Danny DeKeyser’s future with the Detroit Red Wings looks a good deal more solid than when the season began.
The veteran defenseman overcame the challenges of back surgery to appear in 47 games, and scored goals in back-to-back games the final weekend. DeKeyser’s resilience in the face of a career-threatening injury earned him the distinction of being the Detroit chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association nominee for the 2021 Masterton Trophy.
DeKeyser, 31, came into the season not having played since Oct. 22, 2019. He underwent back surgery that December, and spent 2020 rehabbing during the pandemic. Organizational concerns over his ability to resume his career were validated when this season began, and DeKeyser didn’t look like the dependable workhorse he used to be. He was placed on waivers mid-February.
“Coming out of training camp I was definitely struggling a bit for sure,” DeKeyser said after Saturday’s season finale at Columbus. “Nine or 10 games in, they sat me down and told me to work on some stuff and try to get back healthy. It had been so long since I played. One of my goals going into the year was first of all just try to play, and then try to get better as the weeks and months wore on.
“Second half of the season, I definitely felt a lot better. I was moving better. I felt stronger out there.”
While it was good for DeKeyser on a personal level to play as much as he did, it also benefited the Wings. DeKeyser meets expansion draft criteria. Teams must make available at least one defenseman who is under contract in 2021-22 and who played at least 27 games this season.
DeKeyser finished with four goals and eight assists and a plus-3 rating.
The Bill Masterton Trophy is awarded annually to a player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. Wings forward Bobby Ryan was awarded the trophy last year, when he was with the Ottawa Senators, for dealing with substance abuse issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Steve Yzerman was awarded the trophy in 2003 when he overcame radical knee surgery.
Contact Helene St. James at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.