate begin.

That debate being, should the Detroit Red Wings retire No. 91.

And it all began with the signing for unrestricted free agent Brad Richards, who wore No. 91 his only season with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said when asked if Richards would wear No. 91. “You’re a step ahead of me.”

The only Wings player to wear No. 91 is Sergei Fedorov, who was just named, along with Nicklas Lidstrom, to the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame class.

“Jimmy D, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and at the appropriate time I’ll weigh in, whether his number should be in the rafters or not,” Holland said. “Certainly being selected to go in the Hall of Fame is an incredible accomplishment. He was a great player and a great Red Wing. So it’s certainly worth serious consideration.”
Lidstrom had his No. 5 retired last season by the Wings after spending all 20 seasons of his career in Detroit.

Richards wore No. 19 for the longest time, including his three seasons with the New York Rangers before having his contract bought out. He wore No. 91 with the Dallas Stars.

No. 19 is already retired by the Wings.

“I don’t want to gauge it, but we’re certainly going to have that conversation,” Holland said. “I’m not sure when we’re going to have that conversation. I think at the tail end of his career we tried to re-sign him and it didn’t work out and he ended up leaving.”

The Wings selected Fedorov in the fourth round (74th overall) in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.

He was as versatile as they come, being able to play wing, center and on the blue line.

Yzerman called Fedorov the “best skater” he had ever seen.

Fedorov won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1993-94, after racking up 56 goals and 120 points. He won the Selke Trophy twice, handed out to the league’s top defensive forward (1994 and 1996), and was part of three Cup-winning clubs in Detroit.

The first road block occurred when Fedorov, a restricted free agent at the time, had a lengthy holdout to start the 1997-98 season. He signed a six-year offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes worth $38 million.

The Wings matched it and because of the wording in the offer sheet Fedorov made $28 million that first year of the deal.

Fedorov finally left Detroit after signing a mega free agent offer sheet with Anaheim in 2003. He turned down four- and five-year offers by the Wings worth $10 million a season.

And the fans made him hear their disappointment as every time he touched the puck when he returned to Joe Louis Arena he was booed heavily.

“I don’t know, we’ve never talked about it,” Holland said if that would be a sticking point. “All I’m saying is he had a great career, he’s going into the Hockey Hall of Fame. At the
end of his career he left. It’s a little easier to make the decision when the player plays 20 years for you and he retires and it’s Steve Yzerman, who’s the captain and it’s Nick Lidstrom, who’s one of the greatest defenseman that ever played the game with seven Norris Trophies. Those are decisions that I think get made very quickly.

“In Sergei’s case, at the end of his career I think he left,” Holland continued. “Is that going to factor in? I think part of the reason we put players’ jerseys in the rafters is because of what they accomplished for the Detroit Red Wings. I think if we start just putting jerseys up there – if you think about the ’02 team, we could start putting jerseys up there every year. But many of those great careers were elsewhere. They came here for a very short period of time.”

He’s one of nine players from the Wings’ 2002 team in the Hall of Fame – Lidstrom (2015); Igor Larionov (2008); Yzerman, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille (2009); Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan (2013) and Dominik Hasek (2014).

With the Wings, Fedorov finished with 400 goals and 954 points – fourth and fifth, respectively, on the franchise list.

“I think we’ve got to factor in and look at what they accomplished in a Red Wings jersey versus what they accomplished in their careers,” Holland said. “I think it’s a long answer to say you take a little bit of time to make sure. Those jerseys that go in the rafters are incredibly special. He’s certainly somebody that will be discussed and talked about but we haven’t got to that decision yet and I really don’t have an answer for you why.”

Fedorov’s career took a downturn from that point and had five undistinguished seasons with Anaheim, Columbus and Washington before finishing his career in his native Russia.

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.”