When the NHL Free Agency opened up yesterday, the Detroit Red Wings were the first to announce a signing. It may have just been the re-signing of Darren Helm, but it was still the first of the day. Over the course of opening of the free agency, Detroit pulled in a total of five signatures.
Their first signing of the day, Darren Helm – who had become an unrestricted free agent by this point – is traditional as a two-way center, but spent the vast majority of last season on the wing. In Detroit’s short playoff stint, Helm found himself on the wing alongside the now-Russia-bound Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards.
The 29-year-old clocked in 13 goals and 26 points last season, which included three game-winning goals. He also scored in one of his five post-season contests.
Helm signed on for a $19.25 million deal over five years, which will hit the Detroit cap for $3.85 million. This contract is a great show of faith in the nine-year Red Wing, and he will continue to bring his strong, physical two-way game.
The next re-signing was Russian defenseman Alexey Marchenko. The 24-year-old stands at 6’3’’ and 210lbs and boasts a rocket of a slap shot. He played 66 regular season games and three post-season contests, totaling two goals and 11 points.
Last season was Marchenko’s first proper season in the Red Wings lines and he’s been rewarded a two-year, $1.450 million deal – per General Fanager – to improve his game further. The deal will end when the Russian defenseman is 26-years-old, and he’ll be a restricted free agent.
Three New Forwards
We’ll start with the 33-year-old former Blue who spent the vast majority of last season off the ice with a nasty hamstring injury. Steve Ott played just 21 games last season but is a very experienced NHLer.
He plays a grinder’s game, getting into the dirty areas, speeding into checks, holding up the play. If Ott has fully recovered from his injury, which his signing for the Red Wings would suggest, he can be a valuable asset to Detroit’s quite defence-oriented forward lines.
Ott is on a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Red Wings.
Next up is the 13-year NHL veteran sniper, Thomas Vanek. The Austrian winger has scored 40 points or more in 11 of his 13 NHL seasons, with the other two being seriously hampered by injury. In his 817 games, Vanek has cinched 316 goals and 649 points, 41 of which were scored last season for the Minnesota Wild.
Vanek clocked a 12.3 shooting percentage on 18 goals last season but failed to net the puck past February 28. Detroit has given the 32-year-old a one-year, $2.6 million deal, and will be expecting another season of at least 40 points from the Austrian.
Finally – the pinnacle of Detroit’s day one signings – Danish two-way center, Frans Nielsen. The 32-year-old was a major player for the New York Islanders last season and departs the Isles with 606 regular season games under his belt.
Nielsen scored 20 goals and 52 points last season; two more than Detroit’s top point scorer, Henri Zetterberg, who ended with a half-century. Seven of these goals, and 20 of the points were scored on the powerplay.
It’s not just the scoring that Nielsen brings as he is still one of the league’s top two-way centers. The Dane is very strong in the defensive zone, especially when it comes to coverage duties, and he’s always ready to throw his body on the line to block a shot – stopping 92 and attempting a further 70 blocks in 2015-16.
Frans Nielsen doesn’t bring the stellar poke checking that the recently departed Pavel Datsyuk did, but he did manage to keep a neutral giveaway/takeaway differential, with 30 each-way.
Signing up the 10-year ex-Isle has cost the Detroit Red Wings $31.5 million on a six-year deal, which will hit their cap for $5.25 million. Nielsen will have been signed in the hope that he can keep Detroit’s line two as a defense minded one, which still has strong offensive capabilities.
So not a bad opening day from the Detroit Red Wings, hopefully, the new veteran recruits can help to provide more consistent and more offensively aggressive play for the Motor City residents.