DETROIT – The Red Wings’ roster is ready for prime time.
General manager Ken Holland announced on Monday that four veterans will begin the season on injured reserve, two others have been sent down to Grand Rapids, and two rookies recalled from the Griffins.
Monday’s moves were necessary for the Red Wings to get the roster down to 23-players and become compliant with the league’s new salary cap of $64.3 million
Forward Gustav Nyquist and goalie Petr Mrazek have been assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate, and veteran grinder Patrick Eaves (MCL, ankle sprain) and center Darren Helm (lower back) are on long-term injured reserves, while backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson (groin) and agitator Jordin Tootoo (shoulder) have been placed on seven-day injured reserve, retroactive to when they were injured.
Eaves and Helm are out for a minimum of 10 games, Holland said. By moving Nyquist to Grand Rapids, and placing Eaves and Helm on LTI, the Red Wings are compliant with the cap.
“The cap is very complicated,” Holland said. “IR gets you a roster spot. Players on IR, their money counts against your cap. When you put a player on LTI you get a roster spot plus they're off the cap. The other guys we're going to put on IR, but it doesn't matter (if it's long or short term). You can put somebody on LTI a week from now.”
Detroit also recalled rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet and goalie Jared Coreau. Both are expected to make impacts in their first AHL season with the Griffins.
The Wings were hopeful that Helm would be ready for the start of the season, which kicks off Wednesday with the home-opener against the Buffalo Sabres at Joe Louis Arena. But chronic lower back pain as limited Helm to one game in the last 18 months.
“Fairly small improvements throughout the whole process of injuries that have gathered up but I do feel it has gotten better than last week or so,” Helm said. “Every day I keep doing a little more. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll be 100 percent and ready to go.
“I'll be playing this year. I'm confident in that.”
Monday’s moves also means that forward Tomas Tatar will start the season in Detroit, though it doesn’t guarantee last spring’s Calder Cup MVP a spot in Wednesday’s lineup.
“I’m the youngest guy in the locker room, so I wait and when chance comes I’m going to grab it and hold it,” Tatar said.
Unfortunately, the Wings had to clear a spot on the roster, and Nyquist’s contract situation allowed them to re-assign the Swede to Grand Rapids without having to clear waivers.
“Adversity's not about the decision made, it's about how you handle it. Choose your attitude right,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Justin Abdelkader had the same thing happen to him, (Jonathan Ericsson) had the same thing happen to him. It's not the first time that's happened here. I'm sure he's very, very disappointed. But I know him good, he'll go down and be a real good pro and he'll be prepared when he gets the opportunity.”
The Wings’ roster now consists of 13 healthy forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies. With Helm on LTI it clears a space for a goalie from Grand Rapids to backup starter Jimmy Howard.
Gustavsson skated with the goalies after practice on Monday, though he will not play Wednesday. Coreau was called up Monday morning from Grand Rapids and practiced with the Wings' goaltenders. Holland isn’t sure who will back-up Howard on Wednesday, but it will either be the former Northern Michigan University standout or Mrazek.
“Gustavsson is on IR, don't know if he's going to be hurt longer than one week or if he's on IR, but he's not playing Wednesday,” Holland said. “So we'll have a backup goalie other than Jonas Gustavsson on Wednesday.”
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