Why Detroit Red Wings risked losing Evgeny Svechnikov for nothing

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Red Wings sound like they hope Evgeny Svechnikov will remain with the organization, but they left themselves vulnerable to losing a former first-round pick for nothing when they placed him on waivers Monday.

How general manager Steve Yzerman explained the decision to Svechnikov is not known, but if another team puts in a claim before noon Tuesday, it’s sayonara Svechnikov.

“Unfortunately, Evgeny has had a number of injuries so he hasn’t been able to show a full kind of season of where he is at,” coach Jeff Blashill said Monday. “But we also have to make roster decisions and you’re restricted to your roster.

“Nothing is permanent. You have that risk, potentially, of losing guys, but let’s see where we’re at here at noon tomorrow.”

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Svechnikov, 24, might appeal to another team. He has size (6 feet 3, 208 pounds), works incredibly hard, and is on a one-year, $874,125 deal and will still be a restricted free agent upon expiration.

One intriguing possibility is the Carolina Hurricanes, home to Svechnikov’s younger brother, Andrei. The two have talked multiple times of their dream of playing against one another in the NHL; now maybe it will be together. Another possibility is former Wings GM Ken Holland, now with the Edmonton Oilers, puts in a claim for a guy he drafted.

Svechnikov has not come close to living up to being drafted 19th overall in 2015, but has endured a number of setbacks, the most serious of which was a knee injury in September 2018 that sidelined him all of 2018-19. The most recent was an apparent arm injury that sidelined him for a week – a crucial time in a shortened training camp.

Svechnikov has made 20 appearances with the Wings, tallying two goals and two assists. While it is easy to draft in hindsight, it is noteworthy the Wings passed on Brock Boeser (23rd, Vancouver) who has 161 points in 197 games, and Travis Konecny (24th, Philadelphia), who has 185 points in 299 games.

Svechnikov was not available for comment after Monday’s move.

The other players waived in advance of needing to trim the roster to 23 men by Tuesday are forwards Dominic Turgeon, Turner Elson, Kyle Criscuolo, Riley Barber; defensemen Brian Lashoff, Dylan McIlrath and Joe Hicketts; and goaltenders Calvin Rickard and Kevin Boyle.

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“Waivers just simply means that if they’re not claimed, you have flexibility to send people to Grand Rapids, to send people to the taxi squad,” Blashill said. “With the whole group of guys, it gives you flexibility to do that.

“This is kind of decision day, but it’s totally flexible. Guys that are on your roster opening day, it doesn’t mean they’re going to stay. And guys that aren’t certainly have the opportunity to be called up at some point.”

If Svechnikov clears waivers, he can be assigned to the Griffins — or to the Wings’ taxi squad. Rosters have expanded from the usual 21 to 23 because of the pandemic, so teams can carry 21 skaters and two goaltenders, plus four-to-six players on a taxi squad (one of which has to be a goaltender).

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Teams have to submit their rosters Tuesday. The Wings went with 12 forwards and eight defensemen in Monday’s practice: Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Vladislav Namestnikov, Robby Fabbri, Filip Zadina, Valtteri Filppula, Mathias Brome, Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening, Frans Nielsen and Michael Rasmussen up front, and Danny DeKeyser, Filip Hronek, Marc Staal, Patrik Nemeth, Troy Stecher, Jon Merrill, Alex Biega and Gustav Lindstrom on the back end.

Darren Helm, Bobby Ryan and Adam Erne were unfit to practice. Helm has not skated since New Year’s Day, and Ryan hasn’t since Jan. 7, so it’s unlikely they will be available when the Wings open the season Thursday against Carolina.

“We have to gain understanding of who is available to play,” Blashill said. “But we are closing in on a roster and who we think is going to start with our team.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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