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Wings trade Sheahan to Penguins, create cap space for Athanasiou

Team also makes deal to send Sproul to New York Rangers for Puempel

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT - The Pittsburgh Penguins had a need and the Wings needed cap space so there was a deal to be made.

On Friday, the Wings agreed to a one-year contract with restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou.

On Saturday, the Wings traded center Riley Sheahan to the Penguins along with a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft for left wing Scott Wilson and a third-round pick in the 2018 draft.

"They were looking for a guy to play on their third line," Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a phone interview. "Obviously Riley had a tough year last year and spent a lot of time and effort this summer to try to have a bounce-back season. We're eight games in so it's a small sample size. With (Dylan) Larkin, (Henrik) Zetterberg continues to be Zetterberg, Frans Nielsen, (Luke) Glendening can play center, we could play (Darren) Helm in the middle if we wanted to. We needed cap space to make room for Andreas Athanasiou, so we pulled the trigger on the deal."

Per, the trade gave the Wings $1,470,220 million in cap relief, which is enough to cover the $1,387,500 deal that Athanasiou agreed to Friday, a figure reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie.

"Bottom line in the last 72 hours, we knew we had to make a move," Holland said. "I had conversations with (Penguins general manager) Jim Rutherford in the last couple of months, he was looking to do something. It picked up the last few days and then obviously after the presser announcing we signed Athanasiou to a one-year contract, we had to do something. We're moving a top-nine forward into the lineup in Andreas Athanasiou, you can only have so many top-nine forwards.

"Scott Wilson will probably start on the fourth line. We have Glendening, (Luke) Witkowski, (David) Booth, (Evgeny) Svechnikov played last night. We wanted to get a look at him in training camp but he got hurt so we'll leave him down there for a while. (Tyler) Bertuzzi, we think will be ready in the next week to 10 days so we'll let him get going in Grand Rapids and in two to three months let's see how it all plays out."

Wilson, 25, had eight goals and 18 assists in 78 games last season and then added three goals and three assists in 20 playoff games.

"Scott Wilson, he can skate," Holland said. "How much he can contribute, but you never really know until they get here. Obviously a guy they dressed in the playoffs. This is a fresh opportunity for him."

Wilson scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 18, 2016, beating Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek.

The Sheahan-Wilson deal was not the Wings' only trade of the day.

In a less-heralded move, they traded defenseman Ryan Sproul to the New York Rangers for forward Matt Puempel.

Puempel was assigned to the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

"We traded Ryan Sproul to the New York Rangers for Matt Puempel," Holland said. "We had a lot of defensemen at Grand Rapids, We obviously sent Vili Saarijarvi to Toledo. Filip Hronek has played one game, he's playing tonight, his second game. We need to have the kids play. Puempel is a depth guy, he's played in the NHL with Ottawa and the New York Rangers, we will see how he plays. If there's some injuries, maybe he'll get an opportunity."

Although the Wings had to make the moves, it is always difficult to have to call players you drafted to tell them you have traded them elsewhere.

"It's always an exciting day at the draft when you pick players for your organization. Today we parted ways with two of them, which are tough calls," Holland said. "Certainly thanked them both. You always hope it works out at the draft. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you have to go to a different organization to get a different opportunity.

"We hope it works out great for Ryan Sproul, for Riley Sheahan, for Scott Wilson, for all people."

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