The Detroit Red Wings waived Frans Nielsen on Thursday for the purpose of buying out his contract, ending one of the bigger questions of the offseason. Of the many articles we’ve written over the past few months, few had such overwhelming support from nearly all Wings fans when it came to what Detroit should do with the 37-year-old forward.
It was never personal with the fanbase–we always wanted him to do well because obviously, it would pay dividends for the organization. But it never seemed to be the right move, and one that ended as unceremoniously as it began.
The Red Wings Wanted Stamkos-but settled on Nielsen
There’s no simple way of saying or writing it. Then general manager Ken Holland had his eyes set on Steven Stamkos, hoping that the star center would spurn then Tampa manager Steve Yzerman, hit free agency, and save Detroit from the sudden departure of Pavel Datsyuk. Holland famously (or infamously, however you look at it) dealt the 16th pick with Datsyuk’s contract to Arizona and took Dennis Cholowski, who never gained traction in Detroit and is now with Seattle.
As for Stamkos, he never even got to free agency. Hell, not only did he not even flirt with leaving, he never had Detroit on his hypothetical list. If you read this article from CBS 62 from the time, it’s a perfect summation of how the Red Wings descent really began here. The Red Wings were no longer a destination. The end of a great run was just a year away.
Holland then did what Holland became notorious for during the latter half of his managerial career in Detroit–overpaid for lesser talent. This is not to slag Nielsen–he could skate circles around me with his eyes closed. But he’s not in the same conversation as Stamkos or Datsyuk. But at a $5.25M AAV, it was never going to live up to its billing from a value standpoint. This signing, along with overpaying for Darren Helm the same offseason, seemed to hasten the fanbase’s disdain with Holland in charge.
Detroit would make the playoffs just once with Nielsen in the fold and for the remainder of his career with the Red Wings, he would steadily see his numbers decline as the team’s performance followed suit.
When the news dropped on Thursday, the only part that shocked anyone was that it’d taken this long. The writing was on the wall as Nielsen was waived earlier in the season and was hardly finding his way into the lineup. It was a foregone conclusion.
The buyout barely makes a dent on the ledger–it’s a million dollars worth of relief this year before $4.75M in the next. It opens up another spot up front for a young forward, and cuts another tie from a pretty vanilla time period in the Red Wings history. But he was always a professional, and still stood in front of the media–no matter how bad it was at times.
Fare thee well Frans. Thanks for being a good soldier and all the best in whatever you do next.
Red Wings Roundup from the Week
The Malik Report’s George Malik had a good take on the Nielsen years while the Grind Line Podcast (who we’ll have an article about later this week) answered fan questions and also talked about the impending ads that will appear on jerseys in 2022-23:
The Hockey Writers’ Grind Line, meanwhile were unable to stay on task in their latest episode which could not be blamed on me. But it’s another great show and worth the time to watch/listen:
And finally, eagled eyed Wings fans saw a Sergei Fedorov commemoration puck that could maybe hint at a jersey retirement ceremony. Winging it in Motown was all over this and the link was gone from Fanatics soon after:
Here’s their take following the commotion and eventual link removal from Fanatics:
Regardless of what it is, Retire 91. Seriously. It’s long overdue.